Seimaden Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Connie Zhang
Review Date: Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Release Date: Sunday, July 31, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:You Higuri
Translated by:Tony Ogasawara
Adapted by:

What They Say
What becomes of a man who spends his life in the underworld for a love that lasts beyond the grave?

Two men battle for the soul of the woman they have lost.
Can one man sacrifice everything for love? Centuries ago, Laures agreed to become a demon to rescue his one true love from evil "only to find that the only way to save her was through death. Laures has waited centuries for her spirit to be reborn to reclaim their love. But now that she is reincarnated, can she possibly accept the love of a creature of the underworld?


The Review
Before Cantarella, there was Seimaden: a love triangle of demonic proportions.

Packaging:
CMX gives Seimaden the royal treatment with four full-color pages featuring a tarot card fortuneteller, a few shots of the ever-effeminate but attractive Laures, and the heroine Hilda. Now, if only they hadn't destroyed the elegance of the Japanese tankouban cover by framing the art in tangerine yellow. Whereas the Japanese cover relies on a darker color palette with Laures and Hilda draped suggestively in purple silk, CMX opted to crop the portrait, deleting their delicate embrace and exotic dress altogether, so that their faces hover disembodied on the cover.

The slanted purple logo is an interesting touch that meshes well with the rest of the off-kilter template, although purple on a backdrop of tangerine yellow barely avoids clashing horribly. The back is similarly skewed with a portrait of Laures looking his feminine best in jewels and capes of every which color. The print reproduction looks good here with sharp lines and no bad distortions. The only extra is a postscript by Higuri explaining the erratic Japanese release schedule and canon discontinuities.

Artwork:
Higuri's art has not aged well. Compared to the sharper, more consistent drawing styles in shoujo/yaoi works out there today, her wavering art style doesn't quite hold up. In her most recent manga, Cantarella, she's clearly in her element with beautifully drawn characters and locales. By contrast, the decade older Seimaden is just lacking...in consistency, in detail, in proportionality. In most of the book, she draws her characters well, but flip a page (or just look one panel down) and they've suddenly morphed into duller, shallower versions of themselves. In some places, she draws the eyes and face exquisitely, but then a few panels later everything looks lifeless. Her biggest problem here is inconsistency.

And she doesn't redeem herself in the backgrounds either. Choosing to focus most of her attention on clothing, she often forgets to draw background art and relies on a litany of generic brick houses or cobblestone streets when she does remember. One area she's mastered, though, is the layout. The action sequences could be less static in some spots, but overall, the art flows smoothly with no crowding or indistinguishable dialogue.

Text/SFX:
The translation is very straightforward, without any errors and with only the occasional awkward phrase. At some points, the dialogue slips sloppily between fancier modes of speech and everyday dialogue, but these inconsistencies are overshadowed by Hilda's sassiness when she's talking to anyone who is not Laures. Especially in her encounters with the villain-of-the-week, she's fierce and brazen. SFX are translated and almost seamlessly integrated, but every now and then, a stray one is not translated for any apparent reason. Sadly, these moments only highlight this volume's theme of inconsistency.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
This tale of tragic romance opens with a scantily clad exotic dancer by the name of Hilda Hildegard (seriously) who works in a seedy tavern where she's ogled by the townspeople (read: dirty men). Unsurprisingly, by page five, Hilda is hit on by a surly drunkard who wants a little more action and, true to damsel-in-distress form, is rescued by an admiring wet-behind-the-ears lad (who, strangely enough, doesn't appear to be wearing pants). But since he's only a wet-behind-the-ears lad, he's easily beaten up to make way for the real hero who swoops in out of thin air to save Hilda.

Enter Laures, Hilda's "patron." He's tall, dark and handsome (in an exaggerated bishounen way) and likes to play vicious games with his victims. He haughtily toys around with the drunkard, who we learn is named Gagul, by making him hallucinate that his arms are being ripped apart. Laures is not only a pretty face " he's feral and demonic. After the one-sided fight, we get the first glimpse that Hilda is a little more than meets the eye: she remembers to thank the lad who rushed to her rescue before being swept away by Laures. Enamored of him, she wonders aloud just why he's always around whenever she's in trouble. After all, she's only a small-time dancer suffering from amnesia, who can remember nothing, but her name.

In the way Laures responds to her anguish, we know immediately that he knows much more about her past than he's saying. After leaving a bewildered Hilda, he transforms into his demonic form " sporting a pair of monstrous batwing ears, and announces himself as the Prince of the Damned, a position complete with disgruntled, fanatical servant Tetius " ironically, the spitting image of an angel " who fears that his master's preoccupation with Hilda can only lead to his downfall. Meanwhile, Hilda comes to the abrupt realization that she knew Laures a long time ago. But before she can rush off to verify her hunch, Gagul's goons kidnap her. Predictably, Gagul wants to make her his "woman" and we get to see another side of Hilda, who's made of stronger stuff than we've been led to believe. Then again, what does she have to worry about when she's got a shadowy savior lurking at ready? Because, yes, Laures dashes to the rescue yet again.

This time, Laures actually rips out one of Gagul's arms and Hilda realizes that her gallant admirer is truly a savage predator. Her pleas to spare Gagul fall on silent ears and disgusted with Laures' barbarism, she finally shows some backbone and runs away swearing that she no longer needs him. However, she's barely out of his sight for two seconds before she needs to be saved again (from flesh-eating fish this time). Who comes dashing to her rescue but boyishly handsome, former lover Roddrick (similarly lacking pants)? The last survivor of his people, he vows to avenge their deaths by killing the demon responsible (read: Laures). And it seems that the Prince of the Damned may not have Hilda's best interests at heart after all...

An epic battle rages between the two while a stunned Hilda watches on, unable to decide whom to trust.

Comments
It's easy to write Hilda off as just another damsel-in-distress and convenient plot device, but she's more than meets the eye. Sure, she constantly needs rescuing, but she can certainly hold her own (at least, verbally). What she can't seem to do is come to a decision about Laures since her brain becomes mush whenever he's around. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. We've all seen our share of headstrong, often obnoxious heroines so Hilda, in striking a balance, has great potential. The rest of the cast is equally promising and brimming with intriguing backstories.

As the foundational volume, Seimaden is ambitious without seeming rushed. Yes, it's fairly predictable so far. Yes, its inconsistencies may be annoying, but anyone who's read Cantarella knows that Higuri can tell a great story when push comes to shove. Recommended.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: CMX
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 180
ISBN: 1-4012-0699-9
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Seimaden