Shrine of the Morning Mist (aka: Asagiri no Miko) Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Release Date: Tuesday, May 09, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Ugawa Hiroki
Translated by:Jeremiah Bouroque
Adapted by:

What They Say
Sisters Kurako, Yuzu and Tama are Miko priestesses, entrusted with keeping an eye on the often volatile spirit world. But when you're a teenager like Yuzu, you want nothing more than to lead a normal life and deal with growing up and falling in love. Enter Tadahiro, the sisters' cousin, who has a mysterious connection to Yuzu's past--and a strained relationship with his other relatives. Alas, family drama may have to wait! The spirit world suddenly shifts out of balance, unleashing demons into our world who have set their sights on Tadahiro...

The Review
Packaging:
Solid job by TOKYOPOP here. While I think the logo is a little confusing, the rest of the manga is fine. First TOKYOPOP uses the original cover art. The cover for volume one, features an image of one of the miko, Yuku in traditional costume, on of her family's shrine. The image is filled with blues and greens that really made Yuzu and her outfit jump out at readers. The opposite cover has a parchment look to it, with an image of a demon attacking Yuzu's shrine. The brushwork of the monster on the parchment looked great, though it did reduce the quality of the image itself.

The logo just did not work for me. The font is ridiculous as it completely ignores the somber tone of this title. I don't know what the wings are about. I don't understand the point of the lantern. The simple design on the spine worked much more for me.

Inside the printing is strong and for this title that is critical. Ugawa has some light line work and does not rely on tone, so clean prints with good cropping helped made this release look good and read well. Everything from tone to Ugawa's brushwork looked very nice. This title is very short on extras, but TOKYOPOP did include a family tree and a preview blurb for volume 2.

Artwork:
The interesting thing about Ugawa's art is how he is able to change styles. Not only can he sketch and ink, but he can draw with a brush. His monsters are often brushed in giving them a unique look to them that feels more like it belong in a painting or ukyo-e instead of a manga.

Then with his normal character designs, he decides to be a minimalist. There is very little texturing or the depth is not done to death with heavy tone use either. However, looking closer you can see that Ugawa does try to put some emphasis to specific details like eyes, expressions and wrinkles. It is subtle, especially with the light inking but mainly you get designs done with thin line work that tends to emphasize rounder shorter looking shapes. None of the characters are bouncy or too long. In general, these characters just look simple and cute. But with this series that works.

The rest of the title is clean and effective. Backgrounds are very nicely drawn and they are used with a relatively high frequency. Ugawa is really able to capture scenes very well; whether it is a train station or a Shinto shrine or mist covered valley he draws them all with detail. This is critical to this title because the backgrounds help set a tone for the story. There are plenty of somber moments where characters are lost in thought or reminiscing. To have the fog and see the hills poking through or to see the detail of the Imperial Home during a briefing with the Crown Princess gives these respective scenes more impact. Maybe the dialogue and action is not that intense, but the scenery and the emotion are.

Text/SFX:
TOYKOPOP has seriously been stepping up in this department recently. One of the best things I have noticed is how TOKYOPOP is starting to be a little more direct in how they present communication markers. TOKYOPOP seems to be using honorifics a lot more lately. Honorifics are great for dramas because readers can immediately see the cast's social status. Furthermore, TOKYOPOP is also starting to follow that up by maintaining the names in the same way that they were used originally. So we begin to see last names used instead of sticking with first names at all times. That is just perfect. It shows how close these characters (or are not) to each other and that is how teens talk. If there is one thing I was curious about, it was the shortening of names. This is the first time I have read this title, so I don't know if Ugawa did this but Tadahiro was often referred to as Hiro. As efficient as that is, it takes away from the significance the "Tada" kanji has. Every male in Tadahiro's father's family had that "Tada" and every male was a part of the curse(?) has in his family lineage. This being a story of family and heritage, the "Tada" might not be directly tied to that, but it is a good reminder for readers in the future.

SFX are not translated. Seriously, the inconsistency is what bugs me from TOKYOPOP. Come on even Dark Horse is translating them in their new titles now.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tadahiro has been abandoned by his parents. Maybe it is his illness or maybe it is his mother's work commitments, but he has lived on his own for a while. Moving from one home to another has been normal for him over the last five years. When we are introduced to Tadahiro, we see him on his way to his new temporary home. He has lived in this town before and he knows his new hosts very well also, however he cannot come to feel comfortable about this new move.

He is moving in with family. The cousins he grew up with are still in this area and he feels he will be imposing on their kindness. They will be giving him room and board but most importantly the family he has been missing for so long. It is not as if he has never lived on his own before, he has even worked to pay his way before. This situation with all the memories and all the history flooding back at him is all just too sudden. Then add his strange reunion at the train station that had more magic and mysticism than hugs and stories. Moreover, there was the strange awakening of something potentially evil inside him, which was much more than he wanted to know on the first day in his new home. So now not only is his family going take care of him at home, but now they are going to be his personal band of bodyguards! And who knows maybe his relatives will eventually have to save him from the evil within him. His pride as a man must be reeling!

Maybe it was wrong for Tadahiro to even consider trying this. Maybe it would be best for him to move out. He would not have to worry about imposing and if these random assaults continue, he might keep them from harm. However, is that what his family wants? And is that what is best for him? In addition, that monster he saw at the station was not even Yuzu's dad. That man is a monster of a completely different breed, which is just as menacing. Nevertheless, this man has a point. Tadahiro should not impose and if he does, he has to pull his own weight.

If this is going to work, it is obvious Tadahiro is going to have to look deep inside him and he has to open up to the advice of others. Best is to get some perspective that does not come from Mr. Heida. Maybe his older cousin Kurako or his aunt Miyuki can shed some light as to what might be best for him. Alternatively, maybe talking to his deceased father might clear his mind. All he knows right now is that he cannot shake this sense of unease he has. Is it because of that joke he just heard... "So many eyes are on you." Whatever that means, he knows his life has changed already. Furthermore, he knows he better learn to change before it is too late for him.

Comments
Coming from small publisher Shonen Gahosha, I was first introduced to the Asagiri property when I saw the anime. I have to say, I enjoyed the mix of action and high school bishojo friendship that made up so much of the title. The slice of life nature of that version really intrigued me, so when I heard TP picked this title up I was pretty excited to see someone take a chance on this series.

I came into this title expecting much of the same style of story telling, and got that in spades. However, what I also found how the story was quite different from the animated version. Therefore, around the same personable story telling and pacing, a story of mythology and Japanese politics has sprouted. I honestly was pleasantly surprised, because I realized that this part was also new to the main character. Tadahiro knows about his unique condition. He is quickly introduced to those who want to exploit him. However, the reader has to solve the mystery of Tadahiro's connection with the Imperial House as he figures it out. I almost felt like I was there with him, hanging out on the Shinto shrine Tadahiro's staying at listening in on his conversations. It is that personable.

Like the morning mist, this title is quietly going to surprise many readers. Ugawa's art and pacing set up a complex story based on a cast that shares a lot of history. The intimate nature where Ugawa might spend a chapter with his characters just discussing personal matters had me riveted. I wanted to get more background and see more interactions, because I wanted to learn more about this cast. Then add some twisted humor from Dad and Asagiri just covers everything. Honestly, I do not see many flaws and TOKYOPOP's presentation supported that. TP's print is solid, their translation is fine and they maintained the somber nature of this title very well by not overdoing the cover.

I do not think this title is for everyone. Shrine is really for someone looking for a good read, not excitement or romance. Nevertheless, what you get with this title is something calm and fuller than most anything that I have seen in their library. Definitely a great addition to an improving seinen lineup. (Who says TOKYOPOP cannot do sophisticated?!)



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 196
ISBN: 1-598163434
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left