by Kairi Fujiyama; adapted by Mari Morimoto
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
I’ve previously reviewed the first two volumes of this series. Volume three picks up at the instant volume two ended. Squad Zero, with its temporarily assigned additions, is investigating reports of Dracules (mutated people and creatures infected with the D-virus) on the outskirts of Mikuni City. An earthquake has split the party in two, with Captain Kazuma and Sosei in one group and Mikami and the temporary members in the other. The book details their adventures trying to return to the surface and reunite.
Volume four concludes the assignment begun in volume two. Later, Mikami is temporarily assigned to Squad Six to help with an undercover investigation. There is a black market trade in Dracules. The Dracules are made to fight each other for sport. Mikami gets to met the Squad Six captain, Shizue, for the first time.
Volume five has all of Squad Zero aiding Squad Six as they further their investigation into the black market trade of Dracules. Squad Zero is then asked to help Squad Four clean up an accident where a truck carrying spell notes has overturned and all the spell notes have spilled out. Some are very powerful spells that can be activated if the note is improperly handled. After, Sosei decides to help Squad Five on a small assignment that forces him to relive his own tragic past.
All I can really say about volume six is that Kazuma and Sosei finally confront the past that stands between them. This book ends the first major story arc and begins the next.
I grew up cutting my reading teeth on sci-fi and fantasy books. Dragon Eye is intellectual comfort food for me. It has solid, if not spectacular, storytelling and art. Sure, it covers some well-trodden ground, but it has enough originality to keep it from being another paint-by-numbers genre book.
What continues to draw me to the series are the wonderful leading characters. These four volumes really give us a lot of insight into Kazuma and Sosei. We come to understand their pasts much better, including how they shaped the men they are today. Volume six is particularly important in this aspect. Hopefully, future volumes will give us an equally detailed look at Mikami.
Kazuma is a loveable rogue. He’s good natured and intends well, whatever the actual outcome. He has a streak of immaturity in him. This makes him reckless and impulsive at times. He has tremendous power, but he doesn’t always exercise the discipline such ability requires. But there is also significant depth to him. He’s lived many years and carries many emotional scars. This blend of playfulness and seriousness continues to fascinate me.
Sosei is the intense young man whose tragic past defines him. He’s too serious for my taste, but I respect his sense of justice. He grows up the most in these four volumes. There are some unpleasant truths that he has to face. I’m interested to see how he continues to mature, especially after volume six.
What I enjoy about Fujiyama’s storytelling is how naturally he blends the background material into the narrative. As the characters face various challenges, they are reminded of situations in their past, leading to a flashback sequence. Fujiyama is also smart enough to keep these flashbacks short. You learn a lot but never feel bogged down by exposition. Nor does the pace of the story itself suffer. The flashbacks can also provide a needed pause in the action.
As I mentioned earlier, the art is solid, although I do feel a little disappointed. I had hoped to see Fujiyama’s style develop and mature more over the course of this series. Instead, the problems that hampered the first volume are evident in all four volumes here. Fujiyama uses delicate line work, and some panels appear flat because they need more shading and tone work to provide depth. Also, at times, the anatomy is off. A person’s arm isn’t at the correct angle, or the posture looks wrong. It’s never anything too horrendous, but it’s enough to make the reader stop, and that disrupts the narrative flow.
Each volume of the series has extras by Fujiyama. Volumes three and six have comedy strips at the end. Volumes four through six have reader questions with answers that are a mix of comedy and information. All volumes have translation notes.
As in my previous review, I recommend this series to fans of blended sci-fi/fantasy stories. This is an action-adventure series without pretensions to something grander than being a fun read. If you’re looking for a quick-reading, escapist manga, then these books will meet your need. If you prefer more serious fiction, than Urasawa’s works are a better choice for you.