Minoru Murao – Digital Manga Publishing – 2010 – 5 volumes
There was a two-year gap between volume 1 and 2 of this series, which is bizarre. I have no idea what the delay was, but I’m happy we got to see volume two after it was cancelled initially. Volume one had some interesting themes going for it, including racism (the main character is black, and wears a mask to avoid comment) and anti-religious themes (the church is burning innocent women as “witches” mostly so that priests can be promoted to sainthood). The main character, Mist, usually intervenes at the burnings in several episodic stories in the first volume. The second volume is a little different.
I was a little disoriented, at first, because I had a hard time remembering the details of the group that Mist is currently working with, the identity of the girl that is apparently after Mist but falls into the hands of the Dominicans (who are, hilariously, the bad guys), or what the politics behind the Dominicans vs. the other group was. It doesn’t matter too much, because after a chapter or so we get a straight-out fight between a former enemy and the Black Knight, along with some amusing background and face time with a new ally, the “carpet knight,” so named because he is usually on the carpet talking up the ladies. The Carpet Knight is an interesting character, someone who used to serve the church, but suddenly realized he was killing innocent girls for political gain and decided to put a stop to it. He’s also some much-needed occasional comic relief.
Mist’s companion (a self-proclaimed real witch) still puzzles me. She’s on the cover, wearing an outfit made out of what appear to be cloth arms that are covering her less than any costume I’ve ever seen. It’s kind of impressive, actually, given that this series has so little fanservice otherwise. She’s a neat character save for the costume and also the fact that she appears to have an orgy with the bad guys here in order to distract them from Mist. I don’t even know what to make of that.
The scattered bits of the story collect themselves by the end of the volume, when we get to see Mist debate over whether or not to compete in a jousting tournament.
I do like the European setting and the traditional fantasy themes of the story. This volume was a little more bland and scattered than the last one, but I’d love to see more, because I think once the story stabilizes, it’ll do fine as a 5-volume story. It’s kinda like a lite version of Berserk, in a way, except not quite as impressive as that sounds. There are similarities in tone and theme, though, that’s for sure. It’s definitely an unusual story, and I do hope that DMP finds a way to release the other three volumes. I’d like to think someone at the company is a fan, given the fact that the second volume came out at all.
It’s unfortunate I left this book in my to read pile for so long (literally since… July or so last year). It’s actually a pretty decent fantasy story, and I’m a little sad the second volume has yet to appear.
The plot is basically that a witch hunt is on, and lots of innocent women are being burned at the stake by corrupt members of the church who are looking to seize their money and property for themselves as payment for uncovering the witches. Nobody questions the church, since to do so is blasphemy, so nobody stands up for these women while they are being killed. Enter the main character, Mist. Mist is going around killing these church officials and freeing the women in the name of stopping the witch hunts.
One of the most interesting things about this story is that Mist is black, something you see very, very rarely in manga. He initially does most of his witch-freeing with a mask on, but this is usually lost while he’s jumping around and swordfighting. His appearance usually causes members of the church to strengthen their resolve, saying that the boy is a demon, and demons only come to the aid of real witches. So, in case you needed any other personal motivation for going against the church, being called a demon again and again is it. He gets this a lot from the girls he saves, too, which is kind of heartbreaking. Only the girl he frees at the beginning of the volume continues to pursue him as her gallant Knight, and she follows rumors through the country in order to find him again.
The story so far is pretty simple. Mist finds bad guys, saves girls, sometimes there are elaborate torture scenes, sometimes there are long sword fights, the corruption is revealed in the end, and things move on. There are two girls saved in this volume, and a fight against “saints” at the end of the volume, church officials who have apparently burned so many witches that they are given supernatural, Berserk-Cenobite-like powers. Mist is very anti-religion, and actually preaches against it. The second girl he saves is sure she deserves to be burned at the stake, even after Mist shows her how the priest fooled her. She is just very sure she has done something against God that would cause His wrath come down on her.
There are a few messy things about the way the story is told, but they are the types of things that I feel would resolve themselves after a volume or two. Mist is accompanied and helped out by Euphemia, a girl who seems to be able to get herself in and out of any situation, and is quite possibly a real witch (something which is proven and disproven, but I’m willing to keep my mind open to the possibility). The problem with Euphemia is that she doesn’t quite fit. I like the idea of having a “real” witch accompanying Mist, but she’s… she’s there for fanservice. She wears a pair of panties, a cape, and what appears to be a tiny pair of hands gripping her breasts. Sometimes she isn’t wearing anything at all. She’s… very suggestive. She does serve her purpose though, and seems able to get in and out of prisons and helps out Mist an awful lot. She also goes up against one of the saints herself towards the end. The saint’s judgment is sometimes baffling. For instance, one has no problem executing heretics, though the person she executes hasn’t really done anything heretical, and even backed up the church when she shouldn’t have. I don’t know.
I feel like this volume was the beginning of a potentially interesting story. I’m still holding out hope for the second volume, because I hate to think this did worse than, say, Enchanter, which is a much shallower story. Plus, this is yet another example of a DMP series that, while not excellent, is certainly a really solid and unusual read. Heroes Are Extinct is another good series that they publish, as is Ikebukuro West Gate Park. They also released Antique Bakery and Flower of Life, both of which are excellent across the board.