Monday, September 30, 2013
Dawn of the Arcana review
Book talk: One island, two kingdoms engaged in a long and bloody war. Princess Nakaba is from Senan in the North while Prince Caesar is from Belquat in the South. Their marriage finally brings peace to the land, but Princess Nakaba knows better than to think it will last. Now she's a hostage in enemy territory with only her faithful Ajin servant beside her. She expects to wake up with a dagger at her throat every day, and she is prepared to fight to save herself and her kingdom. But she isn't prepared for the kindness Caesar shows her, and the feelings she starts to develop. Or for the mystical powers she develops that she cannot control. Now her heart is being torn in two. How can she do what is right when everything is so wrong? Will she remain true to herself--even if it means betraying others?
Rocks my socks: There's a lot of great themes in this series that take it beyond the usual shojo fare. Princess Nakaba is a fierce and unique protagonist. She shows her regal authority as she takes control of difficult situations, even as others try to disempower her. She isn't afraid to risk herself and head into a fight to stand up for her friends and what she believes in. There's an overarching theme of discrimination and prejudice with a race called the Ajin: part human and part animal that are treated as servants and feared and hated by many. Princess Nakaba herself is hidden away by her family for her red hair because black hair is a mark of royalty in the land. Her two closest friends are both Ajin and she tries to aid their cause. One of these, Loki, is also a main love interest in the story, and his loyalty to her is impressive as is his revolutionary zeal as her comforts her by saying "The trouble, princess lies not with you. It's the world that's not right. That's why I'm going to change it." The prince, while problematic at times also has great moments where he recognizes Nakaba for the strong woman she is and loves her for it, defending her from an assassination accusation by saying "My wife would never plot to murder me...and if she did she wouldn't waste her time with venom and vipers. She would face me head on with a sword in her hands. That's the sort of woman she is." The world-building grows more complex and interesting with each installment and the political intrigue and overarching themes keep the plot moving just as much as the romance and even eclipse it at times. The drawing is exquisite with wonderfully expressive faces and gorgeous costumes.
Rocks in my socks: While Caesar and Ajin both have great moments, they have troubling aspects as well. Nakaba's romance with Caesar is a classic Beauty and the Beast scenario and while I enjoy seeing the tough exterior thawed by a caring and intelligent woman, it also sets some troubling precedents. In real life jerks mostly stay jerks and far too many women think they can change them after being raised on stories like these. He has a creepy Jareth moment where he says "When I'm king, I will make you happy. I ask only one thing in return. Surrender yourself to me." I wanted Nakaba to scream "You have no power over me!" Far too many of their kissing scenes start as fights where he eventually forces himself on her. Still, when she does tell him to stop he respects that, so I have to give him credit for that. The facts that Loki was a father figure to her and is currently her servant both make me a bit uneasy about that romance. As for Princess Nakaba, while she is feisty she still faints regularly and blood sets off her powers so that the men try to hide it from her and mostly when she tries to help in a fight she only ends up hindering. Even when she does defend herself, it's only a temporary measure until one of her love interests comes along to save her. Still there's enough that the comic gets right, especially considering the conventions of the shojo genre, that I was still able to enjoy the series immensely. I do hope that Princess Nakaba will grow stronger as the series progress though.
Every book its reader: I'd give this to anyone looking for a fantasy comic that is character and relationship driven. The romances have yet to heat up that much, so I'd say it's fine for 5th grade and up.
There is an official page for Dawn of the Arcana on Viz Media
Source: school library
Dawn of the Arcana by Rei Toma: buy it or check it out today!