Manga-ka: Shin Midorikawa
Publisher: Del Rey
Rating: Teen (13+)
Released: February 2009
Synopsis: “Life at the Gaius School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is never dull – and often it’s dangerous. Chris Cottenburg, a High Elf, was a student of magic until calamity struck. Now his life-giving crystal has gone missing and Professor Arshes must undertake a perilous journey to save his student – a journey deep into the shadows of Chris’s soul!”
Aventura continues the lives of several young students during their days learning magic and swordsmanship in the Gaius School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Though some bumpy storytelling continues to plague this otherwise charming fantasy series, a little ways into this book the pacing smoothes itself out and just in time to take the plot on an easier-to-follow linear path with some abrupt turn of events.
After some bullying classmates steal his prized amulet, the young elven magic-user Chris summons up an advanced magical spirit, only to collapse into a coma. His friends race him to the infirmary and the teacher’s care, but with a darker energy at work, even the highest level teachers in the school are unable to wake him as the child’s body begins disintegrating before their eyes. From there the story takes a trip to the past as readers and Professor Arshes get to see Chris’s childhood through the window of his very soul. These scenes are full of heart-warming moments that were lots of fun to read, but they’re sadly ripe with foreshadowing of upsetting things to come.
During all this, the fantasy-lover in me continues to be tickled pink by all the magical spells, glimpses at Shin Midorikawa’s high elven society and a richly decorative environment full of all the robes, charms and glowing trinkets one would expect. An interesting, and slightly confusing, addition to the spell casting in this volume is a distinctly computerized method of using magic.
Bringing all the likeable attributes of the book alive is the artwork, still one of the strongest features of the series. Character designs range from adorable to downright gorgeous and each panel is trimmed with vibrant detail. My previous complaint remains however, that the amount of detail and screen toning on such a delicately inked style may work on an illustrative level but sometimes prove too cluttered utilized in a manga. I also occasionally having trouble telling certain characters apart, during close-ups in particular, but it’s generally a small quip when their designs are more-often than not easily distinguishable from one another.
While Aventura’s pros continue to outweigh its cons, they sadly don’t manage to overcome this particular volume’s publishing flaws. Most apparent is an issue with guttering that leaves numerous pages cut off at the spine, making the art and dialogue completely unreadable. Even spreading the pages to the spine’s cracking point wasn’t enough to read some of the speech bubbles, so readers will have to fill in a few gaps themselves. There were also one or two spots where the dialogue just didn’t flow right with me, or fit with the rest of the speech (“…our lives quietly started going down the tubes.”), and they caused distractive bumps in the flow of the reading.
Despite this volume’s shortcomings, I still had fun reading it, and after a bumpy first few pages, I was easily swept away into the story. Though realizing that this is a westernized fantasy, I’m still disappointed there isn’t more manga like it and continue to look forward to future volumes of Aventura, especially the upcoming volume four with poor Chris’s life currently on the line.