la Esperanca Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 1569709335
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

la Esperanca Vol. #01

By Megan Meinhard     October 18, 2006
Release Date: October 20, 2005

la Esperanca Vol.#01
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Chigusa Kawai
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
Adapted by:

What They Say
In a European school dorm, Georges Saphir is admired and loved by everyone. However, afraid of others doing him harm, he has never allowed anyone to get close. Why is it then that misfit Robert can effortlessly step over this line Georges has drawn, and see right through him? And will getting too close to Robert result in a tragedy that justifies his worst fears?

The Review
In the secluded microcosm of an all boys Catholic school, two boys begin to explore what their tragic pasts have done to change the way they relate to people.

The packaging on this is truly amazing. As with other DMP products in their Yaoi/June line, this comes with a dust jacket. The cover has four dark pink panels at every corner, forming a cross of non-overlaid color in the center. The title is in a cursive script in the lower-bottom half of the cover. The two boys--Georges is the blond, Robert the brunet--glance at the reader, as though they've been interrupted in the middle of a moment together. The spine is in black, with the title in the same cursive purple. The same picture as on the cover is at the top, and the DMP logo is at the bottom. On the back to the right, there is a full length picture of the two boys standing next to one another in a cathedral, looking in the opposite direction. Next to the panel is the synopsis; below that there is the price, rating, and genre. Above the synopsis is the title once again.

The best part is underneath the dust jacket. DMP has kept the original humorous manga on the back, and the images of the boys reading their scripts "on the set" of La Esperanca on the front. It's really a subtle, unique touch that shows DMP is committed to giving us exactly what was in the Japanese original.

The only other extras are Kawai's notes in back, where she gives short insight into every chapter along with her life, and character profiles.

Kawai's art is about on par with what you get from most BL authors, though her faces have an annoying tendency to go off model at certain angles. This makes the characters' already large chins look absolutely enormous. There is also an issue with two of her character designs looking almost exactly the same. So if you're not reading carefully, in those moments when they're having a conversation, it can be hard to tell which is which. She's proficient at dynamic poses--there's one scene that catches the eye when the taller Robert is hovering around Georges and teasing him as they walk along that has very good body language. Her panels are also somewhat busy, but the more detailed backgrounds help with making the manga feel like it really does take place outside Japan. Kawai also does some nice stuff with screentone and light shining through windows that adds nice emphasis to scenes. The printing of the book itself is good and crisp; no bleeds or other issues that caught my eye.

While there are no major grammatical errors, the script is awkward in places. It might be that the translation is a little overly literal, and that's what makes it somewhat stilted. Even when the boys are talking amongst themselves, there are moments of incongruous stiffness. Overall, it's not so bad that the book suffers from it, but it is noticeable. Spoken dialogue outside the speech bubbles has been edited and translated, but the SFX themselves have been kept and an English translation put next to them.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Angelic fourteen year old Georges Saphir's life is shaken by the arrival of bad boy Robert Jade to their illustrious Catholic private school. Georges strives to treat those around him with kindness, even at the expense of his own desires. While this makes him well liked by his other classmates, it also keeps him from getting close to anyone, for fear that he might hurt or be hurt by them. Robert immediately picks up on this and delights in tormenting Georges in an attempt to get past George's outer layer. He's convinced that Georges can't really be as good as he acts.

Though we get some tantalizing hints about a tragedy in Robert's past, this first volume is mainly about exploring Georges and what makes him tick. The first story in the book tells about the first meeting between Robert and Georges, and how they eventually come to an equilibrium in their different beliefs. The second story introduces Frederic, a powerful duke's son that transfers into the school. Georges is assigned to be Frederic's "official friend", a position that makes Frederic treat him more like a slave until he realizes that George is genuine in his overtures of friendship. The last full story also introduces a new character that knows about Robert's past. Alain has decided that Robert doesn't deserve happiness, and when he sees that Robert has become drawn to Georges, Alain targets him. George's friend, Henri, also tries to drive a wedge between Georges and Robert, fearful that Robert will end up hurting him. The last "chapter" is a disjointed, but dramatic preview of what's to come.

Eventually, Georges begins to realize that holding people at arm's length can hurt them just as much as betrayal, but he doesn't completely buy into Robert's "me centered" ideology. This causes emotional friction between the two, as Robert is obviously attracted to George's goodness even as he wants to knock him off his pedestal. Georges also is attracted to Robert's free manner, but can't allow himself to let go of his unselfish habits for fear he'll end up like his ruthless, debt-collector father. Through their interactions with one another, their ideals are challenged in a way that leads both of them to take the first steps to emerge from the walls they've built around themselves.

Foreign boarding schools have been a fertile playing-ground for BL stories since their inception. Kawai's themes and characters are hardly new to the genre, but like a well-worn favorite, you'll find yourself getting sucked in anyway. The series often slips into melodrama, even at times when subtlety would be best; Kawai has a tendency to spell out her conflicts a little too heavily, which keeps this volume from achieving the emotional heights it so obviously wants to. Nevertheless, if you have a weakness for Catholic schoolboys like yours truly, it's a worthy, engaging addition to your collection.


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