Author: Kaoru Kurimoto
Manga-ka: Kazuaki Yanagisawa
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: December 2007
Synopsis: “After awaking in a forest with a leopard mask fixed to his head and no memory of his past, the peerless warrior survives the treacherous wilds of Nospherus and the mean intrigues of the Middle Country. Now, as King of Cheironia, he must contend with dark forces that dare to prey on his realm.”
More than once I was confused by this story, which is so rigid in its linearity that at times I was left wondering if the book even wanted me to finish reading it. Can a book be considered stubborn when it seems to have resigned itself to mediocrity?
With warning of minor possible-spoilage, a plague has assaulted the city, killing many a person and driving others to seek grotesque rumoured cures. King finds out from some sort of half-robotic wizard that he’s the cause and then a giant face descends from the sky who wants leopard-man’s soul. Then throw in a witch with a sexual appetite that just feels sleazy and a dancer who becomes attached to the King, likely for the sole-purpose of providing him some tension when away from his coldly receptive wife, and what do you get? I’m not quite sure.
On one hand it has many of the pieces of a traditional fantasy story as it swiftly establishes the good from the bad and begins the semblance of a party, but the pacing is so rigid that it was a task in itself getting through to the end. I just didn’t feel like I was drawn into the story at any point in time. The choppy pacing left me pondering what the purpose of a scene one moment and then flying ahead into another without any resolve of the latter.
I at least have to give the character King some credit. It seems like he’s trying really hard to make the story work, in a sense. He’s so driven and focused, in whatever it is he’s doing, that he drags the story forward whether it wants to progress or not. In a way I feel bad for him as a character in that he seems to care a lot more about the story than the story seems to care for itself, for whatever sense that makes. The whole book is essentially a go-go-go! Leopard-man cheer squad, and yet for all the basking in his importance, I as a reader still fail to understand why he’s actually that relevant. This likely has to do with the fact that this book is in fact a side-story to the main plot of the original Guin Saga, and though a fairly valid excuse for lacking exposition, it was no less disappointing.
What continuously bothered me the most about Guin Saga however was the artwork. While it wasn’t all bad (the King and backgrounds were notably well rendered, as well as most random-old-men characters), the sheer dynamics of the anatomy on some characters was horrible and a complete distracter from the story. Females are the worst hit, sporting tiny little heads atop massive shoulders. Their eyes are far apart, their hair huge and their busts in general-proportion to their shoulders which means larger than their entire head at random points in time. Yikes was all I could think every time one appeared on-page.
Though the rigid story would be something I’d be willing to let play it outself out a few moments, unfortunately it’s few saving graces fall short of ensnaring my interest when coupled with the artwork. The failings of both combined see Guin Saga fall off my ‘need-to-read’ list and lay casually on the ‘have-read-and-likely-never-will-again’ pile. I’ll likely pick up a random volume down the road and see how things look, out of respect for one of the longest running fantasy stories in the world, but past that this portion of Guin Saga failed to capture my imagination and it’s manga-incarnation ultimately falls short of being worthwhile.