Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Atelier Marie and Elie: Zarlburg Alchemist, vol. 1

By Yoshihiko Ochi
Released in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: There is no such thing as a slice of life/high fantasy hybrid

Marie is an adventuring alchemist that has decided to return to the city of Zarlburg, where she originally trained at the Royal Magic Academy. Elie is a recent graduate that is determined to get some real world experience before going back for her advanced studies. When they meet the teacher who taught the both of them she puts them together. Elie doesn't mind much being paired with Marie because she discovers that Marie was the alchemist who cured her of a disease when she was young and is the reason Elie chose to become an alchemist in the first place. They set up a shop, acquire some apprentice elves, and help save the city from a jello like thing.

I think the way that the series betrays its origins as a video game franchise is in its apparent uncertainty over what kind of story it wants to tell. At times it reads very much like a slice of life while at other times more like a traditional high fantasy action story. But it is hard to balance to different needs of those genres simultaneously, so you end up with a story that satisfies neither set of genre conventions. It is far too mild to be exciting but it doesn't delve far enough into the day to day events of life to be interesting or illuminating of the characters. It's not bad, and I can see that maybe in the future volumes if the series decides what kind of story it is, it could improve, but I am not holding my breath.

Atelier Marie and Elie: Zarlburg Alchemist, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.


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