The first volume of Fence is now widely available, so it seemed like a good time to check in with the continuing series. As created by C.S. Pacat and Johanna the Mad, it’s the story of a group of boys on an elite high school fencing team.
Nicholas has talent but not enough training and not the right family background. Seiji has all the advantages and is inhumanly talented. They’re roommates.
The last few issues have focused on various showdowns and bouts as the students compete for a limited number of places on the team, but this issue finally gives us more insight into Seiji. He’s been the “big bad” so far, in a manner of speaking, the assumed victor and challenge all the competitors must face. (A previous issue did show how he could be beaten, but it was a one-off trick approach.) His hard work and determination is succinctly and elegantly portrayed in these preview pages, and his life isn’t necessarily as easy as everyone assumes. I was impressed at how we were made to understand him better, and perhaps to sympathize, whether we want to or not.
In Fence #8, Seiji competes against the team captain, an upperclassman liked by everyone. This is where the comic shows its manga influences, since the match is a major part of the issue. It’s not overlong or stuffed with copious detail, but it does take up a substantial portion of the comic. That’s necessary to convey the time and focus involved as well as demonstrate the research and staging that went into the book. The actions and poses show us more about the characters. Plus, the coach’s comments give the reader important information about the sport and tournament.
We’re told that this is a turning point for the team and the members’ interactions, in narration, but we also see it for ourselves. The comic neatly puts us in the same place as the many interested observers on the page. There’s more to come, since Seiji and Nicolas haven’t fenced each other as part of this event yet. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)