by Sanae Kana; adapted by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Classical Medley is a typical fantasy story. Once a century in the Kingdom of Classical (yes, that’s really its name), the king and archbishop perform a ceremony to renew the magical seal on an evil artifact. However, this time something goes wrong and the king is possessed. Prince Soprano, his life-long bodyguard/friend Alto, and the Prince’s moon dragon Mezzo all escape from the castle and go to get the aid of the Prince’s older brother Prince Grave, who’s studying in a distant country.
CMX has this series rated for teens, but I think that’s much older than the intended age group. Both the artwork and the storytelling style suggest an elementary school readership. The book reads like a Saturday morning cartoon aimed at young viewers, it’s all plot with no characterization. Events move at a quick pace and humor is used to give a break in the action. I get the feeling that book is designed to hold the interest of readers with limited attention spans. As an adult, I wanted the author to slow the pace down and let me spend more time getting to know the characters. I suspect my seven-year-old nephew would find this book much more enjoyable than I did.
It’s a bit difficult to give an accurate appraisal of the art. CMX supplied a galley copy of this manga for review, since it’s due to be released in October. Unfortunately, it was a very poor copy with dark streaks running through the pages. The small word balloons (to indicate characters making comments as asides) were very problematic to read.
There’s no life in these drawings. Even the fight scenes lack vibrancy and energy. The artwork is functional, but the characters and backgrounds look flat. In fact, the character designs reminded of the show Pokemon. When I first saw the moon dragon I thought, “Look, Pikachu with bat wings.” (As my favorite episode of the animated Clerks would say, “It’s not Pikachu. Please, don’t sue.”) I’m not a fan of this art style, but it fits well with the design of the book.
I didn’t enjoy reading this manga. As proof of my dissatisfaction, it’s only a two-volume series, and I don’t want to read the second volume. Since I’m much older than the intended audience, I’m not sure my option is relevant. If you have a young child that reads manga, I suggest you let her/him sample a chapter and see what she/he thinks.
Update: I spent some time poking around the Flex Comix website and found preview pages for volume 1 (via Yahoo Japan). Based on the online preview, I need to correct my opinion of the artwork. Kana’s art is actually good and has a nice sense of depth and perspective. I’m still not a fan of the character designs, but the character features and costumes are better than I originally thought. I no longer see the artwork as a flaw in the book. I now think it’s the best feature of the book. (Be advised if you want to view the preview pages, you will need to download a free special reader to do so. The reader is a well-designed program that makes both view and navigation very easy and enjoyable. Also note, all pages are in linked in this update are in Japanese only.)
The galley I looked at had graytone problems. Very light graytone isn’t present at all in the galley, while medium and dark graytone is blotchy. There are panels in the galley that are simply line art with no shading, where online the shading is what’s used to give feeling and depth to the picture. Also, subtle variation in black is absent, so some of the details of the art are lost. It remains to be seen how faithful the galley is to the CMX printed version.