Written by Jd Banks Saturday, 28 February 2009 09:06
Cliché demon-versus-humanity stories litter every genre and brand of the manga industry. Unfortunately, ADV Manga does not help with this epidemic by bringing Sanami Matoh’s manga, By the Sword, into the fold.
Set in ancient Japan, the existence of demons, demon hunters and everything in-between makes for a new spin on an old plot concept. In By the Sword, a half-demon karinin, or demon hunter named Asagi, searches for the Moegi. This is a unique sword rumored to hold the powers of 101 demons. In seeking this powerful sword, Asagi meets his long-lost demon uncle, Kurenai, and his beautiful cousin, Kaede. Immediately after the reunion, Asagi, Kurenai, and Kaede travel together in hopes of finding Kurenai’s real body that has been hidden from his knowledge.
The premise of By the Sword is similar to other stories, but the manga-ka*, Sanami Matoh, weaves her own style around the manga with its character development and sketchy artwork.
If Sanami Matoh’s name does not ring a bell, her footprints are prevalent in the anime and manga world. Matoh is the creator of the ground-breaking yaoi, FAKE, as well as the doushinji* of One Piece. Though her name is not known firsthand, Matoh’s unique character development is evident. It’s easy to become attached to the main characters, Asagi, Kurenai, and Kaede.
Asagi, the half-demon karinin, is caring and understanding, yet, the conflict between his mind and his emotional attachment to his loved ones causes him to hesitate in the midst of fighting. Even more confusing is Asagi’s abilities that only allow him to channel his power into a sword. Though his character is less perplexing than his supporting cast, question marks hover close to Asagi’s timely character change.
As for Kurenai and Kaede, both demonic father and half-demonic daughter share a fiery attitude that Asagi is left to calm. Without his body, Kurenai is limited in his usage of fire powers, but the lacking of his physical half does not keep Kurenai from speaking his mind. Despite his stubbornness, Matoh wrote the demon as an already changed character with little hope of development. Kurenai, from all of the characters, is the most one-dimensional figure.
The mystery surrounding the innocent half-demon and her father spawn speculation. For starters, the one-dimensional qualities of Kaede and Kurenai bring forth the question whether Kaede will grow since she is relatively young. Secondly, the unaccountable five-year span the two demonic relatives spent searching for Asagi are absent in the storyline. Lastly, the fact that Kurenai has no knowledge of his body’s location creates a whirlwind of inquiries.
Besides the main characters, Matoh’s sketchy style of art is enough to give an overworked plot concept a fresh coat of paint. By the Sword’s best feature, in regards to the artwork, lies in Matoh’s ability to render strong action scenes.
As an avid manga reader and an artist, depicting action scenes are one of the most difficult areas for a manga-ka. Action scenes must capture the body’s movement without compromising the reader’s ability to read what is happening in the scene. Sometimes, manga-ka render an aesthetically-appealing fight scene, but they forget that in the human figure, there are certain limitations to the body’s kinesthetic abilities. In keeping with basic anatomical portrayals, the artist allows the action scene to be believable. Even imposing too many lines, a trademark of indicating movement in manga, can confuse the reader in mistaking what body parts are doing what.
Matoh, however, is not an amateur manga-ka. Most of the fight scenes throughout the manga have been nothing short of noteworthy. She places enough emphasis on the main characters exchanging blows. Though Matoh uses half-toning and grayscaling as much as any other manga-ka, her capacity to work with hatchbacking—a simple pen technique of criss-crossing lines to create volume in an image—is remarkable. Hatchbacking is easy to distinguish, but in By the Sword, its implementation is more subtle. I was almost unaware of the hatchbacking until I looked more closely at the backdrops of each scene.
With an unoriginal plot concept, By the Sword manages to forge its own name in the manga market. The first volume is promising, and with its subsequent volumes, the Sanami Matoh creation can withstand the stigma of demon and demon hunter clichés.
By the Sword Volume 1
By: Sanami Matoh
Rating: 7.5 out of 10
All in all: Read it.
By the Way: By the Sword is an incomplete manga series by Sanami Matoh. Right now, there are only two volumes out on the market. It is currently run in Princess Magazine.
*doushinji – an illustrator who draws character designs for other anime, manga, and/or video games
*manga-ka – an artist who draws manga
|< Prev||Next >|