I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR the other day and was surprised to hear that sales of French wine (and consumption in French households) are experiencing a steep decline. Now, my tastes (and budget) run more to inexpensive Italian table whites and reds from California, but I like the idea of French wine and I dislike the idea of it being in peril. So I’ll devote this week’s license request to a particular comic that has a history of boosting wine sales.
The manga in question is Kami no Shizuku (“The Drops of God”), written by Tadashi Agi (the pseudonym for wine-loving siblings Yuko and Shin Kibayashi) and illustrated by Shu Okimoto and originally published by Kodansha in its Morning magazine. Like the marvelous Oishinbo, it’s about a guy with a strong palate and daddy issues. To inherit his father’s wine collection, novice oenophile Kanzaki Shizuku must track down 13 exquisite wines before his rival can.
Reuters’ Sophie Hardach describes it as “’The Da Vinci Code’ set in a Tokyo bar.” And while comparisons to a Dan Brown novel aren’t automatically encouraging, the idea of a mystery centered around wine seems intuitively entertaining. (Side note: why didn’t the Vatican ever condemn Brown’s books because they’re awful?) Hardach goes on to describe the manga’s economic impact:
“‘The minute it was translated into Korean, we had calls from three importers,’ said Basaline Granger Despagne, whose family has grown wine near France’s Dordogne river for 250 years. Their Chateau Mont Perat 2001 Bordeaux appears early on in the manga.
“‘When it was translated into Chinese, people called us from Taiwan saying, “I bought some Mont Perat and sold 50 cases in two days because of the manga”,’ she said in a phone interview.”
The book has been covered in The Daily Mail, The New York Times, and Decanter. It’s being published in French as Les Gouttes de Dieu by Glénat (who also publishes
its spin-off another wine manga, Sommelier). Ed Chavez (who knows from eduholic manga) was kind enough to send me a couple of volumes in Japanese, which was just enough to make me really want to see it in English.
And yes, the fact that so many volumes are available in French and the wine industry is still in trouble doesn’t support my argument that publication in English could give French wine a boost. But I will make any argument, however specious, that serves my own ends.
(Updated to note that I’ve no idea what I was thinking with that first image and link, but both have been fixed thanks to the aforementioned Mr. Chavez. Thanks, Ed!)