Yashichiro Takahashi / Ayato Sasakura – Viz – 2010 – 8+ volumes
I had a lot less trouble jumping into this at volume 6 than I thought I would. I know this series is super-popular right now, and the manga is an adaptation, so I was surprised how easy it was to read and understand.
It boils down to being shounen action and romance without a lot of fancy stuff going on, which is what makes it easy to pick up. Yuji and Shana are clearly a cutesy couple, and the fact there wasn’t a whole lot of stupid jokes about the awkwardness between the two made me like it a whole lot more. There were one or two at the very end of the volume, but a big part of the plot seemed to be that Shana could fight because Yuji was there and she liked him. The latter might not be 100% true, but that’s what it seemed to me. Shounen series with established couples like that are rare indeed, and it was a nice thing to see.
Of course, romance came far second to the action here. Shana was engaged in battle with Margery Daw, the “Chanter of Elegies,” for the entire volume, and I entered at just the right place in the story, I think. It started with Shana and Yuji talking to the “Corpse Retriever” and determining that he wasn’t a threat, and making a promise to eliminate any threats to his life. Which is when the battle with the “Chanter of Elegies” starts.
The battle itself is pretty straightforward. There are swords, and spells, and fire. Barriers play a role, which I will forever associate with X and its kekkai, where anything within a barrier is cut off from the outside world and any battle damage will disappear once the barrier is lifted.
Shana seemed like a fairly closed off character, and I’m willing to bet Yuji makes up for any lack of emotion and personality on her part. They are interesting, if only because I find the concept of a shounen manga couple interesting (and I would LOVE to find out how it is that Yuji is dead), but what made me like this book was how Margery Daw was portrayed. Apparently, she is a recurring character, but we get all of her backstory here, including her past and how she came to be a… flame haze. She seems angry and belligerent, but not without reason, and I think the thing I liked most about her was that she seemed to understand when she’d been beaten, and also there seemed to be a lot of people who liked her. Two nice, seemingly normal boys were pretty broken up when she told them she wouldn’t be returning, and after defeat, the evil beast bound to her professes his fondness for her in no uncertain terms as well. She was a bad guy without really being a bad guy.
The other thing I liked was that there wasn’t a special set of vocabulary I had to decipher in order to figure out what was going on. They used magic, and fire magic, swords, flying, and some sort of magical beast. That’s simple enough for me. I was a little lost when it came to the whole… soul gathering for power stuff, but it wasn’t that important here.
I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed it, and pleased with how easy it was to pick up in the middle. Better series don’t have easy entrance points like this, and maybe I just picked up a lucky volume, too. But it seems like it’s quite accessible to anyone interested in the franchise, be it the anime or novel incarnations. It’s got charming and surprisingly sensitive characters, and a plot that is simple without being too shallow that provides a lot of action. It’s pretty great stuff, though it wasn’t quite gripping enough to make me want to pick up more. I’d be interested to see how it compared to the other versions, but it seems like the novels would be far superior in every way since there are… apparently over twenty now? Wow.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.