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The Drops of God and the Stigma of “Graphic Novels”

Upon hearing about The Drops of God, a Japanese manga about the interesting world of wine, I became interested and infatuated with it. This was a manga that swayed wine prices throughout Asia, and was well received in France and beyond. Surely, this series, now being available legally in English, would flourish in America among adults who enjoy wine and good stories right? Wrong.

The Drops of God has an odd premise: a young man must endure a battle of wits against his adopted famous wine critic of a brother to inherit his father’s (also a famous wine critic) estate after his passing. The goal is to find the 12 “apostle” wines and the legendary “drops of god”. These wines are only described through beautiful word imagery, with no hints as to vintage, style, or even what part of the world the wine could be from. Discovering these wines take up a bulk of the story, with shorter stories about how wine affects the lives of various minor characters spread throughout. Every wine talked about in the series is a real world wine. Everything you read about in the series is true to the wine world: how terrior can affect the taste, the importance of decanting wine and what it does, how a varietal from the same vinter can be different from year to year, and more. If you’re mildly interested in wine, or even just like a story that you don’t see every day, I highly suggest trying to get a hold of volumes 1-4 and New World from Vertical. Then… well. You’re out of luck.

The US publisher, Vertical, published 4 volumes of the series encompassing the first 75 or so chapters of the manga. Unfortunately, these didn’t sell too well, and they jumped some 140 chapters to “New World“, which contained wines from North America, Australia, and so on, in the hopes the more relatable wines would drive up sales. That didn’t work either. You know why? Because North America has a problem with adults who read “comic books”. No. No no no, I can hear you complaining from here. But you know it’s the truth. Comic books in any form, regardless of subject matter, country of origin, etc, are seen as “for children”. Which puts The Drops of God in a terrible predicament. The “appropriate age” for manga in the US is oh… we’ll say teenage. They of course can’t legally drink wine, and are probably not at all interested in the subject matter, so they’re not gonna buy it. The people who do enjoy wine and would read such a thing are people who would never be caught dead reading “picture books” much less admitting to it and recommending it to people, so they’re not buying it either. Hence, no sales, and cancellation. This however only seems to be a problem with the US release.

All over Asia, The Drops of God is highly regarded, and in Japan there was a live action TV miniseries, along with in-flight wine lists that contained some of the wines mentioned in the story. Wines written about have been known to jump in price and sell out in various cities from Japan to Korea and beyond. It has been kept faithfully updated in France and other European countries, and is regarded even in the US as a great way to learn about wine in a fun and interesting manner. And yet, within just a few short years of being available in US, it’s been canceled. Some 200+ chapters never to be officially translated, because “it’s weird when adults read things with pictures”. How depressing, really.

I think they might have sold more copies had they put preview chapters in food and wine magazines. You know, garner interest amongst the people who would have enjoyed it the most. Me, I have to go back to coughcoughillegallyreadingfansubscoughcough just kidding I can’t even do that anymore. Seriously, it’s a great series. I wish I could own it all properly.