Aquarian Age - Juvenile Orion Vol. #04 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Release Date: Monday, August 02, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Gokurakuin Sakurako (Concept: BROCCOLI/Nakai Marekatsu)
Translated by:Rei Hagihara
Adapted by:

What They Say
After coming to terms with the dark side of the dark side of both their pasts, Mana and Tsukasa decide to move forward. The power of the Aquarian Age is a double-edge sword. They realize that their powers may harm others, but can also be used to protect those they love.

Meanwhile, Kaoru and her group continue their twisted game of hunting those with power, and Mana is their next target. Kaname, Naoya, Isshin, Tsukasa, and Tomonori rush to save her, but Kaoru's men stand before them. The final battle between hatred and love is about to begin!


The Review
Packaging:
Broccoli Books continues to be the standard for packaging in North America. The front cover has an angsty Shiba Isshin wearing a sleeveless Chinese outfit. The opposite cover has an SD Isshin sitting beneath the blurb. Inside there is nice paper, really good printing and a color image featuring bishies Isshin and Kaname inside the front cover. Bro-Books have included tons of omake at the end of the manga: translation notes, character profiles, card illustration collection, and a two-page long sneak preview of volume 5, CD drama transcripts, and a complete card list for the fourth Aquarian Age card game. There are a few ads for: Aquarian Age: the Movie, I'm Gonna Be an Angel, Juvenile Orion merchandise, Until the Full Moon and Galaxy Angel. Readers who order this directly from Broccoli through AnimeGamers.com or send in $1.50 worth in stamps can get a dust jacket featuring the male cast members in matching outfits... with Isshin showing some skin. Woah!

Artwork:
Gokurakuin's art is very stylish and generally just plain cute. Her lines are very thing, long and sketchy. Her lines tend to give her characters a very lean look to them. Costume designs are pretty cool but unless there is a cover or chapter header, the cast is usually in their school uniforms. If there is anything I do not like about her character designs, it is her eyes. They look so empty, even though the irises have a lot of detailing. They look weird. The background art is not great. Actually, when they are drawn in they look okay but Gokurakuin does not draw them much. The layout is solid. There is a lot of variety in perspective and point of view. Some panels even help with setting up mood and pacing, which helps a lot as this title does not have a lot of dialogue.

Text/SFX:
The translation for this series is great. They use honorifics all the time, which really helps define the relationships that these characters have with each other. They also keep a feeling of individual personalities for each character. This series is not really dialogue heavy but how Broccoli translated that dialogue with accuracy and care for the original work is really impressive. This series does not have a lot of SFX, but the few are present are all translated by using a mix of subs and overlays. The overlays have been done to reflect the art used for the original SFX. The subs are done with a thin font as to not compromise Gokurakuin-sensei's art.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Not entirely aware of the limits of her power Kirihara Mana, a mind breaker, has won over the hearts and souls of six warriors battling for the Aquarian Age. Up to this point, the lives of these classmates and comrades was filled with pain and confusion as there is a war happening out there that most of a humanity is not entrenched in and reporting on. This war would normally be tearing friends like Kaname and Naoya or Tsukasa and Nakaura-sensei apart. As each comes from a different faction common sense would say there would be no way for these enemies to coincide, but Mana's sincerity and compassion has broken the wall around there hearts to bring them together. And now that they are united determined to fight to protect their friendships they must be even stronger to succeed.

There are movements to end the Aquarian Age beginning a process to send the world into chaos. A group of warriors calling themselves Psychic Hunters decided to through away the future. They wish to fight for fun; kill for power; and would destroy the Earth because of their own insecurities. This war will end up confirming the feelings Mana's friends have, but it will also start to cast doubt within members of both sides in regards to their attachment to this world and to those they care for... if they care at all.

Comments
The power of friendship is a theme in many titles, and in Juvenile Orion, it goes to a different level. Kirihara Mana with her unconditional friendship is able to bring together six young men from opposing backgrounds together as they attempt to survive in a war that only psychics can see. Mana's friendship the courage for some of them to accept the pain they lived through. It is the reminder that there are classmates and relatives that care and are there for support and will want support if the time comes. It is the answer for why some people fight, where their strength is focused on protection of that friendship. It is also the only thing Kaname has in this world. Losing Mana and their feelings is too much to lose on a personal level, it is even more important the potential of losing the Earth. What these six did not know is that their feelings for Mana have made her much stronger in other ways. She is able to stand up to the abuse she receives for her friends and as long as she knows they believe in each other. There is nothing that can take that away from her.

This concept has been missing for most of this series. There were moments here and there, where each character would find moments where they were confused as to how they felt about each other. Their backgrounds would normally have them fighting each other to the death. However, for the longest time their lives were not about factions and war; they were just classmates and friends. Now that they are aware of their historical differences their personal history together is what keeps them together as they realize their relationships are more important than fighting wars that may never end. It is a great concept and the execution is done perfectly. Each character comes to terms on their own pace. They each have their own reasoning, which is derived from their relationship with Mana. It is as if there is so little between them even though they are so different. But aren't we all similar in many ways, despite all of our differences. Good stuff.

Through the first three volumes, I was just coasting alone with Juvenile Orion, as it has always been a fun cute title. Unfortunately, I could not get (actually still do not fully understand) the concepts of the different factions, nor could I understand what the Aquarian Age is as none of it has been explained in any way. Nevertheless, with this volume finally moving towards a conclusion and some answers appear to be close to being solved, I have been drawn in again. The concept of a mind reader, someone who can manipulate the souls of those with supernatural powers, is really intriguing. After seeing how strong that power can be, I was pleased to see Gokurakuin-sensei make use of that talent in ways that not only empower her characters but give them a sense of understanding of what they fight for and what that means to them. So after so much cuteness and angst, there is finally some good drama!! Add that to the good art, marvelous packaging and translation and I cannot help but recommending this volume.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A/A+
Text/Translatin Rating: A
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Broccoli Books
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 198
ISBN: 1-932480-12-9
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left