Broken Blade, Vol. 1
By Yunosuke Yoshinaga
Published by CMX
Rygart Arrow has grown up in a world where all devices and machines are powered by quartz, controlled by his people’s inborn ability to infuse the quartz with energy using nothing but a thought. Unfortunately, Rygart is one of the very rare few born without this ability, otherwise known as an “unsorcerer.” As the story begins, Rygart is abruptly summoned to his country’s capital to meet with the King and Queen, who also happen to be his best friends from boarding school, Hodr and Sigyn. Confused and completely in the dark about the reason behind his sudden visit, Rygart arrives cracking jokes, but the hilarity fades quickly as his friends share with him the fact that their country is under attack. Worse still, the invading army is being led by the fourth in their old school gang, a budding military genius named Zess. Baffled by the news, Rygart encourages Hodr to surrender to the enemy’s obviously superior forces, until Hodr reveals that one of the conditions of surrender proposed by the invaders is that the royal family (including his wife) be executed.
Determined, then, to assist but unsure of how, Rygart ends up stumbling into an ancient “golem” (giant mechanical suits used for battle) considered unusable because of its lack of quartz power. Though the mechanics who have been studying the golem have been unable to make it move so much as a pinky, Rygart manipulates it easily, even piloting it in an unexpected battle. Will Rygart agree to stay and fight with his newfound ability? Will he find a way to forge peace between two old friends and save both their kingdoms?
Though the premise of Broken Blade sounds simple and astonishingly predictable (and it honestly is) it is also extremely charming, thanks in great part to the easy, rich relationship between old friends Rygart, Hodr, and Sigyn. Between them, they display the kind of warm, layered camaraderie that can only grow out of years of friendship, mutual experience, and at least a few pretty serious fights. Even this relationship, of course, is predictable in its way. Sigyn, for example, obviously still carries some small torch for Rygart, who back in their school days was (in her words), “…the only one who could stop a fight between the younger brother of the commander of a military nation (Zess) and the crown prince of another country (Hodr),” indicating romantic conflict to come. Yet still, this is so nicely executed and the characters themselves are so likable, even the inevitability of it all can hardly damage the reading experience.
None of this is to suggest that the characters lack complexity. Rygart, in particular, is fascinating from the start. Quick with a joke and always smiling, he is breezy and affable in a way that is carefully cultivated to preserve his way of life as painlessly as possible in a world where he is uniformly viewed as an inferior being, even (on some level) by those closest to him. There is virtually no conversation in which his lack of magical ability does not become a factor one way or another, something he has had to live with all his life. There is no machine–from a truck to a lamp–created for use in his world that he can operate himself. His easygoing manner is designed to keep other people comfortable so that, unruffled and unchallenged, they will allow him live a peaceful life, certain in their own superiority. His friends are aware of this and at least one of them (Zess) has become angry with him over it, but given the circumstances it’s hard not to sympathize with his position.
The first volume doesn’t have time to explore the supporting characters very deeply or to explain much about the sudden conflict between the warring nations, but there is obviously some tension between Zess and his older brother that may be driving him to his ruthlessness against old friends. Rygart, too, has a brother who also apparently has no quartz magic, but it’s too early to tell if he’ll become part of the story in any significant way. The title of the story comes from Rygart’s observation that the helmet on the old golem’s damaged exoskeleton “looks just like a broken blade,” and oddly it is a few words of encouragement he mutters at the golem that are the most moving in the whole volume. “‘Can’t use it… taking up precious space,'” he says, parroting the words of one of the military commanders. “Me and my brother have heard our share of comments like that. Don’t let it get to you!”
Yoshinaga’s art is energetic and attractive, with character designs in a style similar to that of Fullmetal Alchemist‘s Hiromu Arakawa. Unfortunately, Yoshinaga does not quite share Arakawa’s talent for clear, powerful action, instead creating fight scenes that are sometimes overly busy and difficult to follow.
Small complaints aside, though its story does not yet appear to offer anything incredibly original, Broken Blade gets off to a strong start, with engaging characters living in a nicely compelling universe. With its second volume due out in December, this is definitely a series to keep an eye on.
Volume one of Broken Blade is available now. Review copy provided by the publisher.