Shiki Tsukai Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: C

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Info:

  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Del Rey
  • MSRP: 10.95
  • Pages: 208
  • ISBN: 0-3454-9925-5
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Shiki Tsukai

Shiki Tsukai Vol. #01

By Ben Leary     February 06, 2008
Release Date: August 30, 2007


Shiki Tsukai Vol.#01
© Del Rey


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yuna Takanagi and To-Ru Zekuu
Translated by:Mayumi Kobayashi
Adapted by:Mayumi Kobayashi

What They Say


The Review
You may be able to harness the power of the seasons, but that's not enough to save you from cliches.

Packaging:
While the contents of the book may not be anything special, this is still a volume that looks pretty good on the shelf. The cover is the glossy sort, with a decent image of the two leads, while the back is a simple text piece laid over some design elements. The spine is very well designed: the multi-coloured lettering set against cheerful yellow makes for something that aquits itself very well on a shelf. Paper and printing are above average for this price range, with nice solid blacks and no visible pulp, even in the largest white areas.

As far as extras go, this is a title that gives you a lot more than usual and probably more than you ought to need. You see, this is a title that doesn't localize very well due to its subject matter, and requires a great deal of explanation when it comes to certain details and background information. At the very beginning of the book we are given an explanation of the lunisolar calendar traditional to Japan and comparisons with the more familiar Gregorian. At the end we get a slew of information on almost everything in the book: charts of season powers and incantations, messages from the creative talent, character profiles, and seven pages (!) of translation notes. These notes are good information in themselves, but become even better as each displays the panel it refers to; that way you don't have to hunt down page numbers in a book that hardly ever displays them. As much as it bothers me that so much data is needed to follow the story, I can't help but be impressed by all these inclusions, and I applaud them.

Artwork:
The art here is noting too far out of the ordinary, but competantly rendered and effective. I get the impression a lot of attention was given to the characters' eyes in an attempt to give them a shinier look closer to anime than manga. It's an interesting effect, but on that doesn't work consistently and too often leaves the eyes looking glassy and almost expressionless. It's the monsters and associated battle art that come off best.

Text/SFX:
The one problem on this front is an almost ridiculously large number of transliterations. Individually I'm sure a good case can be made out for most of them, but taken altogether they become extremely difficult to remember and clutter the narrative. But besides that, the sentences read naturally and the text is clear. Sound effects are in Japanese with accompanying translations.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
There are two senses in which a story may be incoherent. In the first instance, it can be incoherent by not making sense; in the second, by failing to cohere - that is, the elements in the story don't come together, they just rattle around like marbles in a vacuum cleaner. Shiki Tsukai manages to be incoherent in both senses. As far as the first sense goes, there are a dozen pages of explanatory materials in the back of the book. That in itself will try the patience of nearly every reader. It tried mine. What is more problematic is the impression I get that, even if I took the trouble to follow all the references, it wouldn't improve my experience of reading. Which brings us to the other kind of incoherence.

This is a book that reads like it was written by committee. The story tries to be a lot of different and not particularly compatible things at the same time. It's like a video game that tries to appeal to every gaming audience at once; you know, one of those real-time strategy action RPG platformers. What it actually ends up as is a game that doens't have enough action for the action fans, not enough strategy for the strategy fans, and not enough role-playing for the role-playing fans. Instead of appealing to all audiences, it winds up appealing to no audience at all.

The genres involved in this book are school comedy, shonen action, magical girl, and romantic comedy. Nothing new is attempted within these types; none of the old stand-bys are executed particularly well. The only innovation is in the idea of harnessing the power of the seasons to do battle. Something interesting could be done with this. So far it hasn't. And the really frustrating thing is, as I said earlier, it's just too complicated to follow the explanations and look everything up in the glossary at the back. The final objection is a general lack of taste and the gutlessness with which it is advanced. Panels linger on the transformation scene nudity (mostly hidden) longer than necessary. The protagonist's teacher would, I hope, be jailed in real life for wearing the sort of outfits she does to school; her making a play for his father is even worse, even if he's not actually around at the time. Maternal abuse stands in for slapstick. Yet there are a few good elements, even if they are nothing out of the ordinary. On the credit side of the ledger we have one effective monster, a rather quick pace, and a clever twist near the finish when the enemy reveals its agenda.

Comments
Even before I finished the book I had a nagging suspicion that I had read something in the same vein only much better. I've finally put my finger on what that was: Pretear. The elemental power used here are nearly identical to those of the Leafe Knights. The battles even take place in the same sort of magically enclosed arenas. If the season warrior angle is simplified and developed, it just might recover from this lackluster beginning. But right know the series just has too much baggage pulling it down.

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