Memories of Emanon

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Emanon, as of the year 1967

Memories of Emanon is a one-shot manga based on a novel by Shinji Kajio. The story takes place in 1967 Japan, with the nameless 20-year old narrator returning home from his travels after his wallet gave out. On the ferry back home, he encounters a cool, mysterious girl in blue jeans with a cigarette in her mouth. Her pack has the initials E.N. on it, but she tells the narrator to call her Emanon. She invites him to dinner, and they begin to talk to kill the time.

After making an off comment about remembering an event that by no means Emanon should have experienced, she decides to tell the narrator, a sci-fi fanatic, her background, saying he can choose to believe it or not. It turns out that Emanon is the inheritor of Genetic Memory that gives her the knowledge and memories of everyone in her maternal line of ancestry, including the ones that weren't human, or even multi-cellular. The narrator and Emanon discuss the possibilities and potential reasoning behind these memories, and about life in general. After claiming it was just a story, Emanon vanishes the next morning leaving the narrator with just a note. Life goes on for the narrator, but he never forgets that night, and wonders how his life would have turned out differently if he hadn't parted ways with Emanon.

The manga has been fully translated, but you have to dig around a bit for it. There's a sequel called Sasurai Emanon, which hasn't been translated, that follows Emanon through the rest of the 20th Century.

Tropes used in Memories of Emanon include:

  • Anthropomorphic Personification: Eventually, Emanon starts to guess that her purpose might be this, to be the embodiment of history, both for mankind and life itself.
  • Author Appeal: According to Word of God, Emanon is heavily based on the ideal dream girl the original author fantasised about since he was a student. Said dream girl in turn, influenced by the cultural zeitgeist of The Seventies.
  • Blessed with Suck: Emanon sees her immortality as this. She even repeatedly calls it a disease, since human minds are naturally meant to forget things.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Emanon seems to think so, given how in her various past selves (even back when she was a primeval fish), she always manages to escape the jaws of death at least until giving birth to her next incarnation.
  • Creator Provincialism: Somewhat. It's implied that Emanon never really left, or at least always came back to Japan ever since she became human.
  • Evolutionary Levels: Discussed, see Hollywood Evolution below.
  • Flat Earth Atheist: Downplayed, but the unnamed narrator tries to give various science-fiction explanations for Emanon's peculiar nature, which defies known science. Emanon herself doesn't come across as particularly religious or spiritual either, possibly after having gone through various faiths over the generations.
  • Generation Xerox: Emanon's daughter, seeing as it's still her. Images of her past lives suggest that she's looked mostly the same ever since she became human.
  • Genetic Memory: Emanon's method of immortality. Unique in that it goes past human ancestors, and may begin with the first strand of DNA to float in the primordial soup. Whenever Emanon has a child, her memories transfer to the infant, and the mother forgets she had ever had any but her own.
  • Genre Savvy: The unnamed protagonist, who immediately comes up with several scifi-esque hypothesis as to why Emanon is the way she is. In the end, the reader never really does find out if he was correct.
  • Historical In-Joke: Emanon in past lives was previously a legendary Buddhist nun who supposedly lived for 800 years, and was the source of many Japanese myths. It's also downplayed, given how for all her eons of living and subsequent experiences, she ironically hasn't left as big on an impact on Japanese, let alone human history.
    • One two-page spread suggests that she was there to witness the pivotal scene when primordial man first learns the power of tools at the intro of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
  • History Repeats: Emanon's lived for so long that she's become rather jaded because of this trope constantly asserting itself over eons.
  • Hollywood Evolution: The narrator is a 60's sci-fi fan, so it's to be expected when he's trying to figure out reasoning behind Emanon's memory. Emanon on her part retorts at one point how it doesn't work like that, in addition to how humanity hasn't really changed all that much since the discovery of fire.
  • Hotter and Sexier: Sasurai Emanon. Emanon spends a good chunk of it in the nude, albeit non-sexually. Still, Barbie Doll Anatomy and Scenery Censor are completely and utterly averted.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: One of the major themes of the story is if Emanon is actually immortal, or spinning yarns to pass a long night away. This is put to rest when The Narrator meets her daughter 13 years later.
    • It's left open whether in one of her past lives as a legendary Buddhist nun, she really kept up the act in her myriad incarnations for 800 years. Though she insists that since people's lifespans were a lot shorter then, quite a few things were made up about her, such as the eating mermaid skin bit of the legend.
  • Mohs Scale of Sci Fi Hardness: So soft that it could be considered fantasy. Ironic in that the narrator is a fan of some hard sci-fi like Robert Heinlein.
  • Mood Whiplash: One minute, the narrator and Emanon are sharing beer, talking about. The next, a flashback to the firebombing of Tokyo at the end of World War 2.
  • No Name Given: Taken to an art form. The narrator is left unnamed, and Emanon intentionally goes under a nickname, saying that a name is just a label. Justified in that with how long she's been around, she probably has had hundreds if not thousands of names.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Billions of years old for that matter. But one wouldn't immediately notice that from her young, beautiful appearance, at least ever since she became human.
  • Reincarnation Romance: Averted. At one point, Emanon wonders aloud whether the protagonist might be a reincarnation of a beloved husband she loved back in the Edo Period, given how much the man resembles him; this is also one of the reasons she's talking with him in the first place. Only for her to drop the notion off soon after.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: Emanon backwards is "No Name."
  • Secret Identity Identity: She's inconsistent on whether her various incarnations are herself or just her ancestors.
  • Shown Their Work: The manga does a good job showing 1967 Japan and other fine details like the movies and books that were popular at the time. Likewise, the sequel Sasurai Emanon does the same for The Seventies and The Eighties.
  • The Sixties: The manga is set largely in 1967, the era itself playing into the story.
  • Smoking Is Cool: In addition to the Deliberate Values Dissonance given that it's the 60s, Emanon is shown as having long become an avid smoker. Which is strongly implied to be an attempt to suppress her deep memories.
  • Stop Worshipping Me!: Emanon doesn't look back too fondly at her time as a legendary Buddhist nun. Partly because of the less than pleasant things people began attributing to her.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: A non-military example. But Emanon's eyes are shown as having this in all but name, reflecting her innumerable experiences, a good deal of which would bring a Heroic BSOD to any regular, mortal human.
  • Time Abyss: Three billion years with no end in sight. Although she'll always remember the protagonist and their time together as a moment preserved in her memories, forever.
  • Time Dissonance: Invoked by the narrator. He realizes that since Emanon is three billion years old, that night probably barely registered as a blip to her in the grand scheme of things. Which makes her comment in their reunion that she'll always remember him and their conversation all the more touching.
  • Time Passes Montage: Variations of this are employed throughout to show just how long-lived Emanon really is. One sequence in particular shows her past incarnations in clothes from successive periods in Japanese history.
  • Time Skip: Sasurai Emanon does this with each arc, in addition to the flashbacks to various points in her life. The more recent chapters in particular take place around The Eighties.
    • The original manga and novel likewise has this, set 13 years later.
  • Walking the Earth: In one way or another, Emanon's all but fated to be an outsider or a wanderer. As she feels she could never really be at home anywhere.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: Emanon considering her immortality to be a disease. Eventually the narrator convinces her otherwise.
  • Wise Beyond Her Years: As a result of her peculiar situation, she's incredibly knowledgeable on a variety of topics despite physically looking like a young lady.
  • The World Is Not Ready: Emanon doesn't believe that the world at large would ever be ready to accept someone like her. She doesn't trust herself either to be the one who initiates it.