Black magic most foul.
Story/Art: Kaori Yuki
Translation/Adaptation: Camellia Nieh
What They Say
An imperial capital in an era of splendor and romanticism…
Orphaned in an earthquake, Sorath is taken in by Baron Kamichika, the lord of “Blood Blossom Manor.” There, he pledges eternal friendship with Garan, the Baron’s heir, and Kiyora, Garan’s fiancée. But their friendship turns grisly by events none of them could foresee. The tender feelings each secretly harbors, the machinations of Baron Kamichika, and his strange and seductive female companion, and a fateful encounter with a young girl with bizarre powers…all draw them to the Walpurgis Night and the nightmare’s climax
For reason’s I don’t understand, but suspect has to do with project sales profit, Yen Press decided to release this series in hardcover. This first volume has a plain black binding with a slip jacket of the cover, which features the Sorath and Noella with a sword which does not appear in this volume. Other than the hardcover and slightly larger trim size than the typical manga paperback it features are fairly standard. The paper is the typical stock they use for most manga, with the exception being the glossy color title page. While I wouldn’t exactly hold this series to the same standard I would for A Bride’s Story, it’s interesting to see Yen give it the same treatment.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Kaori Yuki has a certain reputation for gothic horror, and for Demon From Afar she steps out of European influences and embraces a Taisho era Japan. The story itself seems to take place a few years after 1923’s Kanto Earthquake, opening on a scene of it’s devastation as Garan, the young son of a wealthy noble, frees a boy wearing a demon mask from the rubble.
An ominous start only foreshadows the direction of the plot from that point out. Garan’s father takes in the boy named Sorath, as well as a girl named Kiyora, but it’s not out of benevolence. The Baron Kamichika is a monster in the shape of a man, abusive and power driven, and up to evil schemes involving black magic.
The author tries to divert the audiences attention with the antics of the teenage leads. Undeterred, they go about their normal lives, attending school and trying to live like normal privileged children. Kiyora finds herself the target of bullying, there’s some flirting between the destined pair, and it’s all deceptively light hearted until they return to the darkly named Blood Blossom Manor.
The audience is left in the dark about the evil machinations and we discover the crimes as they unfold along with Sorath. Sorath has had to play a delicate game of not overshadowing the son of the family, and even Garan and Kiyora are not immune from the wrath of Baron Kamichika. The children swear to each other to always stick by each other, so you know everything is bound for disaster.
Kiyora is slated to be the feature wife of Garan, but she’s fallen for Sorath. A potential love triangle is bad enough, but everything falls apart well before then. Kiyora was hand picked by the Baron for a different reason. Garan has a run in with his father’s presumed mistress only to discover the woman is plotting something terrible and isn’t what she seems. Sorath runs into an albino girl who can’t see and can’t walk, and has no sense of morals. As things get stranger and creepier the schoolyard antics which opened to story seem completely out of place. This children aren’t normal and neither will be their fate.
The revelations which hit in short order at the end of this volume pile on fast. There’s a veritable info dump as everything comes undone. Sorath, who seemed to be a dark and stoic boy at the beginning of the story is the most understanable by the final moments. Everything just falls into chaos, and suddenly there’s a full blown demon summoning and a terrible evil is unleashed as the fast friends betray and are betrayed by each other.
It’s a mess of a cliffhanger, with little space to breath and take in what’s gone down. The backgrounds all but disappear and everything seems to be occurring on a theater stage as all sense of place dissolves in that last exposition dump of an action scene. Someone should have told her to slow the plot down, because all sense of drama is lost in the mad cackling of the failed summoning.
Demon From Afar is a hodgepodge mix of horror, teen angst, and dark magic set against a historical backdrop. The characters seem almost out of place for the time period, and just when you start to get comfortable with who you think they are their personalities undergo a dramatic change. Kaori Yuki enjoys her gothic horror and making her audience uncomfortable, so fans of her work know what they’re getting in to. That being said, so far this isn’t the best example of her work. The art isn’t as detailed as some of her former works, and the leads so far aren’t grabbing me like they should. Combined with a confusing mix of eastern and western mysticism, unexplained motives, and too quick pacing this first volume is a rough start.
Content Grade: B –
Art Grade: B +
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: December 16th, 2014