Aurora: Flock of Angels, Nightmares for Sale

Flock of Angels volume 1 cover

Aurora Publishing is a new manga publisher, established last year by Japanese company Ohzora, who’s responsible in that country for Harlequin Comics and Project X, among other titles.

Flock of Angels Volume 1

The band Angelaid is so popular that fans have taken to wearing fake wings (causing the streets to resemble an anime convention). Pearl’s one of those fans; her older brother Shea supports her interest while the oldest, Matt, is too busy making money for the family to understand. Shea aspires to be a fashion designer, but his plans are interrupted when he grows real wings. Shea’s afraid of what might happen to him and flustered by his unexpected physical changes, but Matt sees an opportunity to exploit him in Flock of Angels by Shoko Hamada.

Flock of Angels volume 1 cover

The crisp white paper really shows off the art and toning, and the binding is so tight and solid that I had a hard time reading some of the elements close to the gutter. The text is typeset, not hand-lettered, which makes it easy to read if a little sterile. Although the story’s told with standard manga conventions and styles, I liked the expressiveness of the faces and figures. The scenes of wings and flight are lovely, as one would hope.

This would be a good transitional read for, say, an X-Men reader who’d like to know more about what it would really be like growing wings or how society might react to someone different among them. It’s clearly metaphorical, as Shea suffers prejudicial abuse, but the story setting postulates his era as the cusp of a new time of understanding and acceptance. It’s a hopeful approach I appreciated.

The government winds up helping Shea while a rich man tries to capture and control him, choices I suspect would have been reversed in a story written in the US. The family struggles and his love for his siblings are plausible. He’s finding it difficult being a role model although he believes in the need for one and is committed to making things better. He’s an inspiring young hero in a good read.

Nightmares for Sale Volume 1

Shadow’s Pawnshop is one of those mystical stores common in manga, where a transaction is just an excuse for a morality tale in Nightmares for Sale by Kaoru Ohashi.

Nightmares for Sale volume 1 cover

The first visitor is Keiko, a girl who’s buying off the “friends” who used to bully her but is quickly running out of money to pay for their bribes. They share rings as symbols of their friendship, but those tokens become spooky sources of pain. I didn’t think the horrific twist was particularly necessary or believable, and all of the elements — the scared girl, those she wanted to punish, and the rings — didn’t quite tie together as neatly as one would hope in a Twilight Zone-style story of punishment.

The second story immediately drops the pawnshop in favor of a therapist’s office, where a supermodel wants to be more beautiful. She gets set up with a Dorian Gray-style curse where she only looks good in photos. It’s an obvious story, one where it feels as though the pieces were set up and the artist merely turned the crank, mechanically working to the expected conclusion.

The other stories include a convoluted piece about mothers, children, abortion, and reincarnation; something involving teen suicide and falling in love with yourself; and murderous jealousy among friends with crushes on the same boy. The themes are ambitious, but the execution is elliptical at best, muddled and incomplete at worst. It’s as though the artist thinks that shocking twists will make up for a lack of strong story structure. (The publisher provided review copies.)

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