Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Fantamir, v.1

By Eun-Jin Seo
Released in the U.S. by TokyoPop

Slugline: Something is different about this title. No, it's not that it's Korean. Wait, I know, it's because no one is madly in love with anyone else!!! Is this even a high school drama?

Mir is a young sorceress, but she has lost her powers and rather than disappoint her family she fled the isolated compound she has grown up in and runs away to the big city, in this case Seoul. One of her family's retainers follows her, and reassures Mir that her mother, who is in charge of her clan, will let her stay in the city and will allow her to go to a school. Of course, once she gets to the school she immediately gets swept up into the competition between the Wonhwa and the Hwarang, the leading girls and boys of the high school. Mir quickly is challenged to a duel with Ba-Ri, the leader of the female Wonhwa, which begins with a swordfight. Mir wins unexpectedly (she still has a touch of her enhanced abilities, just not her full sorceress's powers) and claims as her prize a vow of friendship with Ba-Ri. That is all that Mir really wanted, to make some friends rather than be isolated like she was previously. The other parts of the duel are put off until Ba-Ri recovers from a minor injury, but meanwhile Mir discovers that her mother was once a member of the Wonhwa. Mir runs away from the school in frustration, certain that this is just another one of her mother's stratagems to get Mir to do as she wishes.

As I mentioned in the slugline, there was something that I was enjoying in the title, but I just couldn't put my finger on it. Then it hit me: no one was pining over somebody else. Not to say there weren't romantic interests, they were there, but they are not the drivers of the action or the definition of the characters, they were just part of them. Romance is the usual source of conflict for any sort of high school drama, but here the characters were trying to react to each other as people, not necessarily as lovers or competition. There is a moment of jealousy in Ba-Ri that starts the duel, but I am not sure if that was really jealousy or just a subtle power play of the factions, and that ambiguity is exciting. And there is a whole supernatural element that has yet to be really played around with. So I am cautiously optimistic about the series, and could easily seeing myself giving this series a high rating in a volume or two.

Fantamir, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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