1. Its imagination is unlimited: This team has built an incredible world that has a foundation of dedicated rules, yet with every issue they seem to pull the curtain back on another wildly inventive twist or race or magic that makes my own imagination soar in response.
2. The plot is complicated enough to be fascinating without being too dense to navigate.
3. It’s gorgeous: even in the moments of gore and exploding viscera, there’s a richness to what we see on the page that elevates the work to art. That’s just the reaction that I have every time I open an issue, and every time it’s as powerful as the first.
Coming to the end of the first story arc, we see the struggle between Maika, and that which dwells inside of her comes to a head while those around her struggle for one side or another in a war that seems to be missing the point entirely. Maika is held captive in her own mind, and we see her engage with whatever it is that resides within her. What I dig most about Marjorie Liu’s crafting of her tale is that the action balances the fact that there are huge holes in the narrative, so that when we begin getting more details, we can be given a large volume and still feel like there’s more to know. We’re only so omnipresent as an audience and that’s what keeps the story so compelling. The rich source of Eastern myth and lore that she is drawing from makes the story all the more exotic and wondrous, as well as providing a good balance of character morality; the good/bad line can blur in several places within each person, and no one has to hold to their code forever. Liu has created some fantastic characters with great drive that force the narrative forward with a breathless on the ride.
I hate to reduce Sana Takeda’s contribution to so simple a term as beautiful, but all of the incredible detail and nuance combine to present an incredible whole. It’s the majesty of a forest where every tree is a work of art in itself. The characters would have little draw without the incredible level of attention paid to their every move. There are two major reveals in this issue and both are jaw-dropping in their effect; in both cases, Takeda draws us into the mystery that we feel we’ll never see and then shifts gears into full-on revelations with astonishing quality. Suffice it to say that as many players as we’ve seen so far in this awesome story, the world just got a whole lot bigger.
I can’t help but compare this series to Inuyasha. The look, feel, and broad range of characters added to the skillful plot charting make it resonate with that anime so well, and I feel the same way reading this as I did watching that. There is tragedy inherent from the start, so the piling on feels perfectly justifiable and only serves to further temper the already vibrant personalities on display for us already. This series hits the right notes of fantasy, horror, and myth and anyone who’s been captivated by darker faerie stories should jump in right now.
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