Dawn of the Arcana 1

December 12, 2011

Rei Toma – Viz – 2011 – 8+ volumes

Ooh. I picked this up without knowing very much about it, but it’s exactly the type of shoujo fantasy I like to read. It’s got a fairly complex story, and volume one is obviously just the first step, giving us a taste of a potentially very sprawling and detailed world and complicated character relationships.

The series opens with a look at the arranged marriage between Nakaba and Caesar. Their marriage brings peace to their warring countries, though it becomes clear that there’s no love between Caesar and Nakaba. Nakaba is submissive in action, but her attitude is very defiant, and I loved that she did as she was told under a very stony protest. Caesar is portrayed as rather cruel. Not only does he have no interest in the marriage, he also berates Nakaba because of her hair color (royals in both countries have black hair, whereas Nakaba’s hair is a lower class red).

Nakaba has an ally in Loki, a servant and lifelong companion she brought with her from her own country. The trouble is that Loki is an Aijin, a kind of human with animal ears that is treated as the absolute lowest class in both kingdoms. Caesar doesn’t take kindly to having Loki under the same roof, and Loki doesn’t take kindly at all to the way Nakaba is treated.

There’s a lot of interesting directions for the story to take here, and I love that volume one only seems to have touched a little bit on the beginning of it all. By the end, we begin to see that Caesar may be softening his attitude towards Nakaba, that he may have reason to be jealous of Loki, and that Nakaba may possess some sort of precognitive ability. There’s a complex caste system at work, which will obviously play a big part in the story, and I suspect Nakaba will be revealed as yet another type of “special” class before too long. We also begin to see the barest hints at some complex politics and history in play between the two nations.

I can’t offer too much in-depth commentary because I feel like the story is just getting started, but again, I love fantasy stories like this that take their time at developing things. This one shows a lot of promise after volume one, and is worth a look if you enjoy something like Apothecarius Argentum or Story of Saiunkoku.

Strangely, this series runs in Cheese! magazine. I was under the impression that Cheese! only ran smutty romance series (hence the name). I’m not sure what to make of that. Perhaps there will be some unlooked-for spice later on as well, but it doesn’t seem to fit at the moment. Then again, this could be Cheese! magazine’s token fantasy series or something.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

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