Manga-ka: Chigusa Kawai
Rating: Teens (13+)
Released: June 2007
Synopsis: “Georges takes off on a manic qyest to find the only person who can fill the painful gaps in his memory, but he’s adandoned a group of his dearest friends… and left them full of unanswered questions. While Georges struggles to make sense of his family’s heartbreaking history, Robert reaches out to the one he cares for more than any other. It’s a race against time for both boys.”
La Esperanca, volume seven, is the final book in this long running series by Chigusa Kawai. It’s the thicket book thus far, needing every page to bring to a close this dramatic tale of two strangers and they’re intertwined pasts.
The previous volume left readers off at a crucial cliffhanger with Robert and worried friends and family searching for the missing Georges while elsewhere Georges began preparing himself to finally learn the truth of his past and the connection between himself and the mysterious, Grace. Volume seven picks up right where volume six left off. Robert and Henri have boarded a train to find their friend after mother tells them the truth about Georges. That fact acts as merely the tip of the iceberg for young Georges whose revealed past, told by a kind orphanage owner, brings to life revelations about not only him and Grace but his parents as well. Suddenly conflicted and heartbroken, Georges tries to run from his past and present with his friends desperate to find him in time. With Georges’ live on the line, Robert realizes the truth about his own past and his real feelings for the boy he was once thought was merely a substitute.
It is difficult to review the final volume of any series, especially one such as this where it held almost all its secrets until the very end, without spoiling anything. For fans of the series that have followed it up until now, it can at least be said that is a beautiful finish with drama that could bring a tear to your eye and some humor that could easily do the same. It surpasses all previous volumes where many readers found difficulty connecting with the characters and their emotions. While the big questions are finally answered and bumpy roads seem smoothed, readers will be surprised and delighted by the continuing character development and changes each one goes through in light of their adventures. Everybody has been impacted by the events readers have followed through these volumes and we are given a front row seat to where it has led each of them. It is also in this volume that the story takes a small pass by its up-until-now merely implied boys’ love, nestling it more comfortably in Digital Manga Publishing’s June lineup.
La Esperanca was started by the manga-ka in 1999 and finally finished in April of 2006. Seven volumes in seven years has left a distinct mark on the art style and design layout in these books, a gradual change that leads up to an excellent final book. The art in the earlier volumes was consistent but lacked a certain polished feel that volume seven delivers. The line art is crisp and clear and things that seemed a little distorted in earlier books, such as eyes, are much better rendered. The layout of the panels themselves, which at times proved difficult to follow earlier on, are now more simple and easy to read through. The artist’s choice of pacing and presentation really bring the story to life with transitions to flashbacks and current events flowing seamlessly and without confusion. Also, while the manga-ka’s colored art is attractive, it often lacked anything special that really made it stand out, especially with the cross-overlay covers. However, of all the art featured on the cover slips, the image on the back of this book is easily the most beautiful with its colors and mood that gives the readers a peek of what’s to come inside.
Starting as one of DMP’s first yaoi releases, La Esperanca has been treated well by the publisher from start to finish. With so much going on in each panel and page, the sound effects are well placed and avoid becoming cluttered or distracting from the artwork. The writing is well translated and you almost feel the emotion coming off the page with the subtle changes between the way written for individual characters, such as Robert and Georges. The font has been consistent through all the volumes and makes for smooth reading. The covers are treated well, using the same graphics and layout as the original Japanese releases. They have the glossy finish used on most of DMP’s books and are very attractive. As with all volumes before it, DMP has also kept the artwork originally displayed underneath the cover slip intact. However if readers can hold out on their curiosity, these images are best viewed after completing the book to avoid ruining any little surprises.
Overall, fans will not be disappointed with the end of this series. It comes to its long awaited climax and eases us to the end with humorous antics and pleasant surprises. It both entertains and fulfills and should not be missed by any fan who enjoyed the previous releases or even those who considered giving up on this series when the going got slow. Volume seven aims to reel you back in and it succeeds.