A Spunky damsel in distress searching for her long-lost love and a pirate captain with a hidden past... No, it's not "The Princess Bride." It's "Wanted," but don't feel bad about getting them mixed up.
Writer/Artist: Matsuri Hino
Translator: Tomo Kimura
Adaptation: Nancy Thistlethwait
What They Say:
The end of the 17th century, in the Mediterranean Sea. The Former songstress Armeria disguises herself as a man and boards the ships of the pirate Skills, who kidnapped Luce, her first love. Captain Skills is arrogant, violent, and loves women! By chance, the sailors find out that Armeria is female and...?!
What We Say:
Viz has gone for a full-out pirate look for this release, starting with the eye-catching cover illustration of Captain Skulls and Armeria. The back cover is also nice to look at, with a lovely color illustration of the main couple taking up the top third of the page and the summary rendered in font that, well, looks like it would be on a pirate map. Even the inside isn’t spared from this overall pirate theme; the table of contents and title information are printed in the same font. Just flip open the back cover, and usual warning about reading the wrong way begins with the phrase “Ahoy there!” Some readers may find this cloying, but others such as myself should be entertained by it. The main “extra” of the story is the one-shot at the end of the volume, “Spring Cherry Blossoms.”
Wanted’s art will not surprise anyone who has read either MeruPuri or the more recent Vampire Knight, both of which are also creations of Matsuri Hino. The character designs are very attractive, even if they fall into clearly-discerned shoujo stereotypes of hugely-eyed heroines and dashing, broad-shouldered heroes. The various period costumes are given a high level of detail, and Hino certainly knows how to alter angles to give some creative panels. Proportions are kept accurate and there is rarely a frame that feels awkward or ill-placed. The only problem is that everything is almost completely obliterated by huge swatches of screentones. Pages contain minimal white space, and backgrounds are usually covered entirely by light gradients that make everything feel cramped and dark.
The translation for Wanted fits well with the story; it reads smoothly, and, thanks to the Western setting for the main story, there are no hitches when it comes to translating cultural notes. Some of the common crewmembers speak with a stereotypical pirate drawl, but Armeria and Skulls do not, while Reid’s dialogue sounds more cultured. All in all, there seems to have been a good preservation of the original nuances of the characters’’ speech. Sound effects have been replaced with their English equivalents in typical Viz style.
The life of a traveling songstress is not an easy one for the young Armeria, an orphaned girl whose musical troupe performs for various aristocratic families. Even her one friend, the noble young man Luce, is taken by pirates when they attack his uncle’s estate. Eight years later, Armeria goes so far as to cut her hair and masquerade as a boy, Arto, in her attempt to track down her lost companion. She joins the crew of the pirate Skulls, a fierce man with “death’s tattoo” on his chest who claims to have killed Luce. However, when her identity as a woman is revealed, Armeria is forced to strike a deal with Captain Skulls to remain on the ship.
It doesn’t take long, though, for Armeria to find herself in need of rescuing from Skulls himself, whose true identity is revealed in the process. This only spurs the heroine on to even more risky endeavors in an attempt to save the pirate captain from Commander Reid, a dashing young Navy Commander who seems to have a mysterious connection with Skulls.
The side story, Spring Cherry Blossoms, focuses on Sho, a young woman who wishes to become a doctor--not an easy task for a Japanese girl in the late nineteenth century. Her parents have arranged her marriage to the eldest son of a wealthy merchant family, yet she finds herself falling for a rebellious stranger who supports her dreams without even realizing it. Will she be able to make a decision before it’s too late?
Wanted is, in a word, predictable. Most readers will be able to figure out the big “reveal” simply by looking at the cover and reading the summary--and that’s if they haven’t seen “The Princess Bride.” The first chapter feels as though it ought to be a one-shot, and it would have been a pleasantly diverting one if it stood on its own. The following two chapters attempt to introduce some sort of a running plot, but without enough time to do it in, the book falls into a muddled mess with no real resolution.
In the end, there isn’t much originality here, but that’s not the point. Matsuri Hino admits that she ignored a lot of the research she conducted when it was convenient for the plot, and also asks the readers not to take the volume too seriously. Much of the plot seems to be an excuse to draw, well, pirates. A few characters also fit that bill, particularly Reid. A former friend of Skulls who became a navy captain, his only clear purpose is to provide a character who could wear a seventeenth-century British Navy uniform. Three chapters might not be enough time to provide a large amount of character depth or plot complexity, but the best way to enjoy this story is to place any expectations or logic by the wayside. It is, after all, just about pirates.