by Kairi Fujiyama; adaptation by Mari Morimoto
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Book One begins with Leila Mikami and her classmates receiving final instructions before taking the practical skills portion of the VIUS candidates exam. VIUS is an organization formed forty years ago to fight Dracules, humans or animals who have been mutated into homicidal monsters by the D-virus. During the exam things go horribly wrong. Leila and her classmates must be rescued by Issa Kazuma, the Squad Zero captain, who’s disguised as a candidate to proctor the exam.
Leila is extended a personal invitation by Kazuma to join his squad. However, Squad Zero is known by the three D’s: 1) Dangerous, 2) Difficult, and 3) its captain is Detested. To make matters worst, she is the only other squad member. The same day she reports for duty, Squad Zero gets an assignment and three temporary personnel to help with the mission. Among the helpers is Sosei Yukimura, who has a personal vendetta against Captain Kazuma. After completing the mission, Yukimura asks to be temporarily assigned to Squad Zero. He shows up to report in and the squad is off on their second mission. Book One ends with a cliffhanger in the middle of the second mission.
Book Two picks up the exact second Book One ended. The second mission is completed in an unorthodox manner. Captain Kazuma finds himself in deeper trouble with the VIUS ruling council and is put on probation with the threat of demotion. The squad is given their third mission, including a monitor who will assess Kazuma and report his recommendations to the council. Book Two ends on a cliffhanger in the middle of their third mission.
Dragon Eye is a great sci-fi & fantasy action manga. The series moves quickly and is filled with terrific and eye-catching battle sequences. The books have a good balance of action, humor, and character development. Don’t let me mislead you, plot comes first in Dragon Eye. There are no quiet introspective moments or long soul-searching conversations. We learn about the characters and their past as they’re accomplishing their missions. Fujiyama has an excellent sense of pacing and knows how to write a great cliffhanger.
Issa Kazuma is the perfect action hero. He knows the extent of his own abilities and can accurately assess the danger of a situation. He’s only as serious as the circumstances warrant, which means in the hall of VIUS headquarters, he’s carefree and jovial. In the middle of battle, he’s focused and somber. Fujiyama hints that Kazuma is much older than he looks and few people truly know the full details of his past. I liked Kazuma and his sense of humor from the start.
Leila Mikami serves as the reader’s gateway into the world of Dragon Eye. She is new not just to VIUS, but also Mikuzi City. Alongside her, we get to learn our way around the city and discover more of its history. Leila is a wonderful blend of passion, seriousness, honesty, and naivete. She’s a skilled swordswoman who lacks any real combat experience. You can sense she will be a great warrior and you root for her as she strives to attain that goal. Plus, she’s cute as a button.
Fujiyama’s artwork is very good. The fight scenes are dynamic and fluid. I like the character designs, monster designs, and the look of Mikuzi City. The panels are filled with plenty of details. However, the art isn’t perfect. Every once in a while there is an awkward panel. The elements just don’t gel properly. Sometimes the angle looks wrong or a sword doesn’t have the proper feel. The best example of this askewness is page 21 of Book Two. It’s a splash page that’s supposed to stop the reader cold and illicit a “Wow!” response. Unfortunately, Leila’s stance looks wrong. It’s the small details, like the way she’s shaded and her grip on the sword, that don’t feel proper. So instead of awe, my reaction was, “Wait, …what?” Thankfully, these flaws are few and far between. Fujiyama, like Leila, is adept but not quite a master yet.
Perhaps what I love most about this manga is the meticulous craftsmanship Fujiyama put into building the world of Dragon Eye. As you read the series, Mikuzi City and its history really come alive. When something new is explained, it makes sense and fits well with what we’ve already learned. Nothing feels quickly slapped together. It’s a fascinating world that blends magic and futuristic technology. I found myself drawn into this reality and wanted to learn more.
I do want to send out much love to Del Rey for the cultural notes section. I love reading translator’s notes and the opportunity to learn more about Japanese society. This section always helps me appreciate the manga better and other manga as well. Other companies have dropped their cultural notes sections or never had them to begin with. I think they should be required when publishing manga in the US. I applaud Del Rey for keeping the tradition alive.
By now, it’s obvious I enjoyed these two volumes tremendously. I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I recommend this series for anyone who enjoys a good action story in either the sci-fi or fantasy genre. If you liked the original Star Wars movie, R. E. Howard, the Vampire Hunter D novels, Fritz Leiber, etc., then I think you’ll like this manga. (Complimentary copies of both volumes were provided by the publisher for this review.)