by Ayuko; concept by Mizue Tani
published by Viz; $9.99 US
I was intrigued by the idea of reading the adventures of Lydia, a “fairy doctor” with the ability to communicate with magical beings, but sadly, that’s not what we get here. Although we’re told she can do these things (causing her to be shunned by her townspeople when they don’t need her help), the only time we see her use her special abilities is to communicate with the requisite shojo talking cat mascot. The rest of the time she’s a poker chip, handed off among various guys who want to find a magical sword with a legendary jewel. Or so we’re told, since no one does anything about it in this volume; they just talk about it a lot while holding Lydia captive.
The Earl is a traditional romantic hero, a displaced royal with a tortured (literally — he has scars) past seeking his ancestral inheritance. More interesting characters are Raven, the lord’s manservant, and his sister Ermine. There’s a lot more to their background than we’re told here; in the meantime, they provide a needed note of exotic mystery.
There’s a lot of potential unrealized here. The story is set in 19th century England, but the art is undistinguished in this area. It’s also hard to read during action scenes, but there aren’t many; most of it is sitting around talking. It’s a time when not many people believe in fairies, which could be an area for giving Lydia’s character more depth, as she copes with the conflict between her abilities and her society, but aside from a handful of pages in the beginning, that discrepancy, and her resulting worries that people think she’s crazy, is forgotten.
Unfortunately, Lydia’s shown as a bit of an idiot. A mysterious stranger shows up claiming her father sent him to accompany her. Although she keeps thinking to herself, “Father isn’t usually so thoughtful!” and “Father wouldn’t say that”, she trots off with him anyway, right into her own kidnapping. Once she’s rescued, only to be controlled by the Earl, there’s a lot of patience-testing “what does this all mean?” and “who should I trust?” interior monologue going on. I found it all very trying.
If this were a superhero comic, I’d expect it to be labeled number zero, since it’s all setup and prologue. It’s possible that the series, based on a set of light novels, improves in later volumes, once they actually set out to search for the sword, but I didn’t see enough here to come back for more. (The publisher provided a review copy.)