'The Drops of God' drops on the U.S.
Cross two of the most virulently geeky topics on Earth -- wine and Japanese manga comic books -- and you wind up with "The Drops of God," an almost psychedelically beautiful work by Tadashi Agi (the pseudonym for brother-and-sister team Yuko and Shin Kibayashi) and illustrator Shu Okimoto.
Released in English just this week, it has apparently already had an effect on wine drinking habits in Asia. Since it was first published in 2004, it has regularly increased the sales of the wines mentioned in it, sometimes quite dramatically.
The story is a fairly simple hero quest: Kanzaki Shizuku receives a deathbed challenge from his father, a legendary wine critic whose power would dwarf Robert Parker's. He has to identify 12 wines, plus a 13th, dubbed "The Drops of God," within a year in order to win his inheritance -- a wine collection worth millions.
But wait! There's more! Right before his death, Shizuku's father officially adopted a leading wine critic to stand as competition. Whoever guesses best gets the estate.
And there's still one more twist: Shizuku doesn't drink wine -- in fact, he's a beer salesman. It's all the result of his father's samurai-like training during his childhood. "It's ... it's true that I've never drunk wine, but since I was a kid I've had to do all sorts of bizarre things 'for the sake of wine,' " he moans. "He'd make me drink grape juice with slightly different flavors and barrage me with questions after having me taste and smell all kinds of things."
If you think normal wine writing is overblown and hyperbolic, that's nothing compared to when it's presented in manga form. The drama! The romance! The wines! It's like Speed Racer crossed with Wine Spectator.