Aventura Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: B

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Info:

  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.95
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 0-345-49744-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Aventura

Aventura Vol. #01

By Greg Hackmann     December 27, 2007
Release Date: November 30, 2007


Aventura Vol.#01
© Del Rey


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Shin Midorikawa
Translated by:Elina Ishikawa
Adapted by:Elina Ishikawa

What They Say
Since ancient days, the Gaius School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has trained the fiercest swordsmen and the most powerful wizards. Now one boy could become the greatest of them all. If he studies hard. If he is true to his friends. If he believes. And if he survives...

The Review
Not content to be a pure fantasy manga nor a pure action manga, Aventura straddles the two genres with fairly good results.

Packaging:
Aventura's front cover is puzzling, as it shows Lewin dressed up in a regal cape and crown, apparently fleeing from a lion -- despite the fact that neither of these things ever actually happen in these early chapters. Without knowing what happens in later volumes, I don't know if the cover art is spoiling future story events, or just throwing in whatever random fantasy stereotypes that came to the artist's mind at the time; but either way, it's an odd choice for an introductory volume, since it's either too revelatory or misleading. The back cover is sparser, with a smaller illustration of a super-deformed trio of Chris, Soela, and Shokudai. Appropriateness aside, both covers are very nicely detailed and colored, giving the reader a taste of the well-executed artwork inside.

Extras include a two-page character profile and four pages of untranslated art from the forthcoming second volume.

Artwork:
Del Rey has been highlighting Midorikawa's artwork in their marketing campaign for Aventura ... and with good reason. The detailing here is among the most intricate I've seen in a long time; character designs, clothing, and props are all laboriously drawn to the minutest detail, with rich shading and perspective effects adding to the visual appeal. This effect is compounded by an interesting use of negative space; character details like the omnipresent flowing hairdos are drawn with interspersed white lines, effectively creating an illusion of even richer detail without crowding the artwork with outlines.

Unfortunately, this effect simultaneously works against the art at times: it leaves an impression of glitches in the printing process, and the layers upon layers of detail can sometimes be difficult for the reader's eye to process. Aventura's elaborate -- though sometimes overwhelming -- visuals will reward readers who allow extra time to absorb the artwork, but will also likely annoy readers who prefer to skim through the pages at an accelerated pace.

Text/SFX:
The English translation is unobjectionable, with a handful of translation and cultural notes are collected as an appendix for the curious. With so many new releases trying to get overly creative with their use of fonts, it's nice to see Del Rey sticking to the lettering basics here with clean and legible typefaces.

Japanese SFX and signs are translated inline.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
We enter the story as Lewin Randit, a student at the prestigious Gaius School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, is engaged in swordfighting practice. Lewin's inability to master even basic magic spells has made him a notorious figure at Gaius, and earned him such endearing nicknames as "Loser-Kun" (har har) from the obligatory school bully Darwell Turkfan. After losing once again in swordfighting class, Lewin heeds the advice of his dorm's resident fire spirit and scours the school's library for a spell to restore his rusty sword.

Though he doesn't find a remedy among the library's tomes, he does manage to save fellow student Soela Evenport in mid-fall from a floating gondola. Lewin's reputation as an inept magician has proceeded him; but Soela and trusty sidekick Chris Cottenburg take a liking to him anyway, and they discuss with Lewin their recent assignment to map ten magical barriers located throughout the schoolgrounds. They are shocked to discover that Lewin can name all ten off the bat: while Lewin has simply assumed that these walls were prominent parts of the school's architecture, they are in fact invisible to the rest of the student population.

The trio soon start dedicating their free time to repairing Lewin's sword, but only manage to conjure up small explosions along the way. Lewin's swordsmanship begins showing marked improvements in the meantime, attracting unwanted attention from students and faculty alike. But Chris crosses the line one day when, desperate to speed up the repair process, he sneaks himself and his friends into the school's storage room and absentmindedly starts tampering with the room's contents. In a rush to slip out of the room undetected, he lets a mysteriously-unsealed magical vial fall onto the floor and smash open. As luck would have it, the contents of this particular vial summon a vast army of the undead when exposed to oxygen (whoops!), flooding Gaius with scores of animated skeletons and giving Lewin an opportunity to show off his newly-discovered sword-fighting skills.

Comments
The international success of the Harry Potter series has unsurprisingly spawned a number of imitators in all forms of popular culture. And whether intentionally or by sheer coincidence, a cursory read of Aventura reveals a lot of basic elements drawn from the Harry Potter formula. Orphaned boy left to fend for himself in a school of sorcery? Check. Colorful faculty and rich cultural heritage at said school? Check. Good-natured male and female sidekick? Check and check. But while Aventura's first volume can be a frustrating read at times, it also drops hints that Midorikawa is developing something more substantial than Yet Another Derivative Fantasy Manga.

Though these six chapters track only a single overall plot, there's an evident stylistic division between the first three chapters and the last three. The first act generally focuses on developing Aventura's fantasy universe through exposition and conversation among Lewin's classmates and friends, with a few light action pieces mixed in here and there to keep things from dragging too much. But once the undead army begins its rampage at the tail end of the third chapter, the remainder of the book essentially shifts into being one long action sequence; this transformation gives Midorikawa a prime opportunity to show off his artistic skills at the cost of dramatically slowing down plot development. While the transition between these two acts goes off fairly smoothly, the mixing of these two different styles still feels forced; after watching Midorikawa start assemble an elaborate mythos in the book's first few chapters, I was a little disappointed to see the story effectively grind to a halt from the fourth chapter forward.

That said, I'd be more bothered by this intermixing of styles if the book's constituent halves weren't so effective at what they do. If Aventura is a confused muddle of fantasy and action manga in the end, it's at least a confused muddle of good fantasy and good action manga. Before the story derails in the second act, we get glimpses of a rich underlying universe that I'm anxious to see developed in later releases; and Midorikawa's beautiful illustrations make the extended action sequences work well purely the level of eye candy. Recommended.

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