Dawn of the Arcana 3

March 25, 2012

Rei Toma – Viz – 2012 – 9+ volumes

I forgot how much I liked this series! I skipped volume two, though I shouldn’t have. Volume three picks up in a pretty clean place, to the point where I don’t feel like I really missed anything. But I like this story so much that I have to go back for volume two. This is great, because I was so disappointed by the last volume of Story of Saiunkoku, I’m glad that there’s another shoujo fantasy that I can revel in to my girly heart’s content.

In this volume, things begin to grow close between Nakaba and Caesar. But… you know. Not that close. Caesar seems fine and dandy with this, but it gives Nakaba pause, especially since she’s still being attacked for her appearance and generally mistreated by everyone at the castle. There’s a particularly ugly scene where the King and Queen force her to dye her hair for visiting foreign dignitaries, and both she and Caesar cut their long hair in protest.

The meat of the story lies in the identity of one of the visiting foreign dignitaries. He happens to spy the princess and recognizes both her traditional dress and the tattoos around her guard Loki’s eyes. Akhil knows about the Arcana of Time, and knows right away that Nakaba has the ability. He begins to request that she use her power to benefit his country, in exchange for knowledge about who she is and how to use the Arcana of Time. She’s tempted by his offer, since Loki won’t tell her anything, but both Loki and Cesar think Akhil is bad news, and tend to intervene whenever the two have a conversation.

I feel tempted to compare this to Story of Saiunkoku, even though that’s not very fair (they’re completely different types of stories, Saiunkoku is a manga adaptation of a novel, and… they just don’t share any common ground). But comparing the two helps me sort out why I like this better than the other, so compare them I will.

Saiunkoku moves slow, especially compared to this. Dawn of the Arcana feels very brisk alongside Saiunkoku, but it is actually taking its time and doing quite a bit of effective world-building, introducing a limited number of neighboring countries and facts about the cultures. Saiunkoku uses its slow pace to… build it’s characters, I suppose, but there are so many, and they all have to appear in each story, that it feels like not much gets accomplished. Dawn of the Arcana also has a limited number of characters at this point, and is taking its time to get all of them just right. Saiunkoku is set in a fairly interesting world with a different caste and government, but it’s based in reality, and not much time is spent fleshing out anything but certain government protocols (since it’s what the main character is most interested in). Dawn of the Arcana is set in a fantasy world mostly divorced from reality, so it can make up things as it goes along, and is doing a fine job of it.

Basically, while it feels fast in comparison to Saiunkoku, I’m really getting to know Nakaba, Cesar, Loki, and the world they live in. I care about their problems, and am getting drawn into what appears to be an impending conflict, or possible cultural revolution. The romantic elements aren’t marginalized, and seem to be just as important as the plot, which is exactly what I want.

So Dawn of the Arcana is my new go-to shoujo fantasy. I like it quite a bit, and it seems to be improving with every volume. I think volume two probably brings Cesar and Nakaba closer together (considering the former is no longer a jerk), and I think I’m going to have to pick that up before volume 4 comes out. Can’t wait.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

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