Friday, August 24, 2007

Shiki Tsukai, vol. 1

Story by To-Ru Zekuu with art by Yuna Takanagi
Released in the U.S. by Del Rey Manga

Slugline: It's an educational Yu-Gi-Oh!

The main character Akira... well, sorry, there is no way that I can take a main character whose name is Akira seriously. It's just that I hearing in my head the long cries of "Kaneda!" and "Tetsuo!" from the climax of the movie Akira whenever I even hear that name, and it just completely derails my train of thought. Basically, Akira discovers that he is part of this yadda yadda secret group that control the seasons, yadda yadda, cool powers based on cards and symbols representing seasons and the days, yadda yadda yadda, evil factions that want to destroy humanity for messing around with the seasons, and so on. I'm sorry, I am not trying to make fun of it, but when you reduce its story to the broad strokes, it does seem very plug and play, filled with elements that we have seen before.

The only part that really captured my attention was the interesting details that were part of the magic/power system and how it interacted with the characters and their abilities. There are specific rules to the system of magic, including how to cast spells, built around the various calendars that Japan has had, its seasons, and the meanings of the days. For once the translator's notes in the back of the book were a necessary reference, just so one could understand what was going on under the surface. But the good part of how this was done was that it wasn't necessary to understand all of detail in order to follow the story. The first time somebody cast a spell it was mentioned how it was done, and afterwards it wasn't rehashed. You didn't have to start searching in the notes to understand what was going on in the story. So I was actually intrigued by it rather than feeling lost, wanting to know more rather than tossing the book away in frustration. And unlike Yu-Gi-Oh, when I read the background fluff to understand how everything worked, I actually learned about Japanese society and culture. Hence, despite the rather pedestrian storyline and the complete lack of story surprises, I still gave it a rather forgiving rating.

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


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