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Review: March Story (Vol. 01)

March Story (Vol. 01)
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Author: Hyung Min Kim
Manhwa-ga: Kyung Il Yang
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Mature (18+)
Release Date: October 2010

Synopsis: “Among the quiet villages and towns of 18th century Europe, demons known as the Ill hide within the most beautiful works of art, sparked to life by the torment of their creators. Attracted by their jewel-like allure, the unwary find themselves possessed by the Ill and driven to horrific acts of violence. Only the hunters of the Ciste Vihad can dispel the Ill. March is one such hunter, tracking the Ill from town to town to find the antiques that contain the demons before they can possess anyone. If the worst has come to pass, March’s full powers are unleashed to battle the fiendish Ill. Born of tragedy, the artifacts all have their own tales to tell, as do each of their victims. But March’s story may be the most tragic of all.”

The plot of March Story will be familiar to anyone who has read any popular shonen action-adventure series: a young teenager who is a member of an organization that fights evil goes from town to town fighting bad guys and monsters, using his special abilities to help people along the way. Oh, and don’t forget the tragic back story that ties him to the very evil he faces. That summary could easily fit Full Metal Alchemist or D.Gray-man, but in this case I’m talking about March Story. Volume one of March Story is a pleasant surprise. It proves that just because something’s formulaic, it doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

March is a member of the Ciste Vihad, an organization devoted to hunting down the Ill. The Ill are spirit-like entities that reside in beautiful objects, just waiting for a human to pick them up so the Ill can posses them. Hunters like March can sometimes free people from the Ill’s control, but only if the Ill hasn’t used their human host to commit murder. I’m glad the manga-kas included this loophole, as it gives the people possessed by the Ill a chance at regaining their humanity. There’s a lot of dark stuff in this volume, but I liked that some stories actually had a happy ending.

Just like how Edward (FMA) isn’t an ordinary alchemist and Allen (D.Grayman) isn’t an ordinary exorcist, March is not your average hunter. But there’s also something that sets March apart from other shonen heroes. Talking about it is a bit of a spoiler, so if you don’t want a certain aspect of March’s character revealed beforehand, stop reading here:

For reasons only hinted at in this volume, March is actually a girl pretending to be a guy (a very, very pretty guy, but a guy nonetheless). I guessed March’s actual gender early on, but I was still pleasantly surprised I was right. It’s neat to see an action series aimed at guys with a plucky, kick-ass girl as the main character.

As typical of the genre, March comes equipped with a angst-ridden back story that has left her with powers similar to the creatures she fights. March’s story is where the manga started firing on all cylinders for me. It’s in that chapter that we not only learn about March’s powers but also the curse that comes with it. It’s a great plot point and lays the groundwork for some potentially heart-wrenching plot twists in the future.

The thing I didn’t like about this chapter, however, is that the manga seems to get a lot more gruesome all of a sudden. Not that the manga was all sunshine and rainbows before, but it just seems to get a lot more bloody out of nowhere. Showing a woman impaled on a spike is one thing, but showing a kid in a room full of bodies hanging from the ceiling…I don’t know, it just seems a bit gratuitous. Maybe the manga-ka were purposely trying to up the blood and guts quota in order to make March’s past sufficiently horrifying. Either way, it makes the manga earn its ‘mature’ rating.

One thing that helps make the manga both more horrifying and beautiful is the art. It’s extremely detailed, but in a pretty, almost abstract way. There are times when the attention to detail is just staggering, but it never looks overly busy or crowded. The artist often uses patterns that look like something out of a Van Gogh or Klimt painting. The art is simply beautiful and really sells the pseudo-European setting.

At first I was put off by March Story because of how similar it was to Full Metal Alchemist and D-Grayman. Then I realized that those are great series, and to be compared favourably to those titles is a compliment to March Story. With great art, an interesting plot and characters, March Story looks like it could be the next great shonen action-adventure.

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Book bought from Strange Adventures

Shannon Fay

About the Author:

Shannon Fay has been an anime and manga fan ever since junior high when a friend showed her a raw VHS tape of ‘Sailor Moon Stars.’ After watching it, she knew she didn’t want to live in a world that didn’t include magical transvestites and alien boy bands. Along with her reviews on Kuriousity, Shannon Fay has also written manga reviews for Manga Life and Anime Fringe. She is also a freelance manga adapter and is currently working with the manga licensor Seven Seas.

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