Manga-ka: Hotaru Odagiri
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2012
Synopsis: “In their war with the Duras, the Zweilt rely almost entirely on the power of the bonds between them and their allies. But with each battle and every passing reincarnation, is there not the danger of cracks developing in the glue that holds these warriors together? When a tense, unexpected battle with an Opast general is cut short, one pair is forced to reconsider their disparate oaths of vengeance and what seeking revenge truly means. And before another battle can get underway, the final Zweilt pair joins the fray at Twilight Hall. But while Yuki seemingly becomes fast friends with one half of this new team, the heart of the other seems vaguely unreachable, clouded by memories of the past…”
Back in my review for volume two of The Betrayal Knows My Name, I said that the manga-ka “should cap the cast list or else I will start to forget people.” Since then the number of characters has just kept growing. The problem now isn’t that I’ve started to forget people so much as I’m losing the will to care about them in the first place.
While a whole slew of characters are introduced in this volume the plot barely inches forward. Volume three ended with various characters in mid-battle. Volume four picks up from there but the fight scenes feel kind of rote. It’s like both you and the manga-ka know the good guys are going to win, and so there’s no urgency to the battles.
During the fights we meet the three Duras who are fighting on Reiga’s side. They are all incredibly good-looking and dress like Nazis. All right, not exactly like Nazis (the manga-ka refers to it simply as ‘military dress’) but there’s definitely some fascist-fetishism going on. Anyway, the big reveal is that one of the Duras is Luka’s twin brother. While Yuki freaks out over the fact that Luka has to fight his own brother, to the twins themselves it really doesn’t seem like a big deal. And honestly, it doesn’t feel like a big deal to me either. It’s never been mentioned before that Luka has a twin brother or really any attachments outside of Yuki, so the reveal of Luka’s twin falls flat. If the manga-ka wanted to include a dramatic ‘brother vs. brother’ subplot she should have laid more ground work beforehand.
Once the fighting is over, and the dust has settled, the good guys regroup at the Giou mansion. Two new characters fly in, Sairi and Lia, another Zweilt pair in the fight against Reiga. I like Lia and it’s good to see another main female character in the series; her presence brings the number of girls in the main cast up to two. Sairi on the other hand seems to be just another sulky pretty boy, and the manga already has a dozen of those. That’s not an exaggeration. In fact, I’m probably under counting. Is someone paying Hotaru Odagiri a million yen every time she introduces a new pretty boy in the cast? Would they please stop?
It’s not so much the fact that everyone is drop-dead gorgeous that bothers me, it’s more the fact that the cast is so huge. There’s the Zweilt themselves (four sets of two= eight people). Plus, there’s our main characters Luka and Yuki, plus the supporting characters like Takashiro and the half-dozen characters who work at the mansion, plus the people at the other mansions, and then there’s the bad guys… It’s just too many people. This is volume four and it’s just now that the main cast has been assembled? Keep in mind that these are two-in-one omnibuses, so each volume is pretty big. That’s a long time to set things up.
It also doesn’t help that for the second half of volume four the plot just spins its wheels. Characters lounge around the mansion and talk, repeating conversations that have happened over and over. Do we really need to hear Luka explain (again) that he will love Yuki even if Yuki never remembers his past life? No, we don’t. There’s next to no movement in the plot, but we do get to see pretty boys feeding each other popsicles. This series was always big on that kind of fan service, but in this volume those vignettes seem to be the main attraction rather than a bonus.
The art is pretty in a super-shoujo way. Usually if a manga has art I like and a lacklustre story, I’m willing to give the story a little more slack since manga is a visual medium. With this volume though the lack of story actually frustrated me to the point where even the pretty artwork couldn’t smooth things over. If I want to look at page after page of bishounen, I’ll pick up an art book. That way I’d get all the prettiness without the text bubbles.
Yen Press continues to do a good job with the series. One thing that confused me was that in the author’s notes she refers to the series as ‘Uraboku,’ the shortened version of the Japanese title. It took me a second to figure out that she was talking about The Betrayal Knows My Name. It would have been easier if they just translated it as ‘The Betrayal’ or something similar.
In the author notes Odagiri also mentions that she regrets saying that the more powerful the Duras are, the more beautiful they are, as it means she has to keep coming up with increasingly gorgeous character designs. I thought this was funny but also explains a lot about the series. Odagiri has created this world where beauty is a measure of power so now she is doomed to populate it with beautiful people. That’s fine, pretty people are a staple of shoujo. I just hope that next volume she creates more of a story to go with them.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
Book provided by Yen Press for review purposes