Monday, December 14, 2009

Two Flowers for the Dragon, vol. 3

The story: Shakuya, Kuwan and Lucien, along with other members of Shakuya's retinue, head to the Shade Oasis on official business. While there, they encounter a mysterious sword dancer who ends up being Lucien's old teacher. Lucien, who remembers nothing prior to the five years he spent with his master, pursues her in an attempt to find out how she is connected to Shakuya's father. Meanwhile, a sandstorm approaches, threatening the livelihood of the shade. When Shakuya and her fiances investigate, they find that there is much more to this sandstorm than meets the eye.

Reaction: Ah, the plot thickens! There's a lot of questions answered here, while also raising new ones. We learn a little about Shakuya's father here, as well as about Lucien's past. There's also some political intrigue afoot, but it's only given a set-up. All the while, Shakuya's relationship with her two fiances seems to deepen little by little, making me wonder who she will end up choosing.

Deep thoughts: Dragons play a large thematic role in this manga, with some of mythology about Shakuya's dragon heritage revealed in this volume. In Japan, dragon mythology is an amalgamation of native folklore and that of China, Korea and India. Much like Shakuya's inner dragon and Haku from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away, dragons are believed to be water deities associated with rainfall and bodies of water.

Artwork: There's a lot of action in this volume, from chases to fight scenes. At times, I found myself reviewing panels several times to better clarify what was going on. With many characters with similar face types and hair styles, it can be easy to confuse them. But, the confusion is fairly few and far between. Otherwise, this is another well drawn volume where you can really see how far Nari Kusakawa's art has come in comparison to the one-shot at the end, Double Crown.

The verdict: Highly recommended. Not only is Shakuya's love life becoming more complicated, but so is her oasis' future. While a big secret about Shakuya has been revealed, what will it mean for the Dragon Clan? Honestly, this series has sucked me in and I can't wait to find out what happens in the next volume! Two Flowers for the Dragon is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.

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