Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Seven Magi, vol. 1

The story: The land of Cheironia is in trouble -- a black plague, mysteriously brought forth by their cursed leopard-headed king, has descended upon the people. In a desperate attempt to save his country, King Guin sets out to find the black magic sorcerer Yelisha. While he seeks out Yelisha, he meets some curious characters and dangerous creatures in the Alley of Charms. But, once he finds Yelisha, his quest has only just begun.

Reaction: The Seven Magi is based on the bestselling Guin Saga fantasy novel series in Japan. From what I understand, the manga series shows some of the side stories in the larger series. Unfortunately, a lot of this felt like insider knowledge at times. In a world with its own terminology and history, there wasn't a lot of stage-setting here, confusing me easily. Thankfully, the characters were easy enough to figure out, but I found the king the only compelling one out of the main cast.

Deep thoughts: Amazingly, the Guin Saga novel series has been going strong since 1979, when it was first conceived as a 100-novel series. Written by female author Kaoru Kurimoto, it is the world's longest-running book series by a single author, with a total circulation of 28 million. Unfortunately, Kurimoto died in May 2009, leaving the series unfinished at 126 volumes and 21 side stories.

Artwork: My biggest problem with the artwork here is the typically chauvinistic costume choices -- men are dressed as traders, knights and magicians, while women are dressed in titillating and exotic fashion with big boobs and all-too-revealing outfits. Otherwise, it seems that there are some wasted opportunities in artwork. There are color pages opening this volume, but it's too bad only two colors make an appearance. Action is fast-paced, but there are close-ups that were hard to identify; I found myself asking "what is that?" on several occasions.

The verdict: Meh. I usually love fantasy stories -- I've enjoyed everything from Harry Potter to The Lord of the Rings (which this series has been compared to). But, it was hard for me to enjoy this book. Maybe it was my unfamiliarity with the larger series, but the lack of connection to the characters, and their sexist design, definitely played a part, too. The Seven Magi is available in the U.S. from Vertical.

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