From Far Away Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Audrey Zarr
Review Date: Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Release Date: Monday, November 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kyoko Hikawa
Translated by:Yuko Sawada
Adapted by:

What They Say
On her way home from school one day, Noriko is unexpectedly plunged into a strange and extraordinary fantasy world. Her troubles compound exponentially when she is rescued and befriended by a handsome young man by the name of Izark. He may be brave and courageous, but inside Izark lurks the darkest evil imaginable. And according to an ancient prophecy, Noriko possesses the power to unleash that evil. Now, inexorably bound together, these two unlikely allies must navigate a world both wondrous and hostile.

The Review
Packaging:
The Viz cover art here is actually superior to the original Japanese cover art. Although it is the same picture, Viz has the art (of Noriko holding onto Izark in a pose that forces one to remember the famous Star Wars poster) fill up nearly the entire front instead of boxed into a smaller area. The cover art itself tells you everything you need to know about this volume of manga. Not sure about the choices of pea green and light blue for the color scheme of the rest of the cover and spine. Honestly, overall it works, if it is a bit of a strange choice.

Viz's logo with the title in a flowy font is okay: not offensive, but not necessarily appropriate for the world we fall into. I suspect it was supposed to invoke a dreaminess or elegant quality?

The inside printing is once again in Viz's solid style. In From Far Away, you can really see how good the Viz printing is: look at the several pictures throughout that are mostly black; also notice how all the special dialogue balloons, important for this story, are printed 100% clearly.

Artwork:
We're going to draw like it's 1991. This artwork certainly looks a bit dated, but not off-puttingly so as in some other titles. Character designs are solid; these are characters a reader will enjoy looking at for fourteen volumes. There is a good range as well: from Izark's manly yet bishonen locks to a laugh-out-loud lead-guard's buck teeth. Clothes are simple, but help to define the world itself.

Background art is usually pretty good. Hikawa switches between detailed background drawings and visual shoujo effects with skill; thus we get the best of both worlds.

Overall, the art gives a feeling of soft simplicity that's comforting to the eye. This feeling is only broken by harsh lines of the evil characters, which are only really hinted at in this volume.

SFX/Text:
All SFX are translated...FWOOSH!

There were a couple places in the translations that made me pause and wonder if the original Japanese was different. One example is near the beginning when Noriko's friends mention that her father is a science fiction writer. In all honesty, this could have been in the original, but it gave me pause to wonder. Also, there were several lines of dialogue throughout that seem awkwardly worded. This could simply have been a consequence of this being my second reading and thus I was paying more attention to each sentence.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Noriko, your average Japanese school girl (although it's not made clear what grade she's in, it's safe to assume 10th), has been dreaming about a strange world. Through a strange contrivance (which I can only hope will be explained later) Noriko happens upon a bomb that blows up, sending her into another world. She's not there ten seconds before she runs into her first bishonen... and is saved a few times by said bishonen. It turns out, although she doesn't know it, that Noriko is something called the awakening. It is said that the awakening will awaken the Sky Demon, who is the combination of all dark forces. Izark, we don't yet know why or how, is there to kill the awakening. Just like any nice person, though, he balks at killing an obviously innocent school girl. (One wonders what this story would have looked like if Noriko would have been a forty-year-old male biker.) Instead of killing her, Izark protects Noriko from the dangers that surround them on every side, including people from other kingdoms who would like to have the awakening for their own purposes. As they don't speak the same language, Izark can't explain to Noriko what's happening; but she decides to trust him. (Somewhere you know that Noriko's father was trying to remember if he told his daughter not to take candy from strangers.)

Meanwhile, we learn that in one of the groups that was interested in the awakening there was a father with his young, blind daughter who is a seer. It becomes obvious that although they are good, the rest in their group want the awakening for selfish and evil purposes.

Once they get out of the forest where Noriko first appeared, Izark and Noriko happen upon a trader who was assaulted by bandits. The leader of these bandits makes a reappearance. We learn from the ensuing battle that Izark's powers are rare in this world, and that he is, in fact, extraordinary, though we don't know yet why. The three ride into town to get medical help for the trader. After a good night's rest at the inn in town, Izark wakes up feeling weak and yells at Noriko to stay away from him. Thus we end on a cliffhanger of sorts.

Comments
Ever since Alice fell down the rabbit hole there's been an obsession with school girls, be they English or Japanese, falling into other worlds. This entire volume (and the rest of the series that I've read so far) feels like a comfortable rehash of every other story of its type. Just because there's nothing particularly original about the story, however, doesn't mean it isn't well done. Of note is the fun way the author shows us that Noriko doesn't know the language. Although there are some times when the logical leaps Noriko makes between the language barrier seem a bit unlikely, it's not enough to take away from the story.

Noriko is cut from similar cloth as her successor Miaka Yuuki, but she is not nearly so annoying. Yes, I would like to see Noriko suddenly become super warrior woman and thrown down the enemies by Izark's side, but that isn't in her character or abilities. Part way through the volume she resolves to learn the language so that she can help in at least some minor way in the future; and for a girl in her situation it's hard to ask for more. She's aware of her dependence on Izark and she wants to move away from it if she can.

There are many mysteries hinted at in this first volume that I look forward to learning more about in upcoming installments. What is the awakening? Why is it Noriko? Can Hikawa avoid the temptation of drawing a sky dragon? Being a shoujo you just -know- that a romance between Izark and Noriko will be forthcoming, how that will develop is also a point of interest for reading more.

Nothing break-through or earth shattering in this volume. It took me another volume to be convinced to stay with the series. If you are interested after reading this review, I would recommend finding the first two volumes of From Far Away, sitting down and reading them one right after another. If the story hasn't grabbed you by then, find another series.

Middle Schooler Safe

Totally. There is some minor fantasy violence, which is what they say exactly under the notes on the rating. I had kept my run of From Far Away to re-read, and now that I have, these are going straight to the middle school library.

If You Liked This Story

I'm sure there must be many of you out there who chuckle every time they make it to the back of a shoujo Viz volume and they list an advertisement of "If you liked this manga..." The reason you chuckle is similar to mine: "If you like this manga...you've already read and own all these other volumes of manga". From Far Away is a title you should be picking up if you've read Red River, Fushgi Yuugi and Basara and are looking for a fix right along those lines.

I Wonder Why...

You so rarely see non-fourteen-year-old school girls getting sucked into other worlds. Maybe school girls are more slippery on the dimensional portals or maybe school girls have a certain physical property that allows them to vibrate at the same rate as the strings in other dimensions? Or maybe it's the fact if non-school girls get sucked into other dimensions we get bad things happening like in the Thomas Covenant series.



Mania Grade: 7
Art Rating: 8/10
Packaging Rating: 7/10
Text/Translatin Rating: 7/10
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 190
ISBN: 1-59116-599-7
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left