I give this wonderful jewel of a manga...a 97/100!
Let me set something straight: I don't really have a set genre that I really like when it comes to anime and manga, but I have developed a fondness for one subject that anime and manga often love to touch upon: nice, good-hearted, well-meaning children who get completely crapped on by life, go through many hardships (like poverty or abuse, for example) and are subject to discrimination and social prejudice for varying reasons. Some stories make them achieve happiness in the end, or have them go on a darker path (which either means death or an eternal life of hardship). I LOVE those types of stories as long as they have good stories, great characters, good morals, and a good reason for me to care about the characters and the hardships they go through. My fondness for this genre was mostly cultivated by watching anime from the World Masterpiece Theater staple (like Les Miserables, Little Princess Sara, Romeo's Blue Skies, Pollyanna, etc. But nothing beats Dog of Flanders for me!), but strangely enough I haven't found many manga that touched upon the subject. However, there is one wonderful jewel of a manga that touches upon this subject awesomely and wonderfully, and that manga is none other than Natsumi Mukai's 11-year-old (published in 2000) manga, +Anima.
The thing about this manga is that it takes place in more of a fantasy setting compared to the anime I watch which are mostly historical fiction, and this is the first time I've seen this subject taking place in a fantasy world. The story's about four young children who are part human and part animal, and they become part animal due to bad experiences that nearly killed them. Humans who are part animal are called +Anima. Cooro is your sweet and fun-loving boy with the wings of a crow, Husky is your grouchy little snob who hates girls and is part mermaid (or in this case, merman), Senri is silent, innocent, and absent-minded with a sickeningly slick bear claw, and Nana's your nice little girly girl who ironically enough has bat wings and REALLY big and weird-looking ears. Through many strange encounters they come across each other, go on a journey through their countries Astaria and Sailand, and try to find a place they can call home, since +Anima are often feared and hated among normal humans.
One thing I love about this manga is the fact that it's often hard to find manga or anime about discrimination and social prejudice, and the ones you find often have annoying characters who whine and angst and don't do anything to fix their situation (not that I know of, of course). +Anima manages to avoid that stereotype wonderfully, and with great detail too! The characters ALWAYS prepare for whatever journey lies ahead of them, be it having enough food, money, clothes, resources, etc. And if they don't have money, they go to whatever town they go and find jobs so they can get whatever they need for their next round of travels. Plus, they think about what might lie ahead and sometimes plan things out and stay calm (in some situations of course) and find out what'll happen next. It's always like this in EVERY chapter! I love anime and manga that go into detail about little things like this! It's rare nowadays, isn't it?
The artwork is just soooooo nice! I really do mean it when I say nice! It's slick, smooth, it doesn't lose it's edge, everything from small objects (like food crumbs and jewelry) to the characters to the big castles and villages and cities all just look amazing! Plus, no page feels overly extravagant or overly bland. The artwork really takes you into the story, into their world! The author has obviously had lessons (I don't know that for sure, but one can speculate, right?) in art because this is one of the best drawn manga I've ever read!
Another thing that's awesome in this manga: the attention to detail in just about EVERYTHING, from the characters' back stories and pasts to the customs and culture and currency of the places they travel to, I mean it's just superb and AMAZING! Normally fantasy manga and anime just show off people fighting monsters and going into castles and palaces without paying much attention to it's setting. +Anima is the best exception since it's a story about traveling, and of course the characters would need to know things about the places they go, like the food they eat, the money they have to use, the jobs they do, the clothes they wear, everything! The attention to even the smallest, most irrelevant details are just exceptionally awesome! Not only that, they always try to give the various places the characters' visit a history, and the best example of this is in volume 4.
And the characters! I'm sorry guys, but I just can not shut up about the characters! They look like stereotypes, but they're soooo much more! And they're kids for that matter! For those of you expecting to go into this manga thinking Cooro's gonna be some shounen anime lead brat (*coughcoughNarutocoughcough*), worry not as Cooro does NOT have ANY of the cliches that the typical shounen manga/anime brats have. He's sweet, childlike, curious, friendly, and just plain adorable! Best of all, he's actually SMART
. Sure he does do some dumb things, but there's always a good reason behind it! Plus he doesn't force himself on other people and respects people's decisions to a point where it's just REALLY weird, but it's cool! I love that kid to death! Husky, although he's sort of my least favorite character, has his charms as well. His somewhat brash attitude towards everyone (especially Nana since she's a girl and he hates girls) has somewhat made him popular. He reminds me of Kazune from Kamichama Karin. But underneath his tough exterior is a young, polite princeling (No, really, he's a prince) who knows what he wants, cares about other people when he needs to, and is willing to do anything to make sure nobody gets hurt. He's smart and always tries to think things through and focus on what's really important on their travels, and not to a point where he yells at everyone for everything they do. Senri...yeah, he's adorable. Silent and strong-looking (and a FREAKING BEAR
for that matter!!), but innocent and absent-minded on the inside...how can you not love him!? My friend loves him a lot. He's like a gigantic fluffy teddy bear that needs hugging and cuddling! He looks like a scary fellow, but he's really a gentle soul who loves the smallest things in life, even though he has a troubled history. Nana's pretty much the most normal character in the entire cast. She's your typical girl. She loves dolls, flowers, and pretty things (especially pretty clothes and accessories), is used to living in a house with people (albeit she has an abusive alcoholic father who's the reason she has her +Anima), and prefers being with people in a town than in the wild, but she's NOT annoying. Sure she does complain about some things, but she knows that some things have to be done in order to survive, and she accepts that. Plus she even helps her friends on occasion, though her antics are a bit misunderstood at times. She's the character who learns a lot of lessons on her journey and puts them to good use near the end. But really, you can't help but love the entire cast of characters here! They all have their charms that you just can't resist!
For those of you who are interested, I've actually known about this manga's existence for a while. Since 6th or 7th grade even. But back then I wasn't interested in it because I was still getting into other manga and anime (and becoming quite ambitious about it) and trying to find my favorite genres and subjects. It wasn't until about last year my awesome friend Miki told me a bit about it and lo and behold I read a bazillion chapters of it online in a whole week! I was on an epic high! I even made a +Anima themed get well card for my friend's mom! I think she still has it, but we don't talk much anymore since we're going down different paths in life, so I don't know what's going on. But I'm glad to say I'm a proud fangirl of this sweet and lovable manga! Plus, the ending is amazing! I loved the end too, even though I wish it'd continue a bit more. I can't seem to get enough of the adventures of Cooro, Husky, Senri, and Nana! One thing I want though: AN ANIME ADAPTATION!!!
Why isn't there an anime for this!? This manga's like 11 years old now! The age I was when I first discovered anime in Japanese! Why can't wonderful manga like this be animated!? I'm tired of all the moe and ecchi and harems and incest and crap like that!! We NEED more wonderful stories!!!
To conclude, +Anima is a wonderful, great, and amazing manga! I love it! Are you human? Then GO READ IT!!!