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Manga / Children of the Whales

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"We loved this island, for it was our entire world."

Year 93 of the Sand Era. In a vast, endless sea of sand, a lone colony of people live upon an ever-moving island known as the Mud Whale. Chakuro, the archivist of the Mud Whale, chronicles the lives and deaths of the people who live there. The five hundred souls of the island are divided into a majority of "marked ones", short-lived people who can use a psychokinetic power known as Thymia, and a small minority of "unmarked ones", who don't have any powers but have normal lifespans and rule the ship. While people on the Whale know nothing of the outside world, or if there even is such a thing, they live a simple but happy and peaceful life, playing around, cultivating their land and falling in love. One day, however, they come across an island not unlike their own, only to find a graveyard and a wounded Emotionless Girl who calls them "the criminals of Falaina". This discovery may announce the end of their world…

Kujira no Ko-ra wa Sajou ni Utau ("Whale Calves Sing on the Debris") is a shojo fantasy series by Abi Umeda. It launched in 2013, and has been licensed for release in English starting in November 2017 (it's been published in France by Glénat since 2016). An anime adaptation aired in Fall 2017 in Japan; it launched on March 13, 2018 internationally via Netflix.

Children of the Whales contains examples of:

  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: The anime fails to mention how Liontari survives falling into the sea of sand, which the manga states is due to Aima saving him.
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Rasha used to give Shuan head pats, and Shuan later picks up the habit with Chakuro.
  • After the End: If the Empire is to be believed, the manga takes place after an apocalyptic event that wiped out earlier civilizations and introduced the nous into the world.
  • Alien Sea: The sand sea that covers much of the world. Somehow, it still supports a wide array of marine life, though people and boats will sink into it with no chance of floating without magical support.
  • All There in the Manual: The volume releases tend to come with bonus worldbuilding details, such as various aspects of life on the Mud Whale or in the Empire.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Lykos and her people are all dark-skinned, in contrast with the people of the Mud Whale.
  • Animal Theme Naming: Orca, Liontari, and Arachni, all residents of the Allied Empire, have names that have to do with animals.
  • Anyone Can Die: At some point, the OP almost starts to feel inaccurate seeing as how half the characters in it aren't even alive by the end of the series.
  • Apocalypse How: According to the Empire, there's a legend about how the world was destroyed by the gods, called the Karthartirio Rain, seemingly as punishment for letting their emotions run out of control.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • The skin color of all the people on the Mud Whale is pale despite living in a desert, not to mention that their ancestors from only a few generations back were considerably darker as well.
    • Most everyone quickly recovers from non-lethal injuries, and injuries you'd expect to be infected never are. Orca, for instance, recovers from losing a leg the day of.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: After the attack on the Mud Whale by the Empire, the village elders elect Suou as captain and order him to sink the whale beneath the sand, considering that extermination is inevitable and, in a way, deserved because of their ancestors' "sin" of choosing to live with emotions.
  • Bedsheet Ladder: Chasmourito escapes house arrest with a rope made of Rochalizo's clothes.
  • Big Brother Bully: All of Rochalizo's older brothers, who are generally dismissive of him. His eldest in particular is a Double Subversion—he frets over Rochalizo, but as Rochalizo himself calls him out on, it's because he likes Rochalizo as weak and useless because it makes him more "cute".
  • Cast from Lifespan: Thymia users on the Mud Whale rarely live beyond their thirties. It's later explained that instead of absorbing people's emotions, the Nous Falaina absorbs their life force.
  • Casting Gag: Not the first time Nobunaga Shimazaki voices an older brother to a character voiced by Hisako Kanemoto.
  • Child Soldier:
    • Most of the imperial soldiers that the people of the Mud Whale fight are around Chakuro's age.
    • Unhappily, the Unmarked realize that for the island to stand a fighting chance against the Empire, they have to train the Marked—most of whom are children—to fight and essentially become this. Less unhappily, Amonlogia tries to conscript the Marked into the army, but Ouni manages to put an end to that.
  • Children Forced to Kill: In order to survive the Empire's second attack on the Mud Whale.
  • City in a Bottle: The Mud Whale, though the leaders' decision to conceal what they know of the outside world, as well as the Dark Secret of the island, is more benevolent than most examples.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Every character's Thymia runes glow a different color.
  • Colorful Theme Naming: One that gets Lost in Translation, but the names of the Mud Whale's residents are derived from Japanese color terminology.note  Ironically, these tend to not be the colors that feature heavily into their designs.
  • Compressed Adaptation: While the anime scrupulously adapts every scene of the manga in the first 9 or so episodes, the last few episodes follow it much more loosely, notably skipping an entire volume of material before the Mud Whale gets past the sand streams to head to Amonlongia. The stop at the mysterious time-distorting tower, as well as the entire flashback showing the origins of the Mud Whale and the birth of the first "Daimonas" Midén are completely absent. Presumably it was too much material to fit into a 12 episode season.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Since the majority of the Mud Whale is made up of the Marked, whose lives tend to end at around 30, chances are if you're over the age of ten or so you've lost your parents. There's actually a system set up on the ship whereby unrelated kids will live together as family after their parents pass away.
  • Dead Person Conversation:
    • Neri somehow manages to summon the spirits of all the people of the Mud Whale who've died, and Chakuro manages to converse with both Sami and Taisha.
    • And later Ouni has one with a recently killed Nibi after he fatally damages the Nous Olivines.
    • Again, courtesy of Neri, Ouni has a talk with the recently deceased Masoh, who encourages him to stand up and fight.
  • Death Seeker: Shuan is the only one to support the elders' plan to sink the Mud Whale even after learning that it would result in the deaths of everyone on board. Orca is this as well. There are hints early on, largely his tendency to stand in the way of attacks he could have attempted to dodge, but it's confirmed when Suoh and Chakuro meet him during the rescue mission.
  • Distressed Dude: Suoh's propensity for throwing himself into trouble turns him into this quite often. He has, at various points, been saved by Nezu and Ro**  (although by the time they reached him the danger was already over), by Shuan** , by Shuan again** , by Shuan again** , by Orca** , and by Ouni** .
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Sienna during the second attack on the Mud Whale. Not because of the Empire, but because of her loveless marriage and her husband's parting words to her.
    • The elders, again, while being held hostage with the other Unmarked in Amonlongia. However, this time they manage to talk the other islanders into going along with it. Shuan arrives just in time to stop them.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: Deiktis initially mistakes Suoh for a woman and attempts to take him as a mistress. Even after being corrected, he still sometimes forgets that Suoh isn't a beautiful maiden.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: In the anime, Ginshu and Shuan of the guard briefly appear much earlier.
  • Eldritch Abomination: The Nous are surreal creatures that act as the "hearts" of the moving islands by feeding on the emotions of people. They are also prone to producing waves of hallucinations or flashes of the past under some circumstances.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Ouni develops the power to use Thymia in Nous passages when Nibi dies.
  • Emotion Suppression: The Empire considers emotions to be the evil that brought about the fall of the old world, so all of its nous-compatible citizens are required to sacrifice their emotions as sustenance to the nous they worship.
  • Emotions vs. Stoicism: One of the central themes of the series. The Empire believes that emotions are the root of evil in the world—but their lack has given them a Lack of Empathy. Conversely, the people of Falaina prefer to live with their emotions (though they're not above more mundane means of emotional repression). On the other hand, emotions aren't always a good thing either, considering that the entire tragedy of Duo and Miden stemmed from Duo's, with one civilian even wondering if the Empire was right all along.
  • The Empire: Lykos's homeland, called such, and the main antagonist of the series. Its lack of any real name is noted In-Universe as an oddity.
  • Everyone Can See It: Chakuro and his childhood friend Sami are constantly teased about being together by pretty much everyone. Same with Kuchiba and his transparent crush on the captain Taisha, and Masoh who loves the oblivious Shinono. By volume 8, Sami and Taisha have been killed, and Masoh eventually died of "old age" after overusing his Thymia. Having a crush is never a good idea in this series.
  • The Exile: The founders of the Mud Whale were exiled from the Empire.
  • Exposition Beam: The Nous can sometimes transmit the memories of others into people's minds. Chakuro sees a vision of Lykos' childhood, and Suou sees some of Liontari's past.
  • Fantastic Racism: In the Empire, people with emotions are treated as little better than animals. The people of the Mud Whale have it even worse, as they are hated by the Empire for having emotions and by Siderasia for using Thymia, the power of their enemy.
  • First-Episode Twist: The "outside world" comes to slaughter the Mud Whale.
  • Generic Cuteness: The shoujo art style leads to everyone appearing cute and young-looking, so information like Kuchiba and Shinono being middle-aged parents older than the main cast has to be spelled out in dialogue. The anime adds Only Six Faces on top of that.
  • Genius Loci: The Nous ships.
  • Gratuitous Greek: Most of the terms and names are in Greek, except for the people of Falaina, who have Japanese sounding names. The characters write with the Greek alphabet too.
  • Heel–Face Turn: It quickly hits the now not-so-emotionless Lykos that the people of Falaina may not be the barbaric monsters she was told they were. It runs in the family. Orca defects to Falaina's side as well.
  • Honorary True Companion: Rochalizo and his subordinates become this to the Mud Whale. Particularly after the Mud Whale leaves Amonlogia, as it's clear that Rochalizo and co. cannot stay with them forever, but they want to see things through to the end of the Mud Whale's journey.
  • Hope Spot: The people of Falaina have a big one in volume 9 when it seems like they'll be able to live in Amonlogia and escape the curse of their island. Alas, Rochalizo didn't intend to just let them live peacefully, and basically sells them to his empire to be used as soldiers. Needless to say, they aren't too happy with the deal.
  • Hypocrite: The Apatheia are told that emotions are evil and will ruin humanity, but their emotionless society is in a state of perpetual war with the other nations…
  • I Have Your Wife: Amonlogia holds the captive Unmarked hostage against the Marked in an attempt to conscript the latter.
  • Immortality: The nous don't die of age or starvation. When Falaina starved at some point in the past, it only sank dormant into the ocean for a time before resurfacing later. The full extent of their immortality isn't clear, however. They can be Killed Off for Real by daimonas, but it's not known whether any other method can deal them a fatal blow.
  • Innocence Lost: All of the people of the Mud Whale after the Empire's first attack, with special mention going to Ouni's group, who up until that point had always idealized the outside world. The discovery that the outside world they'd spent their whole lives wanting to reach was inhabited by people who wanted them dead did not go over well.
  • Instant Runes: When a Marked uses their Thymia, a rune floats above their head and on whatever object they are manipulating.
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Not said out loud but thought by Lykos when she realizes that the Falainian unit infiltrating the Skylos has encountered surprisingly little resistance to reach the room of the Nous (the vital heart of the ship). Sure enough, most of those who blindly charge forward into the room are shot dead on the spot by soldiers waiting in an ambush.
  • Kissing Discretion Shot: In episode 12, Orca is about to kiss his fiancée Itia right before the camera cuts away.
  • Lost in Translation: Minor example: when Suou reveals the name of the "dark-haired boy" (i.e. Ouni), Duke Dachtyla repeats the first syllable of Ouni's name, likely mistaking it for "king" (as it sounds the same in Japanese) before he corrects himself. Obviously, this doesn't work as well in English, which simply has him repeat Ouni's name.
  • Magic Music: In volume 6, after the Falainians get back the "tiller" of their ship and decide to head for Siderasia, they move it by singing a song that they all had seemingly implanted in their head without knowing how.
  • The Magic Versus Technology War:
    • Though the Empire has access to Thymia users as well, Lykos notes that the people of the Mud Whale tend to be more powerful with it, which, combined with their less effective weaponrynote , means that Falaina relies heavily on magic to fend off the much more technologically advanced Empire.
    • The Empire's war with Siderasia is this more explicitly. Siderasia, which doesn't have access to nous, has had to develop technology on a level to match the Empire's Thymia.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: The imperial apátheia soldiers wear clown masks as part of their uniform.
  • Mayfly–December Friendship: At 28 years old, Masoh is nearing the end of his lifespan, while Kuchiba, who he calls "old man", is middle-aged by the standards of Unmarked.
  • Mayfly–December Romance: Relationships between Marked and Unmarked. Unmarked try to avoid them because of it.
  • Monster Clown: The forces of the Empire that first attack the Mud Whale wear masks that look like clowns.
  • Naïve Newcomer: In volume 5, the prince of a distant nation and a few followers land on the Mud Whale with the idea of claiming it or their kingdom and teaching civilization to its "savage" people. It doesn't help that they come right when the Falainians are bathing and deduce that they must live naked.
  • No Need for Names: A partial case in the Empire. Lykos originally had no name and was known by a numerical designation, but there are other characters in the Empire who do appear to have names, including her brother.
  • Nostalgic Narrator: The series is narrated by Chakuro, but presented as his past records.
  • Not Enough to Bury: Whenever Miden kills someone, there's nothing left but a puddle of blood.
  • Ocean Punk: Mixed liberally with Desert Punk courtesy of the "ocean" being a gigantic desert.
  • One Cast Member per Cover: Each volume features a different character on the cover. Only Volume 22's cover has multiple characters.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Lykos doesn't have a birth name, Chakuro and co. only gave her this one because they saw it on her uniform. It's actually the name of the Nous that drives her ship.
  • Only Six Faces: The rather uncluttered art comes at the cost of having little facial diversity, which can be especially confusing for androgynous characters like Suoh. Though it's less glaring in the anime because of the colors.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Inevitably happens to Unmarked parents with Marked children. As a result, Unmarked parents tend to distance themselves from their children early on. Kuchiba's son initially finds it odd when Kuchiba, after discovering the reason for the Marked's short lifespans, starts interacting with him more often.
  • The Outside World: At the start of the series, it's completely unknown to the people of the Mud Whale, who aren't sure if one even exists. It doesn't take long before they find out one does—because they're here to massacre the island.
  • Parents as People: In the case of Unmarked parents with Marked children, there's typically some strain in the relationship on the parents' end, knowing that they'll likely live long past their child's death. While in most of the cases seen (Kuchiba, Shinono, Kanae), it's clear that they still love their children anyway, it's why said children typically grow up with other children instead of in their parents' care.
  • Perfect Pacifist People: Downplayed. Some members of the Mud Whale do know how to fight (e.g. the Self-Defence Force), but as a whole, fighting is prohibited on the island and they're mostly peaceful people. This comes back to bite them hard when the Empire attacks them, as despite most of them having thymia—a deadly power when utilized in such a way—it's clear that they have no idea how to fight back.
  • The Promised Land: Minus the usual mystical element of this trope, but after Rochalizo arrives, his homeland of Amonlogia serves as this for the Mud Whale, who believe that once they reach Amonlogia, they can start their lives anew and be safe from the Empire. Unfortunately, as detailed under Hope Spot, it really doesn't turn out that well.
  • Race Against the Clock: Everyone who knows the reason for the Marked's short lifespans wants the Mud Whale to reach Amonlogia as soon as possible in order to save a dying Masoh's life. They don't make it.
  • Rousseau Was Right: For all the atrocities committed, no one is doing it For the Evulz so much as their actions are born from ignorance or a desire to protect their own home. It's a sentiment Suou echoes near the start of the series—that as long as you're dealing with fellow human beings, you can find a way to resolve things peacefully — and while it doesn't often work out that way in practice, the heart of it always remains.
  • Scenery Porn: The backgrounds are often gorgeously detailed.
  • Sea of Sand: The story is set on the Mud Whale, an island that moves around on a seemingly infinite desert comprised of nothing but sand.
  • Setting as a Character: The Mud Whale. Given that much of the conflict revolves around its existence, it plays a vital role to the story and to the characters.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: The series falls somewhere on the idealistically cynical/cynically idealistic end. It's telling that despite Suou's best attempts at pacifism, they virtually always fail, and the others—Ouni especially—have to fight and/or kill to get things done. On the other hand, most of the characters are good at heart, and for all of the suffering the Mud Whale goes through, most of its residents see A World Half Full.
  • Small, Secluded World: The Mud Whale, aka Falaina. They've been so isolated that Ouni initially believes Lykos (the ship) to be the entirety of the "outside world", not realizing that the world is a large place and that Lykos is only one of the Empire's ships.
  • Smarter Than You Look: Duke Dachtyla's first son, who comes off as a coward busy panicking in his room when all of his other siblings are fighting on the front lines... but he's also the only one among them who thinks to call for backup. His subordinates remark that he's surprisingly shrewd.
  • Spell My Name with an S: Most of the names are transcribed from Greek, which can lead to some confusion depending on the conventions, notably regarding φ (PH/F). It doesn't help that the katakana transcription isn't always phonetically accurate.
  • Taking the Bullet: Orca's habit of letting himself get hit by avoidable attacks comes around to bite him when Itia has to throw herself in front of him to protect him from a thymia attack.
  • Telekinesis: Thymia.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: After the first attack, the Marked learn how to fight in preparation of the second, upcoming one.
  • Utopia: Outside of living on an small, isolated island and living short lives, the Mud Whale can really seem like a near perfect society, with little-to-no conflicts or hatred, just enough resources and space for everyone and beautiful natural spectacles to be enjoyed once in a while. Needless to say, it has its Dark and Troubled Past.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Rochalizo and his siblings desperately crave their father the Duke's approval, though it turns out that Rochalizo had it all along and his siblings bullied him so much out of jealousy.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Most of the cast, though the vast majority don't do so happily. Many of the Empire's soldiers who the islanders kill in self-defense are children, and the Empire's soldiers are too lacking in emotions to feel bad about killing anyone, regardless of age.

Alternative Title(s): Children Of The Whales, Kujira No Kora Wa Sajou Ni Utau