Manga-ka: Makoto Tateno
Publisher: CMX Manga
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: August 2007
Synopsis: “‘Chaos’ is a trading card game that is very popular at Manami’s school. Trying to learn more about it herself, she purchases a beginner’s set, only to discover that it contains “Sahgan, The Mighty Sorcerer,” the rarest card in the game. Now every other player is out to win the card from her. But Sahgan himself begins to visit Manami in her dreams, offering her advice on how to win.”
Minami is an average schoolgirl with a budding interest in Chaos – a card game where players pit monsters against each other in a battle for remaining life points (sound a little familiar?). Fresh-faced to the game with her experienced cousin as a guide, Minami is struck with newbie-luck and when purchasing her first deck, discovers a card that’s not only rare but possibly the rarest card in the whole game.
Right off the bat it’s worth noting that King of Cards manages to be notably better than initial presumptions may imply. It helps that the story takes itself fairly seriously despite some obvious stigma that could go with it, playing out its character roles and events in a way that doesn’t fall to any preconceptions some readers may have going in. Simply put, you won’t find any bright, spiky-haired, leather-clad prepubescent Egyptians here as Minami learns the ropes of the game and quickly finds herself challenged by a slew of skilled opponents all looking to win her rare card: Sahgan the Mighty Sorcerer. There aren’t many surprises in regards to whether or not Minami wins said-battles but they’re utilized more to offer a chance for readers to learn the rules of the game via actual fights while also introducing a small but relevant cast of characters who will undoubtedly continue helping Minami as the series progresses.
While the importance of the all-powerful magician card is a fact the story really wants to drive home, it’d be nice to see to see a match won without its use however. While singular wham-blam attacks for victory seem fairly suiting for Minami being so new to the game, it’s more interesting seeing bits of actual strategy pop up. Hopefully as her skill progresses, the variety of her winning methods will evolve also and the outcomes of her battles, however predictable as they may be, will at least be accomplished by some more unpredictable moves.
The story takes an occasionally more whimsical route with the subject matter in the form of Minami’s growing connection with her cards. It does read a little corny in its lack of real basis besides her being a kind-hearted girl who cares for two-dimensional images on a piece of paper. However she soon sees the figure of Seghann in her dreams and along with making her more fond of him, he also gives Minami visual clues that aid her in her upcoming battles. While this is a nice fluffy card-bonding element to the story, it does come off a little weird that Minami never questions this (you’re communicating with a card in your dreams who can see the future – shouldn’t you be a little alarmed?) and nor does she give thought to the fact that she’s in all manners cheating at the game because of the clues.
Many of Makoto Tateno’s works have seen publication in English, and though they can be counted on to be entertaining, they’ve always lacked a certain wow factor needed to raise her books from would-likes to must-haves. King of Cards isn’t one that crosses this line just yet but it certainly puts itself up there on this reviewers list as one with some enticing potential. There’re still some elements to the plot that have dire need of exploration but volume one succeeds in laying the foundation for the rest of the books to hopefully build these points up on.
While the story is already beginning to fall on the formulaic side, there are lots of elements present to make it a series offering lots of reasons to continue and just as many to give it a try in the first place. Amiable characters, a streamlined plot and a dash of real magic all combine to make this first volume of King of Cards an entertaining read. It blends together Yu-Gi-Oh vibe-heavy card battling with sweet-shoujo style in way that has unexpectedly charming results.