Nephilim Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Julie Rosato
Review Date: Monday, May 12, 2008
Release Date: Wednesday, April 30, 2008



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Anna Hanamaki
Translated by:Miki Hensley
Adapted by:Jessica Stewart

What They Say
Nephilim - a unique race that turns male by day and female by night. Labeled as "Gods of Death," it is said that whoever glances upon their bewitching night beauty will meet with certain death. Unfortunately for the playboy imperial soldier Gai, such an occurrence earns him a beautiful angel of death named Abel hellbent on taking his life.

Then again, having a beautiful girl/boy obsessively chasing after him may not be so bad. Will Gai's expert playboy skills be able to conquer the beautiful Nephilim? Or will Abel succeed in killing the man who saw her true form?


The Review
Good fantasy elements > A believable romance.

Packaging:
Aurora mostly follows the industry standard here; B6 size, original cover art, and no color plate. Paper and print quality are actually quite good, however, and might justify the slightly increased price point - already a rising trend in the industry, especially with these smaller publishers.

This is not a poorly-presented book overall, but the cover really bothers me. The original image is used but it has been cropped and zoomed. The reason is obvious - to keep it PG - and I don't begrudge Aurora their feeling it necessary. A naked girl, even with hair covering up the naughty bits, is still a naked girl, and that lewd smirk on Guy's face doesn't help a whit. The problem is that the cropping, together with the size and position of the text, results in a cover that feels lopsided, and it puts all the focus on Guy. His stature and expression overwhelm the vapid-looking Abel and his center placement moves the eye away from the pair as a couple. Add to that the soft color scheme and this book is likely to draw interest only from female readers, despite the fact that there's a naked girl right there on the cover. Perhaps necessary, but an unfortunate and limiting change all the same.

Artwork:
The art here is capable, but not amazing. Character work is reasonably consistent, action scenes easily followed, and costume and backgrounds are suitable for the fantasy setting. Guy looks the part of your typical fantasy hero, but channels a little Indiana Jones for fun. He's broad shouldered and sexy, with clothes perfectly tailored to expose his chest just so. His whip is deadly, but the gun is anachronistic. Abel is pretty and manages to look the same in either form (save a few eyelashes and a few feet of hair), successfully avoiding clumsy figure changes which are so often an artistic pitfall in gender-bending titles. Panel layout is simple and straightforward; it doesn't hinder the story, but does little to help it - especially with its awkward time jumps. Art reproduction looks very good; this book was printed in Japan, and you can tell.

SFX/Text:
The script reads well; dialog has a good flow and the characters have distinct and appropriate voices. I didn't notice any typos or obvious mistakes. Language can be a little strong, but falls within the range of this book's OT rating. All SFX are subtitled and don't generally interfere with the artwork. The only thing keeping the text grade from an A is one very annoying trait, found all across Aurora's publishing lines: Japanese text is left on the page for all asides or handwritten text, whether it's in a bubble or not. Thankfully a translation is always provided, but there is just no reason to leave the Japanese text behind. At best, the result is crowded white space or covered artwork, at worst, it looks sloppy and unprofessional - particularly when it's a text bubble with a translation outside.

Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
The Nephilim are a race of cursed forest nomads whose territory lies between two warring factions of one country. These peculiar beings change gender by day, and it's said that anyone who sees their true gender at night is fated to die. Sir Guy, on a quest through the forest to rescue the kidnapped Lady Mia, has the misfortune to stumble upon one such Nephilim.

Seeing Abel's true form was just an accident, but nonetheless, for her to live, Guy must die by her hand. He's not too keen on the idea - at least not until he's rescued Lady Mia. This infuriates poor Abel, as one might expect. Unable to successfully kill Guy, Abel tags along on his journey, hoping to settle the score eventually. Along the way she learns a little bit about love from unexpected sources, and he routinely fends off her attacks. They connect every once in awhile, so you know there's a little something brewing under the surface, but the story never forgets that it started with a kidnapping, and has the common sense to end with its resolution. Unfortunately, it also wants to wrap the love stuff up at the same time; the result is a cliffhanger.

Comments
Nephilim isn't too bad as a fantasy title, but it doesn't succeed as a compelling romance. Guy's playboy exterior/sensitive interior is balanced well enough if you pay attention, but by comparison, Abel is left largely undeveloped. Frankly, with just over three chapters here, there wasn't enough time to really explore their feelings, so the romance just left me cold. Guy also ends up the far more interesting of the pair - not a terrible thing on its own, but a disappointment given how strong a lead female Abel could have been. Not only is she too weak to fulfill her duty of killing Guy - despite having the strength to survive would-be fatal wounds, scale towers, and rescue fair maidens - but boy form Abel is too often reduced to girlish tendencies. Failing to capitalize on the possibilities provided by its premise, the story is unable to rise above average, and worse, sometimes feels a bit like a "BL cheat."

The short nature of this series might be to blame for its various flaws, so it's possible that volume two will deliver better results. The direction of this volume's end suggests good news for Abel's character development, but with the crux of the romance already achieved, it's likely to be too little too late on that front. I may be putting undeserved expectations on the second half, but still, with its semi-cliffhanger ending, I'd like to see the story to its conclusion.

There are better series out there than this, but a tentative recommendation for fans of light fantasy looking for a small commitment would be fair. Seasoned readers looking for depth should take a pass.



Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Aurora Publishing, Inc.
MSRP: 10.95
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-1934496152
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Nephilim