Manga-ka: Minoru Murao
Publisher: Digital Manga
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2010
Synopsis: “In this second instalment of the exciting medieval tale, Mist’s lady-friend Nina goes missing, while dark memories from his tortured past are brought to the surface. Unexpected help comes from a former adversary, and the self-confessed “true” witch Euphemia is always by Mist’s side, but will they be help enough for Mist to overcome a new assault from the Saints and win the battle within himself?”
Knights isn’t going to change the way you look at manga. It will never be a huge juggernaut like One Piece or Naruto. But what it is, is a solid, fun shounen manga with likable characters and an interesting plot. While for the most part it’s your standard action adventure, the way it deals with things like sex and race sets it apart from other hack-and-slash fantasy stories.
Volume one of Knights did a great job of establishing the characters and putting them in position for some interesting interactions. In one group there’s the main character, Mist, and his witch sidekick, Euphemia, as they continue their quest to help woman who have been accused of witchcraft. Meanwhile, a secondary group of characters have banded together in order to travel to the capital. They include Nina, a young noble girl who Mist rescued in the first volume, a knight who Mist defeated around the same time, and a warrior nun who is a powerful member of the church. What the tiny group doesn’t realize is that they are all travelling to the city for the same reason: each of them wants to find Mist. But while all three of them are looking for the same guy, they each have very different reasons for wanting to find him. Nina is after Mist because she’s in love with him and just wants to see him again. The knight, Leonardo Scott, seeks to restore his honour. The nun meanwhile, is one of the fourteen Saints, the muscle behind the church. She wants to find Mist in order to not only wipe him out, but the entire order of knights Mist belongs to.
It’s nice to see the manga living up to the title of ‘Knights.’ In volume one the focus was mainly on Mist, making it seem like the manga should have been called ‘Knight.’ But in volume two the cast expands to include more fighters, making the title start to fit the manga better. It’s especially nice to meet more of the order that Mist is a part of. In volume one there were only brief allusions to the fact that Mist wasn’t alone in his crusade. In this volume we get to see that Mist isn’t just one guy waging an impossible war, he’s actually part of a large, secret organisation fighting to bring down the church.
Volume two does a great job of developing the supporting characters, and it does it in the best way possible by having them interact with each other. When two characters meet and change because of the meeting, it’s like developing two characters for the price of one. One character who comes very close to stealing the manga is Leonardo Scott. Though nicknamed ‘The knight of the carpet’ because he prefers to stand around flirting with the ladies rather than fighting, Leo is still a formidable swordsman. Meeting Mist makes Leo rethink his place as a knight who serves the church. Does he really want to be a part of an organisation that kills innocent women?
Leo quickly becomes the manga’s comic relief, but luckily he doesn’t lose the other qualities that made him interesting in the first place: he’s still a smart guy and good fighter. It’s nice to see a manga where a character can be humorous but still kick ass when the time calls for it. Also, he travels with a cute black kitty-cat, which when added to his already considerable bishounen factor just makes him almost too adorable.
Euphemia and Nina also go through some interesting development. The entire volume Nina is chasing after Mist, and just when she is close to reuniting with him, she stumbles instead upon Euphemia having an orgy with a bunch of enemy soldiers. Euphemia is quite literally the ‘make love not war’ kind of fighter and instead of fighting her opponents physically (though she is capable of doing so) she prefers to use her magic to make all the men in the vicinity want to have sex with her. In volume one Euphemia’s nymphomaniac side was treated more like a joke than anything. It’s only in this volume that things take one a darker tone. Nina, being a sheltered, pure-hearted young girl, is shocked and disgusted when she sees Euphemia going at it with a large group of men. Nina’s reaction casts Euphemia in a different light than before and brings up questions about the morality of Euphemia’s actions. Euphemia’s reaction to Nina’s disgust is interesting and hints at a different side to the witch than before. It also leads to Euphemia doing something which, while not a huge cliff-hanger, could lead to big trouble down the road for the characters.
The sexual element to the story feels out of place though. You just don’t expect a magical gangbang to be a big plot point in a sword and sorcery manga. While nothing is shown explicitly, it still comes across very clearly (in the sex scene everyone is merely silhouetted, but it’s still clear exactly who is doing what). It’s not like the manga hasn’t gone to some dark places before. In volume one there were plenty of allusions to torture and sex (where once again most of it is implied rather than directly shown), but it’s taken further here.
While the other characters seemed to get their time to shine, the main character doesn’t quite get as much attention. He does get some moments, like when he enters a tournament near the end, and we do get some hints at his back story, but it looks like the manga-ka is mostly setting up for some reveals in volume three.
The art is nice, one of those styles that straddles the line between shounen and shoujo. There’s a marked improvement with the layouts since volume one. The layouts in the first volume were fine, but it’s only in this volume that the manga-ka really goes for bigger panels, making the action flow better.
Knights is a fun adventure manga. The plot is just twisty enough to stay interesting while simple enough to keep the action going. The characters are not exactly deep, but they are entertaining and make interesting decisions, driving the manga onward much more than the plot itself actually does. If you’re looking for a good sword-and-sorcery story, you could do a lot worse.