by Cuvie; adapted by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $12.99 US
I hadn’t tried any of CMX’s Mature line (slightly larger than usual manga size, higher price, more graphic content) because I thought they wouldn’t be for me. Dorothea was thus a pleasant surprise, because it didn’t have any particularly disturbing material, and it was an enjoyable read.
I’m not actually sure why this title is marked Mature. There’s some violence in one scene, as you’d expect in a war story with swordfights, but it’s not wallowed in or there for prurient purposes. And the only sex-related content is the badly drawn cleavage of a camp follower in a low-cut gown.
Dorothea is a teenager who’s gone to war to protect her home village, a fairly common motivation in fantasy manga. What makes this unusual is the time period and its ramifications. In 15th century Germany, where political disputes are couched in terms of belief and heresy, she’s considered a witch because she’s an albino. Her red eyes, white skin and hair also make for striking visuals on pages that have plenty of shadows.
She’s being taught to fight as a unit with the other men in her group, but their distrust prevents her from being accepted. Religion provides an excuse for her supposed comrades to tease and shun her. Some call her a witch because she’s a better fighter than they, and it covers their hatred of her after she punctured their egos.
Clear, easy storytelling shows how Dorothea tries to live up to her heritage. She’s confronted with more complex moral issues than she’s used to in the face of battle. Her fellow soldiers may not be the kind of people she wants to associate with, as they loot the defeated. It’s easier not to think about the horrors of war, but she can’t help it.
It’s a shame that this is rated Mature, since teenagers will relate to the feeling of trying to contribute while not fitting in as well as the small-scale personal interactions that make up the story. Plus, anyone will find the questions of appropriate behavior in war timely. I’m probably dating myself, but overall, it reminds me of Ladyhawke in feel and tone.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)