By Kiyohisa Tanaka. Released in Japan as “Ryuu no Nanakuni to Minashigo no Juana” by Mag Garden, serialized in the online magazine Alterna pixiv. Released in North America by Seven Seas. Translated by Adrienne Beck. Adapted by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane.
The immediate gimmick of this series, one that’s not uncommon in fantasy but which I haven’t seen too much in manga, is that of a foundling story. The world we’re in is populated mostly by dragonewts, including the hero on the cover, who seems to spend his days scavenging the immediate area for old relics of the previous long-dead civilization, the Muernandes (or “humans”, as we would call them). He finds an egg, and inside is Juana, which is very odd. She comes out of the egg looking about six years old and speaking Spanish, which is even odder. Nid, the dragonewt who found her, is determined to see if there are others like her, so sets off on a journey to the northern lands where they might find a bit more evidence. That is, of course, if they can get past Nid’s naivete, Juana’s tendency to run off when she’s curious, and very dapper villains.
While Nid is not much of a mentor, being the equivalent of a young adult himself, this series feels very much in the mold of other gentle Seven Seas fantasies like The Ancient Magus’ Bride and The Girl from the Other Side. The worldbuilding is done by showing, not telling, which I always approve of, and while Nid has a tendency to be ostracized (again for the meat-eating thing, which I found quite fascinating – a reminder that this is indeed a dragonewt world with dragonewt prejudices) he does have one or two allies… or at least boisterous loudmouths. As for Juana, she spends the entire book speaking untranslated Spanish, which means (unless you also speak Spanish, which I admittedly do not) that the reader is as much at a loss as Nid as to what she’s saying. That said, she’s pretty good at making her needs known anyway. And at least even I know what “Me gusta!” means.
There are, honestly, a LOT of mysteries still to discover here. We need to know more about this world, which is so different from ours and yet has many similarities i9n terms of the types of people in it. The cliffhanger reminds us that there are still bad guys floating around, though with a top hat and cane it has to be said that the bad guys look fabulous. And of course, everything about Juana is simply odd, though she’s fairly unconcerned herself. In addition to the mysteries, though, I’d argue the main reason to read this is it’s simply pretty well written. There’s elements of comedy, involving the large and boisterous dragonewt who makes Juana her clothing for their long journey (a spacesuit – it’s much hotter on the planet now). There’s elements of sadness, such as running across a dying old dragonewt in the middle of the forest, and realizing that there’s not much they can do except listen to his story. And there’s honest to god terror at the end, as Mr. Smith shows his true intentions and Nid appears to be headed towards a rapid death.
Juana is only two volumes and counting in Japan, so we’ll catch up pretty quickly, but I’m definitely on board. Another well-crafted and likeable fantasy manga is always welcome.