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Dawn of Arcana Vol. #01 Manga Review

4 min read

The dawn of a new series.

Creative Staff
Story/Art: Rei Toma
Translation/Adaptation: Alexander O. Smith

What They Say:
Princess Nakaba of Senan is forced to marry Prince Caesar of the enemy country Belquat, tantamount to becoming a hostage. While Caesar is pleasing to the eye, he is also selfish and possessive, telling Nakaba outright: “You are my property.” With only her attendant Loki at her side, Nakaba must find a way to cope with her hostile surroundings, her fake marriage… and a mysterious power!

The cover used here is a bright and colorful image of our main character’s face. It stands out nicely against the background, but the logo does feel a tad large and distracting, and the numbers around it do so little to stand out that it is easy to miss them completely. The back cover fairs better, using the zoomed main character as the background while placing the darker colored male characters over top, creating a good bit of contrast. The paper used feels good, and text reads smoothly. No honorifics are used, and sound effects are translated.

The artwork is quite nice, with a good level of detail, a smooth style, and some very nice expressions. The main three characters are designed well and distinctly, but unfortunately everyone else feels a tad too bland in comparison. Fortunately, the other characters don’t seem terribly important as of this volume, and are of course much less prominent, so it’s not a huge issue.

On a small island there exist two kingdoms, Senan and Belquat, who are constantly at war. In these countries, the royalty possess black hair, and everyone else is a commoner. A species exists here called the Ajin, demi-humans who possess animal characteristics and abilities that place them above humans, yet they remain slaves to the humans.

In an attempt to foster peace, Nakaba, the princess of Senan, and Caesar, the second born prince of Belquat, were married. Unfortunately for Nakaba, this means she was essentially given to the enemy, and as such her very life is in peril. The fact that she has red hair as opposed to the traditional black of royalty only makes matters worse. When the prince cruelly addresses Nakaba as his property, Nakaba’s Ajin servant Loki appears to protect her. Nakaba and Caesar argue fiercely till Nakaba passes out and is taken to her room.

When Nakaba decides to wear “commoner” clothes to dinner, she is sneered at and the king demands an explanation. When Loki takes the blame, the king cuts him with a sword on the spot, and orders Loki be killed. Loki escapes, but Nakaba panics at the sight of his blood and faints, triggering a flashback to her childhood, when she and Loki escaped the slaughtering of her village.

After a mysterious comment from Loki regarding the power of the “Arcana of Time,” Caesar wagers that if Loki doesn’t come back tonight, Nakaba will die as well. When Caesar tries to take Nakaba physically, she resists and pulls a blade, much to Caesar’s amusement. Caesar disarms her, but Loki swoops in, earning a pardon as per Caesar and Nakaba’s wager.

Once Caesar starts protecting Loki in secret, we see that he has no ambition for the throne due to his position as second son, despite his talents. A jousting tournament is soon held as per tradition, with a kiss from Nakaba as the prize. When it comes time for Caesar and his brother to duel, Caesar quickly wins, only for Loki to appear and challenge him. Loki defeats his opponent, prompting a flashback in which we learn that Caesar has an inferiority complex towards Ajin. After the duel, Caesar sees Nakaba giving Loki the victor’s kiss and becomes jealous, but Nakaba tells him to try hard next time, words he had been waiting to hear for his whole life.

In Summary:
This volume does a great job of setting up the series, and shows a lot of potential for its future. Though I’m not much of a fan of the type of semi-medieval setting used here, the series does so well using it to set up the twisted relationships presented here that it didn’t even bug me. With a number of characters who start out downright detestable, it will be interesting to see how the series chooses to develop them. Certainly, the flashback given for Caesar is a real turning point in this book, and one that does a lot for his character with just a handful of pages. With a few mysterious and seemingly mystical elements looming in the background, this series certainly seems to have some potential. While what’s presented here isn’t particularly amazing, it will certainly be interesting to see how this series develops.

Content Grade: B+
Art Grade: B+
Package Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: B

Readers Rating: [ratings]

Age Rating: 13+
Released by: Viz Media
Release Date: December 6th, 2011
MSRP: $9.99