Translated by:Duane Johnson
What They Say
In the kingdom of Exkuld witches run rampant, having abandoned faith and disgraced God to live instead as hated devil-worshippers. Judged guilty by the clergy in God's name, these witches are burned in witch hunts. This is an epic love story of a fateful girl captured as a witch and a humble knight who risks breaking the taboo of "deicide."
The first volume of Knights has been given what is easily the best packaging I’ve ever seen on a ten dollar title. The dust jacket alone is enough to make it stand out from other releases, but the inside of the book is also very well done. Pages are a brighter white than what you see from most other publishers, and the print quality is very crisp and clean. The blacks are also very deep; when considering the stress on the visual difference between white and black in the story, it’s a great benefit. We only get one color page in the volume, which is nicely printed.
The only thing that I’m not sold on is the cover, a near duplicate of the Japanese original. I believe the only difference is the purple “Digital Manga Publishing” bar along the bottom of the front panel On the whole, it is very striking, and I love the contrast between the black of Mist’s figure with the bright red of the background. It’s everything other than that which I have a problem with. The logo’s lettering is a little strange, but it’s the colors that are garish. The red does not contrast enough with the red of the background, while the green-to-purple sword that forms the ‘t’ of the title is offsetting and unappealing. The white sketch of Nina on a cross above that also feels a little tacked on; I’d like the cover far better if it was just Mist.
I like Murao’s art more and more each time that I look through this volume, even if I’m not sold on a lot of the character designs. The artist does prefer clean, simple faces for his protagonists, and that shows. Good characters are almost always more attractive than evil ones, which can become grating. An innocent remark from Mist on the last page implies that the artist perfectly aware that this sort of stereotyping is a little ridiculous. However, I love just about everything else. Backgrounds are beautifully rendered on some pages, even if buildings tend to look sparse and comic when they shrink far enough into the background. They are also not always entirely consistent from page to page, although there was only one point where it was noticeable enough to jump out at me.
The best part of the art is definitely the fight scenes. Mist‘s variety of attacks mean that they never feel repetitive, yet panels are also dynamic and easy to follow. Murao is able to draw consistently proportional characters while also giving a sense of movement and stress to their motions. He also uses a variety of interesting angles while opting to keep page layouts simple and easy to follow for most part. More creative layouts are coupled with some of the most striking art in the book, rendering those pages very effective.
DMP has given a treatment to their sound effects that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. The smallest effects are completely replaced by their English equivalents. Larger effects have their translations printed alongside, but rather than leave them in the tiny text that most publishers favor, DMP ups the size. I like this treatment a lot; it makes the SFX easier to read, which of course gives them greater dramatic effect, yet the original SFX remain intact.
They’ve also provided translations for the German-named sword attacks on the bottoms of the pages where they are mentioned, and at times give a brief explanation on why the translation is appropriate. Other than that mild, necessary distraction, the dialogue reads fairly smoothly other than the occasional awkward wording. My one big complaint is that when words are drawn out by a character, it is conveyed via the repetition of a single letter. Although this technique works, it looks strange on the page and pulls me out of the story.
Set in a pseudo-medieval European location, Knights takes a highly exaggerated, fictional form of the Spanish Inquisition and focuses on those who sought to end the huge death tolls. The main protagonist, Mist, is a squire whose dark skin and black hair have garnered him the nickname of the Black Knight. We first see him and his partner, the self-proclaimed witch Euphemia, rescuing a young woman, Nina, from being burned at the stake. Nina instantly falls for her “knight in shining armor,” paying no attention to the strange appearance that earned him so much hatred from others.
After rescuing Nina again from a priest who seeks to force her to admit to practicing witchcraft for his own benefit, Mist and Euphemia continue on their quest to end the witch hunts. They free a woman named Luise, who has been tricked into believing that she herself is a witch. Although this chapter doesn’t provide much in terms of plot other than one development on the last pages, it does continue to reinforce the concept that just about every priest out there is evil. On a more positive note, Mist and Euphemia’s treatment of the young woman hints at other dimensions of their personalities.
The next town that they arrive in sees Mist reunited with his comrade Sir Wilhelm just before two individuals with superhuman powers arrive. Members of a group of “saints,” the man and woman have been given their extraordinary powers in return for cleansing a large number of witches by burning them at the stake. Although Wilhelm is severely injured, Mist manages to kill “Saint” Odo, who burned members of the town as witches en masse. Euphemia, on the other hand, simply incapacitates the unnamed female saint. Meanwhile, Nina has escaped from her father’s castle to search for Mist with traveling partner Leonard Scott. The pair arrives at the town after Mist has already departed, only to add a third member to their group--the long-haired saint that Euphemia and Mist were fighting…
Knights was an interesting reading experience for me. The first time I read it, I didn’t care for it very much at all. Yet every time that I picked it up to read it again for the sake of the review, I enjoyed it more and more. The plot isn’t particularly convoluted or difficult to follow, but there are times when things progress from one point to another without any explanation of what happened in between. And although there was a 16+ rating on this volume, I was still surprised at some of the torture methods and number of sexual references. Just take a look at Euphemia’s clothing (or, rather, lack thereof) and you’ll get an idea of what’s in store for this volume.
There is also such a divide between the “good” and the “evil” right now that it’s hard to take any of the antagonists seriously. The protagonists, too, are a little too flat to enjoy. Their interactions are somewhat charming, and hints at deeper personalities are interspersed throughout, but time will tell whether that pays off or not. Euphemia’s method of dealing with enemy forces is something I don’t think I’ll ever become comfortable with either, and the less I see of it in the future, the better. As far as the setting goes, the quasi-medieval time period is detailed enough to be convincing, and accurate enough not to throw off those with a casual knowledge of the era.
As much as I enjoyed reading Knights the third and fourth time through, it’s not a masterpiece. There are too many confusing plot holes and logical fallacies for the story to even be considered above average. Some nice mysteries have been presented, such as who assigned Mist to destroy the witch hunts and exactly where Sir Wilhelm and Leonardo Scott fit into this entire plot. I can’t really see the quality of the series dropping from here on out; it looks to improve or remain at the level it is right now.