Raincoat Kids and The Splish-Splash City
Story and Art by Yoimachi Meme
Translated by Ed Ayes
Lettering by Aaryn Lewis
Compiled and Formatted by Zhuchka
Quality Assurance by Charles Wilson
Irodori Aqua’s launch titles all stand out for their experimental content, but Raincoat Kids’ playfulness extends beyond its content. Self-published comics allow artists to experiment with traditional conventions, and Yoichimachi Meme takes advantage of this freedom to play with the very format of his storytelling. Raincoat Kids is uniquely laid out in a horizontal, landscape format as opposed to the generally accepted vertical page layout. It’s a purposeful artistic choice by artist Yoimachi Meme, who says in their afterword that they were “mimicking the appearance of a children’s book,” noting that self-publishing was the only way he could tell a story like this. Equally interesting is that Raincoat Kids reads left-to-right as opposed to most manga and japanese literature’s right-to-left format, another series break from tradition that would be difficult to implement if the manga had been serialized through traditional methods. Meme’s innovative spirit characterizes the already deep and mysterious world of the story with tons of intrigue. It’s a passion project that shines bright as an artistic experiment and creative outlet for an artist just having fun writing and drawing all the things they love without restraint.
This ethos has really come across in the localization thanks to Aaryn Lewis’s faithfully dynamic lettering choices. The 90’s-era JRPG-influences of the book are readily apparent from the 8-bit style text on the introductory page and table of contents, accompanied by 8-bit sprite renderings of the main cast. The thin, scratchy consistency of the message under their bucket is another highlight, feeling like an organic part of the art. There are all sorts of unique, hand-drawn fonts that are used to reflect different situations, like the soft and flowery shapes used in the loops of “Psu-ss!” when Minato touches his little sister’s face. There seem to be a dozen or more different fonts used during this 30-page comic to suit different situations, and they help characterize each scene with its own unique flavor, drawing attention to its intentions in the context of the story.
The most impressive effects, however, are the wave-like distortions that affect Shizu’s text as he is consumed by his resentment and insecurities, prayed upon by his dark reflection in the puddle. The text gradually becomes more distorted as Minato’s thoughts get increasingly more aggressive and hysterical. More and more letters become affected until all the text in the word balloons are, with the exaggerated “O’s,” particularly the long one in the word “reason,” being the biggest signifier that things have gone askew. This uneasiness transforms into outright madness when the text finally becomes so distorted, bold, and squiggly that it’s nearly incomprehensible, reflecting Minato’s degrading sense of reasoning and awareness. These letting choices are integral to communicating the story as much as the artwork, emphasizing how progressively darker Minato’s thoughts become, and how he starts to lose his sense of reason after dwelling in them too long, nearly being consumed by them. This scene is the highlight of the book, and it’s all thanks to the unique way it’s lettered and the way in which letters are emphasized and distorted to reflect the emotions depicted.
Since Meme aimed to evoke the aesthetics of a children’s picture book, it’s no surprise that the story’s focus is on children. However, there’s an undercurrent of tragedy in the book that contrasts with the childlike enthusiasm and innocence displayed by the main characters. It’s similar to other stories of plucky protagonists trying to keep their spirits up in a bad situation, in which the optimism expressed by the characters masks desperate feelings about their situation that they’re not ready to deal with. There’s a lot of mysteries that aren’t explained, but the submerged state of the city and protagonist Minato’s traumatic childhood memories clue us in that this has not been a happy life for this kid, and their journey they’re on is as much about recovery as it is survival.
Meme’s depictions of the titular Splish-Splash city are beautifully detailed despite simultaneously being ominous and empty. It’s a world of contradictions in which dazzling lamp lights guide their path at night, but pitch-black alleyways cause them to lose their way in daylight. It’s a place of mysteries and possibilities, a world meant to be explored by both the characters and readers. Meme’s world-building is vague in some areas and specific in others, but feel like puzzle pieces to be assembled as time goes on; a methodical exercise to piece everything together, much like Minato must piece together and understand his own memories. Meme’s imagination seems to flow like water, and here’s hoping Raincoat Kids makes enough of a splash with readers to let them keep exploring until they reach their destination.