Manga-ka: You Higuri
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: October 2008
Synopsis: “Seto is a former god imprisoned by a demon, bound to bring misery and misfortune to whomever releases him from his prison. Marie is the daughter of an aristocrat, hopelessly in love with one far above her station. When she unwittingly breaks the seal binding Seto, he agrees to help her win her prince’s heart… but can love overcome the dark fate that awaits her?”
Young Marie finds herself infatuated with her country’s Prince but feels resigned to only watch him from afar. After accidentally releasing a god sealed within a book, Marie is promised the love of her life by the charming, Seto. Though enthralled with the idea of meeting the Prince, Marie doesn’t realize she’s doomed to meet a dark end by the very hands of her helper. Is there charm in a story that builds itself up with a pre-explained ending?
Though Marie’s fate is deemed sealed, Seto, the very man doomed to make her life miserable, is determined to alter her future at the risk of his own well-being. This is what really serves as the catch for the plot. I also found Marie endearing as a character, in her own special way, and couldn’t help but feel myself rooting for her against all odds when she becomes entangled in a web she doesn’t know exists.
While the tone of the story treads little new ground in You Higuri’s repertoire, what really stands Angel’s Coffin out is its pockets of humour. Going into the story with a piercing stare from the front cover’s image, and a darker feel from the tone of the book’s synopsis, I was caught off-guard by the visual comedy of the story. While the majority of the book maintains a semi-sinister tone thanks to some grim foreshadowing, the character Marie sparks some unexpected but laugh worthy moments of hilarity with her overzealous devotion and accompanying panels.
Along with serving as some momentary distraction from the threat of things to come, Marie’s amusing portrayals also serve to make her much easier to feel empathy for, more down to earth in her flaws than the doey-eyed maidens that often serve in female roles of the time period. My thoughts on her worked in strong contrast to the Prince, who I found creepy and unmovingly flat. While it wouldn’t be too out there to assume that was the intended persona, it gave the plot a very one-sided lean for reader’s sympathy, despite randomly suggesting some pity for the prince would be well-founded.
All that said however, there isn’t enough time to really feel like you’ve gotten to know any of the characters. There seems to be multiple layers of the Prince that could’ve been explored and Seto feels very rushed despite playing such an important role. At the one-book length, Angel’s Coffin felt too short to be savoured, but too involved with characters to be truly satisfying come the end.
Though easily the book’s strongest point, the artwork of Angel’s Coffin, as with the story, won’t offer You Higuri buffs anything new, and similarities to characters in her other works are hard to ignore. However, in the context of the story itself, everyone is easy to tell apart, aided in part by the very small cast. The men are easily as attractive, if not more so, than the lead female, Marie, and along with the 19th century clothing and décor, there’s plenty of eye-candy for fans of romantic eras and flowing hair.
Ultimately Angel’s Coffin is a nicely compacted one-shot but one that sadly falls short of being terribly memorable. You Higuri fans will enjoy adding this book to their collection for its familiar tone and style, and while its appeal can easily stretch past You Higuri fans to those seeking a quick read, it isn’t a release I’d push much past its visual appeals.