Manga-ka: Rei Toma
Publisher: Viz Media
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: February 2012
Synopsis: “Princess Nakaba of Senan and Prince Caesar of Belquat only married each other for the sake of peace between their two warring countries, but things take a surprising turn when Caesar finds himself falling for his strange wife! Caesar tries to get Nakaba to return his feelings, but she maintains that he is her enemy and that she hates him. So when Nakaba has a vision of Caesar getting killed, will she say anything to save him?”
Princess Nakaba remains a captive as the wife to Prince Caeser, heir to the throne of the kingdom warring against her own. With Nakaba’s loyal attendant Loki at her side, her time in the castle has shifted its attentions from survival to instead coming to terms with her growing romantic feelings. It’s not the direction I was hoping the story would go but I can’t say I’m surprised. At least with someone still worth rooting for and artwork to oogle, Dawn of the Arcana could be a winner yet.
I knew after the first volume I’d have trouble enjoying this series because of my dislike towards Caeser. Now I’m disappointed to see that as I start liking him little by little, it’s Nakaba who I’ve started to like less and less. They both started out as very strong-willed individuals. While this in Caeser came out in abusive, ignorant lash-outs towards Nakaba, her personality was that of an individual who wouldn’t allow herself to be toyed with or degraded. I really admired that about her. Caeser is now becoming a nicer person as he learns through practice that (shock!) Nakaba is happy when he pays attention to what she actually wants and feels. Nakaba, alas, has shifted more into damsel territory. She spends most of this volume either scared or dwelling on the romantic feelings for Caeser she’s developed in this short period of time. I was really hoping for Nakaba to remain a more proactive character, especially when she’s in a series with such high-tension political elements.
More than even before I’m cheering for Loki. I can’t hold his wish for vengeance against him, plus his emotional control and patience under these circumstances is impressive. That he’s trapped watching the girl he loves, and has spent his life protecting, now falling in love with a man who is not only an enemy but occasionally a narcissistic, abusive husband is hard to stomach. When he admits his romantic feelings for Nakaba, and then can’t even follow through, it’s a heart-breaker.
A couple scenes with background characters show that there remains some kind of plot brewing with Nakaba and Caeser’s marriage as a pawn, or at least a distraction. Loki also opens up to Nakaba about his intentions along with protecting her, and a new character pops up, another attendant for Nakaba – an adorable small child named Rito. This all coupled with Nakaba’s new awareness of her special future-and-past seeing powers – ones she accepted very openly without question, oddly – means there’s still a decent story buried beneath the ‘oh-noes-I-love-him!’ part that Dawn of the Arcana clings to most.
The series’ artwork is still its most appealing feature to me. I really love how well it’s drawn – the character designs are attractive and they’re very consistent. The paneling is also super tidy, maybe even too much so sometimes, but it makes the story very easy to follow and I’ve yet to see a page I would consider cluttered. There’s still a bit of confusion caused by the artists’ speech bubbles though, which are more perfectly round than the usual manga styled lettering and often have no bubble tails leading to their speaker. This becomes problematic in scenes with multiple people.
Overall it’s pretty artwork, and Loki, that has earned Dawn of the Arcana a keeper position on my shelf after this second volume, but I really hope that the rest of the story catches up with itself. Caeser is on a decent path to becoming a likeable character (still needs to cut out that asinine hair pulling!) but Nakaba is going to need to backpedal some to regain my liking. As the plot thickens, it will hopefully be just the new jumpstart she and the series needs.
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Book bought from Strange Adventures