October 17, 2015
Aki – Yen Press – 2012 – 1 volume
I bought this book because it was a very pretty one-shot omnibus, and frequently these are something special. There was another Aki book released this month (The Angel of Elhamburg) that I bought because it was a very pretty one-shot hardcover. But I hadn’t read Olympos yet, so I thought I should remedy that. As it turns out, she has another book in English, Utahime, released some time ago.
The story starts with Heinz being drawn into a flower garden by Apollo. Apollo promises him that if he can convince the person he meets to follow him back to reality, Apollo will grant the man’s wish. As it turns out, Heinz meets Ganymede there, who has been imprisoned for some time and doesn’t believe there’s a way out. But Apollo has told Heinz how to leave, and that Gods cannot lie. Heinz wants his wish so bad that he eventually drags Ganymede bodily to the exit, then jumps through.
Apollo is disappointed. Gods cannot lie, and Apollo did tell Heinz that there was a way out. But he didn’t tell him that Ganymede could follow him out, and Apollo was looking forward to getting Ganymede’s hopes up, then watching him take a foolish leap of faith that ended with him diving face-first into the ground.
This was, admittedly, an awesome way to begin this book. Heinz is a great generic manga character, all hopeful, and willing to show people who tell him he can’t do something that anything is possible. His fondest wish is to marry his girlfriend, who is engaged to another because Heinz doesn’t have any money. Ganymede insists that Apollo is toying with him, but to Heinz, he just sounds like the people who tell him he’s a fool for chasing his dreams. But then, after a chapter or two, it turns out Ganymede was right, and Apollo really was just playing with them. Or, at least, Ganymede. For some reason, Heinz escapes unscathed and doesn’t re-appear.
This is an odd story, structure-wise. After this introduction, we then go back and are told the story of how Ganymede came to be imprisoned by Apollo. Then, we go back further and find out why Ganymede is great and attention-grabbing. Then, we find out why Apollo imprisoned Ganymede. Then we learn how Ganymede can escape. And… that’s it. It’s strange, but still worth reading.
I had to look up the myth of Ganymede when I started reading. I thought I recognized the name, but it turns out I only knew it from one of the moons of Jupiter (which, I just realized, are all named for lovers of Zeus/Jupiter, up to Moon 34, then after that they are named after his daughters). I wouldn’t have learned the myth of Ganymede in school. As it turns out, his Latin name is Catamitus, and you can guess where this myth went. Having said that, Ganymede is an adult in this story, and he is nobody’s lover.
Ganymede is mostly just a victim. Apollo snatched him just before the wedding of one of his older brothers, and killed his family in front of him. Ganymede tried for revenge, then tried to kill himself to end his imprisonment. He can do neither. He has to constantly exist in a field of flowers, never leaving, never dying, and with only Apollo’s baiting to keep him company through the millennia.
Apollo is a huge jerk. His story segment reveals that the only thing he cares about, in heaven or earth, is Artemis. It’s a bit of a spoiler to say so, but after a volume and some of watching his mean-spirited tormenting, we find out Artemis is only a reflection of his heart (as the moon reflects the sun), and doesn’t say or do anything when Apollo isn’t with her, thinking about her. So his “lover” (I use quotations because there aren’t really romantic relationships in this series, and not a whole lot of romance is implied between Apollo and Artemis, but they are said to be siblings) is actually just a being that exists to stroke his ego. It fit perfectly.
The story is slow, and ponderous, and not that great. There’s not a whole lot of action, just beautiful people sitting around talking to each other, philosophizing, and working out each other’s natures. As I said, there’s no romance or relationships, and more than one of the characters speaks in riddles. Still, it was a pretty good read, and a different flavor from what you’d normally find in a manga.
Plus, Aki’s art is very pretty. I loved her character designs. Both Apollo and Ganymede are appropriately otherworldly beautiful. Though as nice as her character designs are, the story lacks backgrounds. Indistinct temples pop up occasionally, but Ganymede is imprisoned in a field of flowers. Frequently the Gods are flying in the sky. It’s sometimes hard to place characters in relation to one another. But still. For a series which is mostly dialogue scenes, pretty characters will do. Lack of backgrounds is almost made up for with Hades, who appears different depending on who’s looking at him and their interpretation of “wickedness.” And I liked her interpretation of the pantheon of gods. Only a few actually exist, and they couldn’t care less about humans. Nothing that humans do in tribute to them really reaches them, nor do they seem to possess power (except Hades and Zeus, and a few other instances). I liked Apollo’s shock when he realized that humans had made up several gods that didn’t exist.
Admittedly, art and story both reminded me A LOT of Yun Kouga. Maybe because I just read Earthian, but man. I’ve read a lot of Yun Kouga stories, and Aki definitely has, too. Not in a bad or derivative way, but Kouga is probably an influence.
Most disappointing was that Hades revealed a reason for Ganymede’s imprisonment near the end of volume 2, but it wasn’t explained very well, and nothing came of it. I sort of liked the discussion Hades had about a possible escape route for Ganymede, and Ganymede’s thoughts on the matter, which is how the series ends. It’s implied that he and Apollo formed a deep bond over the years… but again, no romance, which I feel may have made the story a little better.
Anyway! Two volume omnibus! It’s an intriguing read, and a beautiful book. Slow, but with a lot of good stuff in the story. Worth picking up, but don’t go into it expecting a ripping yarn, or a love story, and you will be happy.