>>   H O B B Y L O G  >>   P O S T

Modified Image. Original by Khoshhat, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0
[Manga Talk] Qualia The Purple
Posted On: 27 Jun 2023

First off, I just need to say WOW! I don't know if I missed the announcement or if I just forgot about it after all this time. Either way, Qualia The Purple is a series I picked up and read 7 years ago --back in the day when I still voraciously consumed scanlations-- and have had a fond love for ever since. I'm really, really excited to own a physical copy of the series, and I'd love to talk a bit about it. It's not my intent to spoil the whole thing, but I do want to go further in depth than the public synopsis so... reader beware!

So, what exactly is Qualia The Purple?

Qualia is a relatively short manga series --18 chapters in length, about 600 pages in total-- that can be best described as runaway mind-bending sci-fi in the name of a powerful yuri love story, with a few dashes of graphical violence, and a small dash of squick.

Qualia primarily centers around the characters of Marii Yukari and Hatou "Gaku" Manabu.

Yukari is a very special girl with vibrant purple eyes who sees the world like no other. To her, all human beings look and feel like robots! However, this isn't just some odd hallucination or mental illness. Her world is very real and intertwined with our own in ways that defy understanding, as things that should not be possible in our world are made possible through hers.

Manabu is a classmate and dear friend of Yukari who is drawn deep into this bizarre world when Yukari's powers lead to Manabu becoming part cellphone. Inexplicably, Manabu appears as a fully intact human being with no discernible cyborg parts. However, she indeed can make and receive calls with her left hand. Sort of. It only seems to work when Manabu is by herself. Weirder, Manabu can call herself and, rather than getting a busy signal, connect to herself from a random alternate reality. Weirder yet, any self she connects to she gains all of the knowledge and experience of.

The meat of this story is one of love and tragedy. Fate has seemingly ordained that Marii Yukari will die in a conspiracy. Unwilling to allow this, Manabu turns to her own infinite selves to find answers and ultimately protect Yukari. And, indeed, the infinite Manabus provide. She grows stronger and wiser through her infinite alternate lives and the infinite choices they make --as well as endures great suffering for her infinite mistakes and misfortunes-- in relentless pursuit of her goal.

What makes this story so fascinating is that it's unabashedly nerdy, preferring to base itself on real world scientific hypothesis and theory over pure handwavium. This manga does not shy away from spending pages and panels on primer-level discussions about topics like quanta, Schrodinger's Cat, wave function collapse, the Copenhagen Interpretation, and Fermat's Principle. We've got a girl on a mission through quantum reality and time, and there are no punches being held with the underpinnings. It's not precisely "hard" sci-fi, but it's appreciably harder than a lot of other entries to the genre. And it's for the sake of a girl's deep love for another girl.

But, honestly, it's not just that it throws around science terms and has lesbians in it. This manga is utterly committed to its themes of "qualia" --individual conscious experience and perception-- and parallel realities/possibilities. There are many experiences we are told, but never directly allowed to see fully or entirely. We never see things from Yukari's perspective to see what she actually sees. We don't see every reality that Manabu experiences, but are teased just enough by her narration and drawn glimpses. The story seems fully intent to confuse us in a fashion that seems to suggest it's merely our own limitation, and entice us with a desire to see and learn and understand more. Or at least that's my qualia on the matter!

In a sense, Qualia The Purple achieves an enticing duality between exploring its own insanity and never spoiling its biggest mysteries. We're thrown just enough into the deep end to conceive the true breadth and depth of the story, but yanked back out before we're bogged down with sensory overload.

Of course, like with anything, I do have my complaints as well. There are some facets to Yukari's world that are introduced but discarded without satisfactory address. Granted, they help sell that unknowable mystery. Perhaps the bit of non sequitur feel isn't so much that they're specifically non sequitur and more that the story moves on to Manabu's tribulations far too quickly.

Additionally, there are a few moments that can unnerve readers who aren't comfortable with topics such as extreme violence, teenage age gaps, or psychological grooming. I certainly get that it's part of selling the whole "infinite parallels" bit as, if anything's possible, then there are going to be realities full of terrible things. But portraying bad things for illustrative purposes (rather than to condone them) doesn't make them any less squicky.

Overall Rating: 9/10
Recommended: Yes

If it's up your alley (or at least tolerable), I hope you consider dropping the 25 USD on the omnibus for this series. I think it's overall a wonderful piece of comic literature to own, and a special gem that shines in its own right.