Sunday, May 22, 2016

Manga Review: Dawn of the Arcana

Do I know where to start? I don't know where to start. This series OMG. Ok, let me start with a short synopsis because this is usually how one starts a review, right? Ok, ok, calm down Sheila. So, Dawn of the Arcana or Reimei no Arcana which is its original Japanese title, follows the story of Nakaba, a princess of the Senan kingdom, Caesar, the second-born son of the Belquat kingdom and Nakaba's loyal assistant, Loki. Senan and Belquat are located on the same island, Senan constituting the northern half while Belquat is located in the southern half. Throughout history, these two nations have been at war constantly with momentary periods of peace after a prince or princess of one kingdom marries into the royal family of the other. 

Reimei no Arcana begins at the start of another such cease-fire, when Princess Nakaba of Senan is married to Prince Caesar of Belquat. In these two kingdoms, members of the royal family almost always have black hair; commoners have brown, red, and blonde hair. As a red-haired princess, Nakaba is considered the shame of the Senan royal family and is also treated as such when she joins the royal family of Belquat. Having been raised in near loneliness, Nakaba's closest companion is her attendant, Loki. Loki is an ajin, which means that he is a form of Demi-Human with the characteristics of an animal - in Loki's case, it is a wolf. Loki is Nakaba's protector, confidant, and best friend. Despite his loyalty though, Loki holds many secrets that he will fight fiercely to keep quiet. 

Dawn of the Arcana - man oh man, I thought I knew where this was going! When it's revealed that Nakaba has a special power (cause duh right, no one knows who her father was and she has red hair so there's bound to be something special about her), the Arcana of Time, which allows her to see the future(s) and the past, I was so sure that the main plot of the story was going to be about trying to keep her power hidden. Due to her power, she can become a powerful pawn for either nation, and I thought that was what we were heading for - keeping her powers hidden and eventually, in the long run, war. But that wasn't exactly it. 

See, the majority of Dawn of the Arcana actually focuses on the relationship between ajin and humans - a relationship that Caesar and Nakaba (once they start to get along and Caesar stops being so horrible to her) are trying to improve. Each needs the other for ajin can do many things humans can't and vice versa, but ajin have spent generations as the inferior race and as such, making any changes will be extremely difficult. Many other elements are brought into the story and a diverse and interesting supporting cast is developed throughout as well. There are many twists and turns in this manga, but it focuses primarily on human emotion, which means that it will break your heart in more ways than one and that also means there is awesome character development throughout the series. 

Btw, the art is GORGEOUS!
The world building really got to me as well. I loved the different kingdoms, the different customs and the fact that the Arcana of Time is not the only special power in this world. We meet a character that has the Arcana of Heartsight (able to see what people truly feel in their hearts), the Arcana of Fire (self-explanatory), and an Arcana that allows for communication to exist between an ajin and a snake (this Arcana is never named). Nakaba's arcana also gives us wonderful backstory on almost every character and allows us to understand their reasons for doing the things that they do. Nevertheless, unexpected things do happen (and often!) and through it all, Nakaba remains a character that while, not as physically strong as others, is smart and decisive. 

Overall, Dawn of the Arcana takes what started out as a simple premise and reveals information little by little, thickening the plot and naturally introducing new characters. The three main characters go through some character development (some more than others) and while there are classic shoujo elements, the fantasy elements really outweighed any clichés. The ending is ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS. Actually, the last 4 or so volumes were amazing that I reread them each twice. The final volume will tear your heart into itty bitty pieces and will probably cause you to switch your favorite character choice (sorry Akhil). I definitely recommend this series, and while in the middle of the series, it may get a bit sluggish, it really is necessary to the rest of the plot. Also, after the final volume, do yourself a favor and read through the earlier volumes again - you will see various actions and events in a whole new light :) 

I actually don't want to return this series to the library...maybe I should just buy all 13 volumes...maybe..

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