Sunday, November 1, 2009
Two Flowers for the Dragon, vol. 1
The story: Shakuya is the heir to the Dragon Clan, which oversees an important desert oasis. As the heir, she will not only come to rule over the clan one day, but she also has the amazing ability to transform into a dragon. Too bad she has hardly any control over the change! But, Shakuya's got bigger problems than her emotional transformations -- her old fiance, Lucien, has returned after a five-year absence, interrupting Shakuya's engagement to her new fiance, Kuwan. Even worse, Lucien has no memories prior to his disappearance years ago. Just who will win Shakuya's heart and become her husband?
Reaction: This is a fun manga that exploits a love triangle and provides some political intrigue. After reading much of The Palette of 12 Secret Colors, I found myself enjoying this more than that series. Shakuya is a bit of a love-sick teenage girl, but she's also got a lot of responsibility in her role as heir and protector to the Dragon Clan. While there are some small similarities to Nari Kusakawa's Palette, especially when it comes to some characters' personalities, this story provides a fresh, if not an equally entertaining and fantastical, world with its own unique cultures and customs.
Deep thoughts: At one point, Kusakawa mentions polyandry during one of the chapter breaks. Polyandry is a form of polygamy, where one woman is married to two or more men. It occurs, or occurred, in cultures of the Indian subcontinent, including India and Sri Lanka, in some parts of Africa and in some regions of Mongolia. In Tibet, the practice, now outlawed, would occur to many brothers married to one woman and ensured the passing along of property in families.
Artwork: This manga suffers from some of the same artistic issues as The Palette of 12 Secret Colors, namely occasional awkward face composition. But, what I really loved were the Chinese-inspired costumes, including the long tunics with their Mandarin collars. I also loved the illustrations of Shakuya's transformation -- her dragon form is both fearsome and, when appropriate, comedic. It's a great balance that is easy to appreciate.
The verdict: Highly recommended. I really enjoyed this series, much more so than Kusakawa's The Palette of 12 Secret Colors. While both series feature fantastical worlds, there's more at play in this manga, especially with allusions to rising political divisions. Two Flowers for the Dragon is available in the U.S. from CMX.