My days of reading Manga novels under the covers till late at night are behind me or at least they were until a copy of ‘Finn and Fish’ landed on my lap(top). ‘The Wash Cycle’ is a collection of the first four issues of the series by Irish creator Leeann Hamilton. Now immediately you might perk up a bit and ask yourself, Irish manga, is that actually a real thing? Yeah, I asked myself that too but the question was answered for me as I poured over the pages.
Finn and Fish is a retelling and a reimagination (a rather liberal and free spirited one at that!) of one of Ireland’s best known legends, ‘Fionn mac Cumhaill’ and his encounter with the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’ – it was a story we heard every year of primary school, the young boy destined to lead the Fianna of Ireland, sent to learn from Finnegas one of the wisest men in all the land. It was here that young Fionn accidentally tasted the from the Salmon of Knowledge (I believe he sucked on a burn he received from the cooking fish, take that Google! Childhood memories 1, Internet 0!) and gained untold wisdom about the world around him allowing him to become a powerful warrior, wise poet and cherished leader.
So what happens to this story when Leeann puts her spin on it and gives it the Manga treatment?
Shock! Surprise! Laughs! Enjoyment!
When you look at the cover, it’s clear that Hamilton has a knack for the artform, it looks pretty and it’s certainly different to see an old Irish story transformed by this art style, couple that with the serious legend and you could expect a dramatic retelling, it would be a fair assumption! Hamilton turns the world upside down, spins it round and creates something entirely new, something magical and something truly hilarious.
Finn is not the epic child hero, he’s a moody disgruntled teen with a chip on his shoulder, his encounter with the ‘Salmon of Knowledge’ is not an accident rather a grand design orchestrated by the Fish itself and from here on out, tantrums and high pitched screams aside, Finn is stuck with Fish. However the story is quickly stolen by Fish, the crude crass but endearing sidekick that finds himself popping in and out of Finn’s head whether it be to offer wisdom, another one line stinger or to flirt. From here on out they are stuck together and their story begins, encountering a fiendish villain, human/animal hybrids and a very naked Oisín who pops in and out of Tír na nÓg.
So is an Irish Manga possible? Short answer… yes! Glancing over the pages on a first read through, I missed so much detail and it wasn’t until I gave my eyes the chance to explore the pages that I realised just how much effort had been poured into every inch of the collection. Hamilton makes it look effortless as she casually blends her artwork with the story, using each line to emphasize the mood and tone of the panel. The comics have all the trademarks of a manga, the unwilling hero, the plucky boisterous loudmouth sidekick, the naive powerful one, camp villains, intrigue, battles all mixed with nearly always the right amount silliness and seriousness.
The chaos can take over at times and more than once I found myself doubling back on what I’d just read to make sure I had skipped over a page as the comic jumps around quite a bit and while the pacing isn’t rushed exactly, it does run quite fast and can get ahead of you in parts. Hardly detrimental to the series though and perhaps it all comes part and parcel of having a fish popping in and out of your head!
We are a nation of storytellers, we love nothing more than telling stories over and over again but the really talented storytellers are able to take a story and make it their own. Hamilton has this gift in abundance, she takes one of the most well known stories in Irish mythology and page by page she twists it into something new, something that feels fresh in your mind like this was the first time you’d ever heard of the Salmon of Knowledge, Fionn mac Cumhaill and Oisín.
You’ll laugh, you’ll smile, you’ll be surprised and amazed, ‘Finn and the Fish: The Wash Cycle’ needs to be a part of your collection today!
Editor-in-Chief, part-time super villain and hoarder of cats. If you can’t find me writing, I’m probably in the kitchen!