I figured I’d just finish this story up with the second volume. It’s cute, but mostly good for kids. I don’t think a lot of teens or adults will be too into this one.
Everything set up in the first volume plays out pretty much exactly how you would imagine it. Soprano and Alto go into the neighboring kingdom to try and get help from Soprano’s brother, the elder prince of the Classical kingdom. The neighboring kingdom, Alla Marcia, is a place where toys come to life. The brainwashed members of the quintet come to take Soprano and Alto back to Classical, and they also try to get the “medley” from Alla Marcia as per the instructions of the evil overlord. Things happen just in time, there is an epic showdown, Soprano and Alto realize things about one another… you know how this stuff goes. You won’t find any surprises, but it’s still a nice story. The telling is quite energetic and the characters are likable, if shallow. I think the only thing that’s slightly less than kid friendly here is the gigantic breasts that the queen sports for no reason. No jokes are made, there is no innuendo, and they aren’t referenced at all. But they are there and they are very huge. They’re there on the cover, if you’re curious, and… is she wearing panties? Huh?
My favorite detail is that the two toys that highlight and explain the whole toy kingdom thing are Muscleman and Pandaman. Muscleman is the literal translation of Kinnikuman, a really popular Shounen Jump series from the 80s about wrestling. Kinnikuman’s opponents were always chosen from characters that kids would send in for that purpose. Pandaman was a character that young Eiichiro Oda submitted to the series. I don’t know that Pandaman ever actually made it into Kinnikuman, but he is a frequent background character in One Piece. Muscleman and Pandaman in this series look nothing like their (real-life? manga?) counterparts, but I like the connection all the same. Apparently they are still bitter rivals in the kingdom of Alla Marcia.
This was an advance copy that CMX had sent me, I was surprised to see the actual book won’t come out until October. I’ll write a little bit more about it when it comes out and reset the date on this post, but for the time being here’s a few thoughts after going through a rough copy.
I was actually kind of thrilled when I first started reading it because the music-themed names and places reminded me a bit of the Violinist of Hameln. The comparison was reinforced by the father character turning into a demon (the plot of this series is that the prince and his bodyguard have to save the kingdom from the king, who has been accidentally turned into a demon), but the similarities end there. Well, they’re also on a journey in Classical Medley, but not in the same way. That’s the last of the similarities, really. As I started reading, it reminded me more of +Anima, mostly because it maintains a positive, adventurous atmosphere no matter what happens. And plenty of dark stuff does happen.
It’s definitely more of a kid’s series, and very kid-friendly at that. There are a lot of kid series that would make me nervous to give to a small kid, but there’s nothing objectionable about this one, and even the dark stuff is pretty mild. The storyline and characters are kind of flat and simple, but it’s much preferable to, say… the Pichi Pichi Pitch manga, which is likely unreadable for most adults. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. It definitely is following a formula for a standard fantasy series… the bodyguard character is the one who gets the magical orb that can help the king, he and the prince are on a quest to find the older prince, who is studying in a neighboring kingdom, and the monster who has taken over the king realizes that he needs to recover other pieces of the evil orb in order to regain full power. I probably wound up liking it most for the upbeat mood I mentioned earlier, any kid series that can pull that off usually winds up being a really good read no matter what formula it uses.
The only thing I really didn’t like about it were the character designs, which are of the type where all the characters look like they fall between the ages of 8-10. The main characters aren’t even that young (one’s 12 and the other’s 15), but it works better in this series since it feels like it’s more for kids.