An adult returns to the hometown they’d long wanted to escape in their youth. There, they run into an old friend who soon becomes much more. It’s a familiar premise, and one that’s at the heart of Seina Anji’s Orison – A Wish, A Prayer. Published by Juné Manga, this is the story of Nagisa (the returning protagonist) and Kaito (the friend who never left). With its visually striking cover, this volume demanded my attention before I even read its first page. So, do the contents disappoint, or is this manga every bit as good as it looks?
The first thing that stands out about this manga is how visually striking it is. The variety of textures throughout is superb, both in characters’ clothing and the world around them. The nature imagery here is especially beautiful, with a thorough attention to small details that makes the environments come alive. Shots of light cascading down through trees and across the surface of water are great examples. The sheens on ocean waves versus bath water vary significantly, showcasing how different light sources can affect perceptions. There are also numerous different species of plants throughout, all of which read true to life and are distinct from one another. Wide shots of the island Nagisa and Kaito live on are among the volume’s best, with great perspective and proportion work that show how architecture and geography interact in aesthetically pleasing ways.
The book’s layouts are also very well-thought-out. Events never look stale, thanks largely to how panel compositions change dynamically and the angles at which the action is presented shift alongside the subject matter. The few splash pages throughout never feel gratuitous, but rather linger on specific images exactly when the reader needs to pause and take things in. There are also some fantastic establishing shots and transitions. The best example of this is a horizontal panel depicting nothing but a hospital blood bag and the wall behind it. You instantly know all you need to know about what’s happened, and the panel also slows the pace in accordance with the character’s physical exhaustion.
Fortunately, the writing in this manga is every bit as strong as the artwork. The pacing is fantastic for the most part, with pertinent information from the protagonists’ pasts being revealed as needed, and early bits of foreshadowing flashing quickly like thoughts. Both main characters have depth to them, and their complicated relationship feels genuine in moments of earnest caring, guilty frustration, and hesitant intimacy. The dialogue and narration both flow naturally, and Anji handles serious subject matter with great care. From mourning after loss to desires to return to happier times, a wide gamut of human emotions are poignantly traversed.
Overall, Orison – A Wish, A Prayer is an excellent and heartfelt read. The artwork impresses on virtually all fronts, with fantastic framing choices and a great variety of textures to the natural world. The writing also shines by delivering both dynamic characters and poignant coverage of human grief and coping. One could argue that some parts of the ending go by a tad too fast pacing-wise, but this is a very minor concern. I would highly recommend this manga to just about anyone.