Eroicaverse 3: Seven Seas, Seven Skies
November 25, 2011
This is the third in a series of articles discussing From Eroica With Love and its spinoffs. For the index, go here.
You know, there aren’t enough pirate manga out there. There’s One Piece, of course, and one might argue that it’s so good that we don’t need other pirate manga. But when you combine pirates with From Eroica With Love, how can the results be anything less than fabulous?
The link to From Eroica With Love is once again very concrete, though I suspect that’s only because Aoike was cross-promoting the series and gave the Eroica characters a reason to discuss Seven Seas, Seven Skies. The main characters are the “ancestors” of Dorian and Klaus, and are drawn to look exactly like them (moreso than usual). “The Man in Purple,” a contentious painting in From Eroica With Love, is a portrait of Tyrian Persimmon, the character in this series. The characters seem to share some traits in common with Dorian and Klaus, too, and the series shares a kind of romantic heroism that From Eroica With Love possesses. But it’s not really a prequel, simply related.
Seven Seas, Seven Skies (which, because of length and punctuation, I’m going to call 7S7S) ran from February to June 1977 in Shueisha’s Seventeen Magazine. Here’s what the cover to one of the issues looked like!
This was at the same time Sons of Eve was being serialized regularly in Princess Magazine at Akita Shoten, and a few months after From Eroica With Love debuted in the seasonal issues of Viva Princess, also at Akita Shoten. Aoike cross-promoted all three of them, and the characters show up together quite frequently. Eroica and Sons of Eve have direct cameos with each other and the characters from 7S7S, but since 7S7S is a historical drama, the contemporary comedy characters don’t appear here.
7S7S tells the story of Tyrian Persimmon (the Eberbach relation), Luminous Red Benedict (the Gloria relation), and their swashbuckling duels circa the mid 1580s. Tyrian is an officer in the British Navy, and Benedict is a pirate, but despite their allegiances, Tyrian is the bad guy and Benedict is the sympathetic hero.
Luminous Red Benedict became a pirate in order to take revenge on Tyrian, who destroyed his wealthy aristocratic family. As you can imagine from one of Dorian’s ancestors, Benedict is a fabulous pirate. In our introduction to Benedict and his crew, we see a pirate crew raid a ship of wealthy society ladies, only to realize that the wealthy society ladies are Benedict and his crew, and the pirates and their ship fall prey to their trap.
Tyrian has been in various positions of power over the years, though he’s a spy and a rather nefarious character in this story, as far as I can tell. Politics play heavily in this series, and unfortunately much of what’s going on behind the scenes is lost to my limited language skills. But Tyrian definitely betrays England for Spain by the end of the book, and it was some similar spy conspiracy-type stuff that destroyed Benedict’s dad.
It’s got equal parts action and politics, which is a nice mix, but again, the action scenes were the ones I had the better grasp of. Benedict seems to have a friendly pirate rival in the heavily scarred Captain Black (who I liked better when I misread his name as Captain Plaque), and the two of them cross swords, then join them on more than one occasion.
Tyrian and Benedict have a few duals throughout the course of the book. The swordfights are quite dynamic and very romantic. There’s not a whole lot of actual swordsmanship at work (or at least none that I picked up on), but they’re proper shoujo swordfights, and I loved every page of them. The big finale happens after Tyrian turns traitor and Benedict goes legitimate and fight him with the might of the English Navy behind him. The two have an exquisitely composed duel at night on a flaming pirate ship that eventually blows up. That should be how every manga ends. I think Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure Part 1 ends that way.
There’s also a little bit of a romance at work. I’m fairly certain there’s no love lost between Tyrian and Benedict, but one of the main characters through the beginning of the story is a girl named Juliet who is rescued by Benedict early on. She winds up going back and forth between Tyrian and Benedict and acts as both a method of exposition and a way for young girls to insert themselves into an otherwise fairly manly story. She has a crush on Benedict, and spends a lot of time with him and his crew. Benedict gets to do at least two very Eroica-like escapes with her. You know, like stealing a rope used to tie him up and using it to loop around a chandelier and swing to freedom, things like that.
Making the story more romantic is Aoike’s fabulous and full-blown 70s shoujo artwork. Her thin, big-haired character designs are in full force here, and she puts a lot of detail into the period costumes, the settings, and the ships themselves. Her compositions, facial expressions, and general air of melodrama definitely complete the heroic swashbuckling package.
Unfortunately, I’m not doing the series much justice, and again, my Japanese isn’t good, so I can’t really elaborate on the very complex and interesting characters that make up this series. Of all the spinoffs, this is the one I would most like to read in English. I also love that Aoike’s moved away from the comedy side of things and is beginning to develop some of the more action and character-centric plots that make the later Eroica stories so great. She also seems to be paying a lot of attention to history and politics of the time, as much as the story will allow, and it’s always nice to see a well-researched historical manga. It reminds me a lot of the work of You Higuri, and Aoike’s influences show a great deal in Higuri’s work. It’s something I can appreciate.
There are at least three different editions of this story. It’s a 250-page story, so it’s slightly longer than tankouban length. The first edition is a 2-volume tankouban release from Shueisha, and each volume is padded out with an unrelated short story (the first with Riccard Pagani, which I’ve already discussed, and the second with a story called Epitaph). When Akita Shoten got the rights to the series in the late 80s, they mysteriously decided to release a large deluxe hardcover edition, with parchment pages and vinyl color pages at the beginning of the book. Both of those editions are out of print, and the only one you’re likely to find without much digging is the tiny Akita bunkouban release (ISBN 425317485X).