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Demon Ororon Complete Collection Vol. #01 Manga Review

6 min read
The Demon Ororon basically lives and breathes on its stylistic points, and this is the one aspect of the manga where Mizuki succeeds the most.

The Demon Ororon is far from the best-written story or best-produced release, but its saving grace is Mizuki’s slick art style.

Creative Staff:
Writer/Artist: Hakase Mizuki
Translated by: Tomoko Kamimoto
Adapted by: Joshua Dysart

What They Say
Relive the ill-fated romance between a devil with a bounty on his head and the Archangel Michael’s orphaned daughter–collected here in one complete volume. Chiaki is the orphaned daughter of a human woman and the Archangel Michael. Ororon is a demon with a bounty on his head. Sworn enemies, their lives change forever when their hatred is transformed into love–for one another. Bound together by passion but torn apart by the world around them, their love becomes a struggle for survival as the battle between demons and the angelic order rages around them.

The Review
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
As an orphaned high-school dropout, Chiaki doesn’t interact a whole lot with the outside world. This shut-in lifestyle comes to an end when discovers an injured young man huddled on the street, who introduces himself as the demon Ororon and offers to grant one wish for her kindnesses. She sees an opportunity to escape from her loneliness and sheepishly asks him to keep her company for the rest of her life as repayment for the favor. Surprisingly enough, Ororon accepts her offer. But Ororon’s interest in Chiaki has a selfish angle, too: he reveals to her that the parents who abandoned her as a child were the archangel Michael and his human wife. As the forbidden offspring of angel and man, Chiaki has the power to see lost souls wandering the earth — and possibly other powers as well.

This fact suits Ororon perfectly fine, since (as Chiaki soon finds out) he’s no ordinary demon. As the recently-crowned Demon King, Ororon has been the target of repeated assassination attempts ever since his ascension to the throne. Constant plots to poison his food have led to the death of countless royal tasters and caused Ororon’s mother to go mad. The final straw came when a trusted member of Ororon’s own cabinet tried to stab him to death; taking this as a sign that things were beyond hope in the underworld, Ororon fled his home and begun a self-imposed exile on earth. Though physically absent from his throne, Ororon still retains the title of Demon King and all the power that comes along with it, leading to a massive power vacuum that only serves to stir up more assassination attempts.

As these demonic hitmen follow Ororon to his hideout in Chiaki’s home, she soon witnesses his brutal self-survival instinct. Whether they’re seeking the price on Ororon’s head or just after him for personal reasons, Ororon counters by magically dismembering all those who oppose him. Although Chiaki is beginning to have feelings for Ororon, she’s also greatly repulsed that he’s willing to spill rivers of blood in order to protect his own life. When Ororon’s brother Othello arrives from the underworld to protect Ororon and the killings get stepped up to an even higher degree, Chiaki finally cracks; she unconsciously releases her latent powers, leveling the city and adding significantly to the body count. This tragedy finally drives home the point to Ororon, who finally starts seeking a way to save himself without hurting Chiaki.

A quick warning to sensitive readers: though Tokyopop rates The Demon Ororon as appropriate for ages 13 and up, it’s considerably more graphic than most titles with the same age rating. The story contains a surprising amount of blood and gore for a 13+-rated title, plus some rough language and a few scenes of partial nudity. None of this will be anything new to readers who routinely buy manga rated for older teens; but parents concerned by the contents of 16+-rated manga may want to prescreen The Demon Ororon before getting it for their younger teens.

Besides the strong content, what sets The Demon Ororon apart from many of its fantasy manga peers is that it’s a fairly experimental work, both in terms of narrative structure and visual style. Probably the best example of Mizuki’s fractured storytelling approach comes on the manga’s very first page: Ororon’s entrance into Chiaki’s life is compressed to a single panel, leaving his back story an open question until the narrative returns to it 100 pages later. Although these frequent cuts across time and plot threads can be difficult to follow at times, Mizuki’s surreal art style gives the reader an incentive to unravel this spaghetti-like plot structure. At the very least, it’s exciting to see an author trying to break so far from established genre and media conventions, and yet still keep the end result from degenerating into an unreadable mess.

Unfortunately, this stylistic veneer only partially covers up The Demon Ororon’s most significant flaw: when the basic underlying story is unraveled and pieced back together, it’s just not that interesting. A sizeable part of the story relates to the romance between Chiaki and Ororon, which I never really bought; Mizuki doesn’t really develop the relationship between the two, so much as she makes it appear out of thin air when it’s most convenient to the plot. Moreover, Mizuki’s attempts to give the story an epic feel are undermined by her tendency to favor breadth too much over depth: characters are frequently introduced and unceremoniously killed within the span of one or two chapters, leaving a gaping hole in the manga where the story and character development ought to be. Even major characters like Othello sometimes behave with no apparent rationale, as if Mizuki planned to introduce more subplots but backed off partway through. This approach creates some significant pacing and coherence problems that could probably have been avoided had Mizuki chosen to focus more tightly on a restricted subset of these story elements.

Mizuki’s distinctive art style is a mixed bag here. When they work, Mizuki’s sparse and lanky character designs give the artwork a nice stylistic edge that makes Ororon stand out from other titles on the market. It’s not really fair to talk about characters being on- or off-model here, since Mizuki routinely stretches limbs and hands to several times their natural size in order to give their owners a surreal, almost Dalí-like quality. This is a tough effect to pull off believably, but Mizuki makes it look effortless.

However, minimalist art styles require a light touch, and Mizuki doesn’t always show the necessary discipline to pull it off here. Characters are simply way too similar in appearance, with accessories and clothing often being the only way to tell them apart. When you figure in her economical use of detailing in backdrops, this similarity makes many of her complex action sequences much more confusing than they really need to be.

In Summary:
Despite the major plot issues and Tokyopop’s sub-par handling of this release, I’m still giving the Ororon collection a mild recommendation. The Demon Ororon basically lives and breathes on its stylistic points, and this is the one aspect of the manga where Mizuki succeeds the most. At its highest points, such as the extended silent sequence at the beginning of the closing chapter, The Demon Ororon’s stylistic edge alone is enough to make it a compelling read; and even at its worst, it’s a vapid but eye-pleasing work.

Since this is a simple repackaging of the existing paperback editions, there’s really no reason for people who’ve picked up the paperback releases to splurge on the hardback collection. But for new readers, this Complete Collection edition is the way to go: having the entire convoluted narrative collected into one 850-page chunk does make it read a little bit more smoothly. (Plus, the lower MSRP helps take some of the sting away from the story’s weak moments.)

Content Grade: B
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: C+
Text/Translation Grade: C-

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: December 30th, 2007
MSRP: $19.99