By Yoshitoki Oima. Released in Japan as “Fumetsu no Anata e” by Kodansha, serialization ongoing in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics. Translated by Steven LeCroy.
It’s always best when an author knows what they’re good at and continues to give us that product, and it’s even better when they can do so even while changing genres. Oima is best known as the author of A Silent Voice, and so a fantasy starring a shape-changing alien was not the most obvious follow-up, let’s be honest. But of course, what Oima is best at is gut-wrenching emotional scenes and dancing at the edge of tragedy, which we saw over and over again in A Silent Voice (which thankfully most avoided slipping into full-on tragedy), and now we see plenty of that in this new series. As always with a first volume, I’m not suite sure where this is going – the first chapter might have been a prologue and we’re now following the main cast, or it could be that this is more of an anthology series. One thing is clear, though: bring tissues.
I wasn’t actually spoiled on this series, for once, and will try to avoid spoiling any readers of this review, though it’s always hard to be elliptical about this sort of thing. Let’s just say I was entirely prepared for this series to be a heartwarming tale of a boy and his alien-turned-wolf as they march across the frozen wastes to freedom… and no, that’s not what we’re getting. The boy does not appear to have a name, and it’s a good thing that he’s so plucky and optimistic because his life to date has sucked rocks, including being abandoned by the village to look after those who can’t leave it… for some reason or another. His one companion is the wolf… who we see killed at the start of the book, and the shapeshifter takes its form. Fortunately, the shapeshifter is willing to be the boy’s pet wolf and heartwarming moments ensue… at first.
The second half of the book, and the reason I wonder if this is more of an anthology series with recurring characters, deals with a village girl who’s got big dreams of being an adult and raising a family, dreams that may have to be cut short when she’s selected as the sacrifice to the local Shardik-like God. (Honestly, it’s not clear whether the giant bear is really the local god or not, but it’s certainly a really big bear.) Fortunately, the village’s worst archer is there to try to help her. The girl’s tomboy attitude and the archer’s bad shooting are brief moments of amusement in this otherwise very serious volume. Fortunately the sacrifice is interrupted, but it’s not clear where we’re headed after this.
This series is meant to evoke a mood, and that mood is ‘tear-jerking’. If you really want to read something like that, this is absolutely your jam. I’m not sure I’ll be able to read something like this in an ongoing series, but as a first volume it packs a powerful wallop.