Manga-ka: Hotaru Odagiri
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: December 2011
Synopsis: “Welcomed into the arms of the Giou clan and the Zweilt, Yuki reaches out to his comrades even as he is drawn into their war with the darkness. But the demonic Duras continue to spread their malevolence around Yuki, and the members of his new family are not impervious either, as one of their own vanishes without a trace and yet another is cornered by a sudden ambush. In the Zweilt, Yuki may well have found the long-sought-after place he belongs, but the enemy seems intent on stealing it out of his grasp forever. And when the shadowy figure of “Reiga,” the nemesis of the Giou, finally steps into the light, will Yuki find himself utterly alone, crushed by the weight of the truth?”
They say there are only so many types of stories, and one of them has to be ‘pretty people with super powers fight bad guys for fate of the world.’ The Betrayal Knows My Name not only follows this basic plot, it also has all the tropes you usually see in battle shojo manga: beautiful boys and girls, lots of destiny talk, plenty of fights and even more angst. While it’s not going to replace CLAMP’s X as the flagship title for the genre, it has its own strengths and charms that make it an enjoyable series.
Yuki Giou was an orphan who had no one in the world until his mysterious older brother, Takashiro, found him. Takashiro revealed that their family has been fighting demons, called the ‘Duras,’ for generations. He brings Yuki to the family mansion to meet the rest of the clan, all of whom have special powers. While most of the clan welcome Yuki with open arms, some of them still hold grudges over what happened in a previous life. This makes things slightly awkward for Yuki who doesn’t remember his past life at all.
Yuki is the typical pure shojo hero, big on heart but short on brains. He likes everyone he meets, is kind even to jerks, and just wants to be everyone’s friend. There are a lot of naive, sweet main characters in manga, but Yuki is less annoying than most. It helps that the manga-ka shows why Yuki is the way he is. Having grown up without a family, Yuki is delighted to have a group of people who not only love him but need him (he’s the healer for their group and his very presence makes them stronger). Yuki really loves his new found family, but part of that love comes out of a desperate need to belong.
As well as having a long title, TBKMN also has a big cast. While Yuki may be the main character, in this volume he only gets marginally more page time than anyone else. A lot of volume two focuses on Shuusei and Hotsuma, two members of the Zweilt who have a very close relationship both on and off the battlefield (they’re also the pretty boys on the cover of this volume). Personality-wise the two are total opposites: Hotsuma is quick-tempered while Shuusei is grounded and reserved. Both of them harbour deep angst over their pasts, but while Hotsuma lashes out, Shuusei bottles it up inside, something that has repercussions in this volume. I really like Shuusei. His character reminds me of folks I know in real life, the kind of people who listen to everyone else’s problems while keeping their own demons secret.
Hotsuma and Shuusei’s bond is tested when a string of strange events come to the attention of the Zweilt: teenage boys across the city are disappearing and high school girls are falling into comas. Could there be a connection? Is a Duras behind it? Just as the cast starts to investigate, Shuusei disappears. Hotsuma and the others must figure out what’s going on before they lose Shuusei forever.
That’s just the main plotline in this volume. Aside from a lot of nice character moments, we also learn the identity of the big bad and meet more of the good guys. All of it is well paced and even the action scenes help move the story along and develop the characters.
As much as I like all the characters, I think the manga-ka should cap the cast list or else I will start to forget people. She had a chance to thin the herd in this volume when it seemed like she was actually going to kill a main character. This made me happy for several reasons: 1. It would have shown that the bad guys were actually a threat, 2. By killing a sympathetic character the rest of the characters would have had a chance to develop in new and interesting ways, and 3. It would have reduced a large cast by one. The manga-ka even drew what would have been a very effective death scene…if the character had actually died! Instead he survives and gets to keep fighting. I like the character, and for that I’m glad he’s still around, but I think not killing him off was a missed opportunity.
While I’m talking about the characters and their relationships, I want to talk about Luka and Yuki. Luka is a Duras who switched over to the good guys’ side. He is wholly devoted to Yuki, something that leaves the teenager happy but confused. Why does this stranger care for him so much? And what exactly happened between them in Yuki’s previous life? Even after two giant volumes of manga, their relationship is moving as fast as a glacier. I actually like the slow pace here as it suits the characters.
Yuki has strong feelings for Luka but having lived a sheltered life he doesn’t know how to deal with them. Plus, he’s not sure if Luka actually likes him or if he’s just with him because of an oath he swore in a previous lifetime. Yuki may be in doubt, but it’s clear to everyone else that Luka loves him. Luka however tells the rest of the cast that he doesn’t want to rush Yuki into anything; in fact, if Yuki never returned his feelings at all, Luka claims he’d be fine with that too. He says he just wants Yuki to be happy, and it seems like he’s telling the truth. It’s such a relief to see a male love interest that is not dominating and controlling, who doesn’t stalk the person they like or try to keep them from caring about anyone else.
The art for the series is soooo pretty, but it’s not an empty prettiness. The manga-ka has a good eye for layouts, and while she doesn’t do anything really different or inventive, she knows how to effectively lay out a sequence. This is especially useful for the action scenes.
This volume has some weak points: there’s a minor character who gets a lot of build-up but no satisfying resolution, and the big reveal of the main bad guy’s identity was obvious from page one of the series. Also, the manga-ka keeps teasing the reader with tidbits about what happened in Yuki’s previous life but holds back on the details. I hope that in the next volume the manga-ka just tells us what went down.
Yen Press is doing a really nice job with the series and I’m glad it’s being translated into English. I just wish that I didn’t have to wait until April to see what happens next!
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Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes