Story/Illustration: Yuu Kamiya
Translation: Daniel Komen
What They Say
One fateful day, the One True God Tet collapsed from hunger in the back alleys of Elkia, only to be saved by Izuna. Tet recounts a story from 6000 years ago, about the Great War that divided the heavens and tore the earth asunder. About the man who challenged the world and the girl who stayed by his side.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
After setting up the framing device of Tet coming down to the world of man and telling Izuna a story, we dive into the actual meat of this book. Which is to say, we get one big prequel set in the distant past, effectively telling of the Great War and the formation of the current world. And that comes in the form of focusing on a human named Riku, and the group he leads that struggles to stay alive amidst all the chaos. The first real act of the book, and in a lot of ways a continuous theme throughout the tale, is driving in just how bad of a situation humanity finds itself in. You can really feel just how screwed they are, having to accept all sorts of losses just to not be wiped out entirely.
The book really starts, though, when Riku meets an Ex Machina, a living machine in the shape of a little girl. He naturally thinks he’s in serious trouble, as her capabilities are utterly outlandish and far eclipse those of a human being. But it turns out she is actually a sole unit disconnected from her “cluster,” because of an interest in discovering what a “heart” is. And so in turn, Riku decides to take advantage of this by granting her the name of “Schwi” and bringing her back to his village, so he can use her talents to his advantage. This does work out… but there’s an interesting hitch, as she realizes this and doesn’t mind, and they actually grow close to one another in the process, with him opening up more and her growing more human. It’s very well done overall, and their growth feels steady and properly paced rather than rushed. Oh, and there’s one absolutely fantastic moment where the writing style kicks into full gear and is used to full effect to make the emotion truly explode off the page in an absolute spectacle. Which is then naturally followed by a discussion of how normal it is for men to be attracted to child-like bodies, because it’s this freaking series, so of course that kind of quality whiplash is present.
Anyway, the final act of the book comes down to Riku becoming emboldened by having Schwi by his side, and deciding that the time has come to actually fight to bring the war to an end, rather than just survive. It’s pretty damn cool to see, though I will say by condensing all of this story into one volume, this is the part that feels just a tad rushed. Like, it would be nice to see just a bit more of their maneuvering, as that’s the kind of thing that this series excels at, and it feels just a little light here. And there is one other issue I wish to discuss, which does get pretty deep into spoilers in the process (so apologies, and a warning in advance): Schwi straight up is killed at one point, but the whole flow of the scene makes it clear that she lives on and still “wins” in the end by passing on the “heart” she’s gained to her cluster. It’s a good scene and a good idea… but it feels kind of underdone in how it’s followed up. Ultimately, the other Ex Machina are just used as tools, and it feels like Schwi’s whole sacrifice was just to achieve pulling them onto Riku’s side, losing that whole idea of her living on indirectly by letting herself be carried on through others. It doesn’t ruin things, but it does feel like a real missed opportunity, and like it kind of hurts the arc of one of the two leads of the book, which is a shame.
With this book, we take an unexpected turn, looking back into the distant past instead of continuing on with the main story. And… I’m actually quite glad that the author did that, as it works out very well here. There are a few minor issues, but ultimately this tale is handled exceptionally well, getting you rather attached to both of the two protagonists this time around and drawing you into their struggle over the course of the book. The volume is just plain dripping with emotion throughout all sorts of great scenes, and also captures the despair of the past of the world, which had gone undeveloped up until now. It’s just a really great addition to the series, and also a great little contained story as well, so be sure to give it a read!
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: N/A
Package Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: July 25th, 2017