Adapted By: N/A
What They Say:
A royal maid named Ana, and a nearby kingdom's young prince, Zelos, have been accidentally bound together by a magical curse. The two 15-year olds are now each only 10 years of age! They both retain the ability to transform back to their original age, but at the cost of knocking the other down to a mere 5 years old! Now the age-shifting pair must search for a way to break the curse while also trying to avert the disaster facing their two kingdoms!
What We Say:
Although this was an advance reading copy and there is no real packaging, the cover illustration showing Zelos at 15, 10, and 5 years of age is worth noting. It’s simple yet appealing, and gives a good overall idea of what the art inside looks like.
The art for this series is, to put it concisely, appropriate. The character designs often fall into stereotypes, but for the most part clean and appealing. Some do match so well with the character’s personality that they come across as boring, particularly the doll-like Lulu and morally upright Mervyn. The two main characters look appropriately attractive and charming in their natural bodies, and downright adorable when reduced to five-year-olds. There is a distinct architectural style given to Lumbli and Orioc, even if it isn’t apparent from some of the early pages. With the long journey that Zelos and Ana are forced into being the main plot of the last three chapters, I expected more detailed settings than what was given; still, there is enough background illustration to give some idea of where they are and what it looks like.
Unfortunately, things do get muddled and confusing too often for easy reading. Some of the more action-filled scenes have too many panels and lack a clear sense of direction, making it difficult to tell exactly what is going on at first glance. Transitions between different scenes are also often abrupt, a fault which becomes most apparent in the last chapter.
There is nothing horribly wrong with the translation of 1520, but there’s nothing exceptional about it, either. Most of the SFX have been replaced, although a few do remain in their original language. There isn’t much variety in the font used for the effects, but there also aren’t a large number of them in the first place, so it isn’t as noticeable as it might be in an action-oriented title. Some of the phrasing is off, even when considering that most of the characters are speaking in a more refined, royal manner. Comma usage is minimal, and conjunctions seem to be placed in a haphazard manner, particularly when it comes to Zelos’s speech. Rougher phrasing has been mostly removed by the end of the volume, but there are still some issues. However, the book that I was given is not the finished product, so there could still be some changes in this area.
The countries of Orioc and Lumbli couldn’t be more different. One is wealthy and filled with courtly nobility, while the other is so poor that the royal family can’t even pay its servants enough to live on. Despite this, when Zelos, the young prince of poor Lumbli, is betrothed to Princess Luluronika of Orioc, only child of King Snowflake, he wants out of the arrangement. The feeling only intensifies when he sees just how wasteful the princess and her maidservant, Ana, are. With all of the extra food lying around, he manages to sneak some cake that Ana had tried a piece of earlier--a cake that was poisoned by someone in the royal circle and meant for Princess Lulu.
With that, Zelos and Ana find that they have a total of twenty years of age to share between them. Moreover, whenever Zelos cries (courtesy of the onions he loves so much) or Ana laughs, they are able to take five years from the other person, thus alternating between five, ten, and fifteen years of age. Luckily, Ana’s grandmother, known as “Granny Aileen,” is able to sort out their curse and direct them towards someone who might be able to cure them. Traveling is far from easy for the bickering pair, especially when dutiful Ana is convinced that she ought to act like a servant and Zelos can’t help but go out of his way to save the people who need it.
Series that depend heavily on their characters, whether in combination with or in lieu of plot, can be tricky to pull off. All that it takes is one mildly annoying character being focused on for too long to dispel a reader’s interest, and 1520 almost falls into that trap. Zelos and Ana, a prince from a poor country and a royal maid from a rich one, are at their best when they’re together, which doesn’t happen until forty pages in. Ana gets relatively little focus before that point, but Zelos borders on gratingly chipper and righteous in the early pages. Once their curse forces them together, their interactions are far more entertaining. It’s a nice twist to see a story in which two characters from different backgrounds can go on any sort of quest without one of them constantly needing to be rescued by the other. One particularly delightful scene involves a five-year-old Ana standing up to a fifteen-year-old Zelos and reaching a truce that doesn’t feel forced or contrary to either character’s nature. Unfortunately, their separation follows just a chapter later.
The main flaw of the series is that the author doesn’t seem able to control multiple storylines at one time. Whereas the first four chapters have a decent balance, the fifth has far too much crammed into its twenty-three pages. Four points of view (one of which contains a flashback) would be hard enough to manage in such a short space, but KAI resolutely pushes the plot forward while leaving some events unexplained and lacking any . Too-convenient plot devices also pop up more than once or twice, marring an otherwise enjoyable read. Any chapter other than the last one provide plenty of evidence as to why this series was a runner up at the 2007 International Manga Awards.