Hyung-Min Kim / Kyung-Il Yang – Viz – 2011 – 4+ volumes
The focus in this volume is on Jake, the enormous mentor character that also serves as comic relief. Jake is probably the best thing in this series. Not only do I enjoy her bizarrely cartoonish character design, I love when she’s in a panel with any other character, clearly about five times the size of them for no reason whatsoever. There are a couple stories that feature her in this volume, and I’m glad she’s being used more. She’s far more interesting than March.
The character designs in general in this series are great. There are more anthropomorphic animal characters in this volume, and they look right at home next to the human characters. I love the casual disregard for logic in that way.
Somehow, I liked most of the stories in this volume, yet they left almost no impression on me. The first one is probably the best, about a female beaver (dressed up like an old woman) who kidnaps March and Rodin to try and train March as a bride for her human son. The beaver-woman is cantankerous and a lot of fun, it’s nice seeing March get in touch with her feminine side, and the story itself is rather sweet and features Jake coming to the rescue, rather than March fighting the Ill. It’s a little sillier in tone too, if the fact the main character was a beaverwoman and the problem was solved by Jake was any indication. There’s no real conflict, and it’s obvious by the tone of the story that the beaverwoman isn’t going to do anything bad. I was actually happy to see that she appears to be a recurring character now.
The next story is, again, not as serious and dramatic as the past volumes, but is still a rather serious one about a tap-dancing skeleton that seems to be attacking pirate ships. There’s not too much to it, but the sentimental ending, plus the rather endearing image of that skeleton dancing across the surface of the ocean (again, the character designs are really good) endeared me to it. This is another story that has a lot of Jake in it, but neither Jake nor March is the one that solves the problem this time.
The third story is the one that explains a little about Jake’s past. It’s not really a… “this is her motivation”-type story, nor does it explain her real background or anything, it just examines a period of Jake’s life where she gave up hunting Ill and became a maid at a huge castle inhabited by one old man. It’s another rather sentimental story, and doesn’t really fit in with Jake’s character, but more of Jake is never a bad thing.
And… the final story is more along the lines of the ones we’ve seen previously, with an Ill that appears to be sucking the life from a young woman. This one is also a little more sentimental and lighter in tone than the bloody, dramatic stories we’ve seen previously… and March is once again not the one that slays the Ill here. It’s benevolent, which also doesn’t really make sense, but whatever. It’s still a cute story. The nifty character designs make another appearance, since the theme of the story is a man in a cartoon cat mask making the sick young woman laugh.
The tone definitely changed in this volume, and again, I still really like reading these… but that the volume featured more of Jake, an enjoyable side character, rather than March, the main character, probably isn’t a good sign. Nor is the change in tone. The fact that this still didn’t really stand out in any way, even with Jake in the spotlight, is definitely not a good sign. But again, it’s a decent read if you happen across it… it’s just not anything special. And the overarching plot doesn’t seem to be going anywhere as of this volume. But these are definitely enjoyable short stories, with an interesting mix of action and character development that doesn’t really lean heavily on either, which makes it appealing to a fairly general audience.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
Kim Hyung-Min / Yang Kyung-Il – Viz – 2011 – 3+ volumes
Wow. I was surprised how much more I liked this series with the second volume. The first was a little too episodic and bland for my taste. The second takes the stories of ill-slaying and makes sure to involve the entire cast in all of them. It works much better that way.
The first story features a cute older couple, and the ending was far less tragic than most of the stories I’ve read from this series so far. It also introduces Belma, another Ciste Vihad ill-slayer that works for Jake. Belma uses a scarecrow that mimicks the person that the ill-infested person most wanted to see in life. This goes badly for March, of course, and Jake and Rodin are on hand to witness the mess.
The second story puts knick-knack seller Rodin in the spotlight. He was nearly caught by an ill in his youth, but… well, the ill wound up being caught by him. In the present, the ill is once again causing trouble, so March has to hunt it down. We see bits of Rodin’s past, and the story itself has a tragic twist or two that I really liked. It wasn’t as neatly resolved as I had expected either, so it was a little more interesting than expected.
The third story is mostly just a March Story, about a woman who was impregnated and is apparently going to give birth to an ill. She’s suspected of witchcraft in the town she lives in, and things go badly when she goes into labor while being burned at the stake. It’s an uplifting story despite the gruesome description, and I don’t mind that the other characters weren’t featured in this one so much. More than one per volume probably isn’t a good idea, but just one nice one-shot is fine.
The last story is a gruesome one about a pair of sisters, one who is ill-infested and the other that commands her to kill. It’s… pretty gruesome all around, actually. Child sacrifice and disfigurement leads to ugly revenge. All of the main characters get in on the act. Rodin in particular makes sure that the end is very gruesome, and it reveals he’s not quite as helpless as he seems, either. Belma also re-enters the story, since it takes both March and Belma to hunt this particularly vicious ill.
I do like the characters, and the dynamics between them. There’s nothing super-special just yet, but I do think it’s gotten more interesting in the second volume. And really, I love Jake. Jake is completely absurd, and I love how Jake (whose gender I am still not sure of) is unapologetically drawn out-of-scale with the rest of the characters. I’m curious to see a little more of Jake hunting ill, and I also want to see if the series can continue to grow from here. If it keeps improving, it might be something really special in another volume or two.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
Hyung Min Kim / Kyung Il Yang – Viz – 2010 – 3+ volumes
This is a sort of… tale du jour series, where we have the main character going from place to place chasing down artifacts that are possessed by a demon called an Ill. The stories are episodic, and tied together so far only by March, the lone Ciste Vihad who is hunting down both the Ill and the artifacts that they’ve contaminated. The first story is about a young girl who performs as a clown in the circus, the second is about a town that follows a strict masking ritual and a lover who went astray, the third is about a selfish boy who is inhabited by an Ill that needs to find its way back to its soulmate, and the third is about March and March’s backstory.
The stories are all wonderfully drawn and have a strong gothic flavor to them. The characters involved are easy to like, and the Ill interference is different every time. The first story has a character that falls into the Ill trap after coveting the earring it inhabits, the second story is about a haunted mask and a family heirloom, and the third features a greedy young boy who grabs the wrong item in an antique shop. The setups for all the stories are also unique, and that makes them fun to read. The only problem I had is that neither the characters or the stories really stand out enough to be memorable. I read this book two days ago, and could not remember what two of the stories were about as I was writing this up. They’re easy enough to like, and there’s nothing technically wrong with them, they just don’t make much of an impression.
I did like that the end of the book fleshed out March more, and some of the secrets dropped in that story should make for interesting reading in the volumes to come. I’ve got the second volume handy, and I’m planning on reading it tomorrow in order to get a better picture of how the series may mature from its somewhat formulaic beginnings. It’s got a lot of good things going for it, and if it gets just a little bit more punchy, it could turn into something very interesting.