With a television anime adaptation shortly on the way, we play catch up with a look at the first volume of Nakaba Suzuki’s manga The Seven Deadly Sins.
Story/Art: Nakaba Suzuki
Translation: Christine Dashiell
Lettering: James Dashiell
What They Say:
Seven Deadly Heroes?
Welcome to the land of Britannia, a picturesque country ruled by the benevolent King Liones…or at least it was, until the king’s guard assassinated him and started a full-blown Holy War! Now the king’s only daughter Elizabeth must seek the aid of the dreaded warriors, The Seven Deadly Sins. Wrongly framed and sent into exile, they’re now the princess’s only hope to free the kingdom from the grip of the villainous Holy Knights!
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally premiering in Kodansha’s Weekly Shounen Magazine in October of 2012, this past spring Kodansha’s American branch, Kodansha Comics USA, began releasing Nabaka Suzuki’s Nanatsu no Taizai, which corresponds basically to the English title. In Japan and in the US, this work has received a very strong response, regularly selling over 100,000 copies per volume in Japan, while the second and fourth volumes of the North American release appeared on the the manga best sellers list of The New York Times.
So, let’s take a look at what has so many people interested.
Having not seen a Kodansha USA volume before, I decided to put it through the metaphorical wringer a bit to see how it holds up. Physically, the volume holds up to the standard kinds of exaggerated stress tests one could use on it. The binding is quite solid, able to handle being pulled apart fairly forcefully (granted, I was not trying to rip it apart, but only to see if the binding was in any way weak) without any loosening of the pages or damage to the spine. The paper quality is quite good and holds the ink very well. I deliberately tried to smudge several areas that are completely black and the ink did not easily rub off onto my fingers, nor did it smear across the lighter areas next to the dark-filled portions of the page.
The printing and lettering is crisp and clean, with no evidence of double-images, smearing, bleeding, or any other kind of visual defect. This holds true even in very complex scenes where there is a heavy presence of complicated line work that could easily be marred by a poor printing job. There are a few greyscale pages near the beginning which were likely originally in color (I took a quick look at some of the future chapters available at Crunchyroll as part of their simulpub of recent chapters, and there are occasionally color pages at the start of chapters just about where volume tankoubon beginnings should fall).
The translation reads smoothly without noticeable grammatical or spelling errors. The lettering is well spaced. Sounds effects are kept in their original kana with English translations placed close by in small (sometimes very small) type. This is a very solid presentation.
Taking place in a Medieval European-type setting with some rather obvious hints about what kind of mythical milieu it inhabits (the land appears to be called Britannia and at one point a background character remarks “In Camelot, way south from here, some kid named Arthur’s been made king”). We start, however, with some local country folk visiting a very odd tavern, the Boar Hat, run by a youngish-looking man, hardly more than a teenaged-boy, named Meliodas. The food he serves leaves much to be desired (and its poor taste and quality seem likely to be a running joke), though he’s much better in the wines, ales and spirits department as he collects good alcoholic drinks during his travels. In addition to Meliodas, the tavern’s other employee is a talking pig named Hawk, who helps to clean up unwanted food (there is a lot of it) spurned by the customers.
Into this scene, which could fit within any number of pseudo-medieval high-or-low fantasy stories/role-playing games, we get our first hint of dread when the customers talk about a frightening rumor telling of a wandering knight in rusting armor who is searching for The Seven Deadly Sins, a group of elite warriors who betrayed the kingdom and were exiled ten years before. There are even a set of seven WANTED! posters in the Boar Hat, with drawings of the seven outlaws.
Of course, this must be the cue for the Rust Knight to make an appearance, which comes to pass, sending the tavern patrons scattering, though Meliodas seems unconcerned, more curious than alarmed. The Rust Knight collapses into a heap and is revealed…to be a girl. At this point, we get our first slightly disappointing cliche, as Meliodas is revealed to be a pervert who feels the need to confirm that the person inside the suit of armor was indeed a girl by sniffing her and grabbing her breast and noting its firmness. Hawk even calls him out on his behavior, which doesn’t make it any better.
The young woman is soon revealed to be Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King Liones (which seems to be how they’re romanizing リオネス here, though the author was likely aiming for the mythical “Lyonesse” of Arthurian legend), and she’s on the run from the Holy Knights, the royal guards—though they’ve betrayed their king and taken direct control of the kingdom itself. It also appears that the Holy Knights have been searching for The Seven Deadly Sins, and their stooges (local jokes posing as knights) come to the tavern to investigate the Rust Knight. After comically seeing them off, things turn a bit more serious. It’s fortunate for Elizabeth that Meliodas turns out to be one of The Seven Deadly Sins, since now a somewhat capable knight named Twigo appears and intends to kill both her and the young boy (who looks nothing like the much older man in the wanted poster). Capable though Twigo is, Meliodas easily defeats him with nothing but a broken sword hilt.
Other than the groping and gawking from Meliodas, Elizabeth is also fortunate that the Boar Hat is a moving tavern, as it’s soon revealed that it is, indeed, a hat on top of a gigantic pig whom Hawk calls Mama. This helps our heroes escape Twigo and his reinforcements, as well as travel in search of the other Seven Deadly Sins. At this point, the story seems set for a while to be a road tale with the goal of “putting the band back together.” Along the way, we also come across our first real Holy Knight, an arrogant ass who pretty much confirms that the Holy Knights are probably a group of self-righteous and arrogant jerks—in other words, stock villains. In addition, following a rumor picked up in another town, Meliodas and Elizabeth travel into a “haunted” forest where they meet up with a female giant named Diane who appears to be another member of The Seven Deadly Sins. The reunion is not entirely happy as Meliodas reveals that his memories of what happened ten years ago have been partially erased…and one of his own comrades may have betrayed him. On top of that, the Holy Knight Gilthunder appears and things appear problematic for our heroes.
On balance, this is not a bad start to a tale…that has probably been told before. This material is largely formulaic: princess in distress; perverted hero; ill-matched female co-worker with a crush; arrogant and comically villainous villains; talking pig for comic relief. But that does not mean that it fails to entertain. There are elements that I’m not entirely happy to see here, especially the grating appearance of a pervert hero, all too common in shounen fare. Hawk calling attention to it and verbally shaming Meliodas does nothing to reduce the irritation. Further, there is a lot of work needing to be done in order to flesh out the characters. Meliodas and Hawk have some elements of personality, but Elizabeth is largely a cypher and an object to provide some fanservice at this point, little more. Even Diane, introduced late in the volume, has a little more personality on display.
What saves this from drawing harsher criticism from me is that this is all clearly meant to be taken with a wink and a nod. The motions toward drama and action are often undercut with quick visual gags and humorous dialogue. This is not a heavy (and hopefully avoids the urge to turn serious and heavy) work filled with seriousness. While serious things happen, a comic sense pervades much of the story, though that comedy does not always score a direct hit with this reviewer. I am going to be very curious about what tack the anime adaptation will take (though another will be reviewing that work for the site should it receive a simulcast). The manga has a light touch despite all of the rather serious and somewhat dire elements. This is a playful work, a piece of popcorn entertainment. We will see if it maintains this atmosphere in future volumes.
Nakaba Suzuki’s The Seven Deadly Sins is a fairly formulaic work set in a fairly familiar fantasy setting, but it largely succeeds by keeping a comic tone and a light touch to the telling of the tale. There’s nothing new about a damsel in distress looking for legendary heroes to come to her aid to defeat a group of evil villains who are destroying a medieval fantasy kingdom, but it executes fairly well on the general concept, with a few exceptions. If you are looking for a rollicking, action-packed tale with plenty of comedy to help move things along, this might work for you.
Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B
Package Rating: B+
Age Rating: Teen (13+)
Released By: Kodansha Comics
Release Date: March 25th, 2014