Manga-ka: Natsumi Ando
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: May 2011
Synopsis: “Unraveling secrets. Who is the mysterious “King” controlling the class? Tsubasa pursues Akira Manabe, a troubled boy who might know the King’s true identity. As Tsubasa closes in on Arisa’s secret, the King makes another move!”
Arisa‘s first impression continues to be its deceptive cover. Bright-eyed shoujo heroines and flowers give away nothing about the actual contents of the book – a continually compelling mystery about a school held in the grip of ‘The King’: a enigmatic figure who grants the wishes of students. When Tsubasa’s twin Arisa jumps from a window and goes into a coma, Tsubasa enters the school under guise of her sister to try and find out why.
I really love this series – it’s got a great dark story going and it works really well being told with such a shoujo-standard art style. The panelling style used is standard to the shoujo genre as well – mismatched shapes and out-of-box artwork – but it’s used to wonderful effect in Arisa to carry the clues and suspense along. And is there ever a lot of suspense. What I enjoy most is how much Tsubasa learns about her sister. At first she was predominantly just a victim but now it’s obvious she played a huge role in the situation the school is now faced with.
The school backdrop is also a perfect set-up for this kind of story. It pits the heroine not only against the King but an entire classroom of worshippers. If there’s anything scarier than a power-abusing diety, it’s the peer pressure and social osterization imposed by their followers. The crazed look on the face of a girl who serves the King is chilling, not to mention the clown doll calling card left to Tsubasa as a threat (admit it, clowns are scary). The King is even after Tsubasa’s life now as evident by their actions near the book’s end which takes the investigation to an obviously more dangerous level. Thankfully it seems Tsubasa has finally gotten some support in the form of Akira Manabe – a boy who believes that Tsubasa/Arisa is in fact the King. They may not be seeing eye to eye at first but at least they’re on the same team.
This second volume of Arisa is the first Kodansha Comics release I’ve purchased and one of the very first of the titles they took over from DelRey. Fans will be pleased to know that the trim size and design is nearly identical with only a few necessary changes, such as Kodansha Comics on the spine instead of DelRey. The same company also did the lettering so that’s consistent as well. Interestingly the back of the book has the same ads for other series that we’re accustomed to in DelRey books (such as the Wallflower and Shugo Chara) only with Kodansha Comics logo in their place. This hopefully means KC will not only be releasing the newer volumes of these series, but keeping the old books in print as well under their name. It’s too bad they kept with DelRey’s incredibly spare detail on the back synopsis though. What’s there works fine for an individual volume but it’d be nice to see them adopt Viz Media’s tactic of having a small series-wide synopsis to put on every book for newcomers.
Right up to the cliffhanger ending, this second volume of Arisa is still a treat to read. The biggest disappointment is still that it’s unfortunate the shoujo cover will turn away many readers who would otherwise enjoy Arisa‘s suspenseful storytelling. With the mystery getting that much more sinister and trouble tightening in around Tsubasa, I’m more eager than ever to know what’s going to happen next. It’s great to see she also won’t be facing it alone which is especially important as we learn the King isn’t in this alone either. The book ends with a literally game-changing move by the King that is bound to have some interesting results that I think any reader who has enjoyed the first or second book will want to stick around to witness.
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Book bought from The Beguiling