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Million Tears Vol. #01 Manga Review

5 min read
In all, this volume is hard to recommend

Between the often-amateurish artwork and derivative storyline, there’s not much reason to pick this title up.

Creative Staff:
Writer/Artist: Yuana Kazumi
Translated by: Alethea & Athena Nibley
Adapted by: Barbara Randall Kesel

What They Say
When friends and loved ones begin to disappear, his sense of reality begins to crumble–until the day he runs into a mysterious figure who can erase a person’s very existence…

Gorgeously illustrated and spectacularly twisted, Kazumi-sensei’s dramatic shojo is an unforgettable journey of discovery in a world filled with suspicion and awe.

The Review
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
During a routine roll call before basketball practice, high school student Hiromu Nishizawa notices that fellow student Tetsuya is absent. When he points this out to the coach, Hiromu is puzzled by the response: no one on the team knows who Tetsuya is. Hiromu runs into a mysterious stranger on the way home from practice, whom he witnessed talking with Tetsuya the prior day. This stranger inexplicably refers to Hiromu as Glorious, and offers the cryptic claim that Tetsuya was delicious. Understandably disturbed by the meeting, Hiromu is rescued by his girlfriend Natsumi, who literally drags him away to the movie theater.

After Hiromu encounters into the stranger again at school the next day, he confides in Natsumi about his concerns that he is going mad; Natsumi soothes his fears by launching into an unsolicited philosophical rant about human genetics. Soon after, Hiromu runs into the stranger once again, who convinces Hiromu to follow him to his house. There, the stranger explains that Hiromu is in fact a “destiny thief” named Glorious Lily who survives by consuming the lives of humans, and that a comatose girl named Valeriana Forieri is Hiromu’s true love.

Hiromu denies the stranger’s claims and storms home, but does not seem to be bothered in the least by these bizarre events until the next school day. While on his way to class, he suddenly and inexplicably recalls the stranger’s threat to eliminate anyone who stands in his way. After contemplating these words for a while, he concludes that Natsumi might be at risk, and rushes home to discover that his house and parents have disappeared. In their place, he discovers Natsumi standing with the mysterious stranger, who claims responsibility for erasing Hiromu’s parents.

This meeting leads Hiromu and the stranger enter a sort of negotiation for the lives of his acquaintances. The encounter culminates in Hiromu suddenly recalling his previous life as Glorious Lily within the span of one panel, and refusing to let the stranger (who he now refers to as Vermillion) take the life of his beloved Valeriana. Vermillion, overjoyed that Hiromu/Glorious has remembered his true identity, chides Glorious for living among the humans as Hiromu after stealing his soul.

The story then flashes back to a quaint country village, where we witness Glorious (now called Hirokazu) meeting Valeriana for the first time. The two fall in love and plan a life together, until a series of misunderstandings leads the town to burn Valeriana at the stake as a witch. Vermillion offers Hirokazu the opportunity to be reborn as a destiny thief, giving him the powers to reclaim Valeriana’s life. He accepts Vermillion’s offer and takes on his new identity as Glorious Lily.

The final chapter shifts time frames again, this time apparently to when Glorious Lily and the original Hiromu first meet. Confronted with a floating look-alike specter who threatens to steal his soul, Hiromu does the only logical thing: he gushes ecstatically at meeting one of the undead, commandeers Glorious Lily’s cane, and tries to use it as a magical broom. As a result, he accidentally transports himself to Glorious’s country villa, where he is introduced to Valeriana. This meeting forces Hiromu to consider the possibility that something is amiss — and that Glorious, having just threatened to steal Hiromu’s soul, may be up to no good.

Million Tears is a prime example of a title that bites off more than it can chew. Kazumi tries to inject the story with some sort of psychological and emotional depth, but it just doesn’t work. The emotional, philosophical, and psychological aspects of this work come off as shallow and forced, and really don’t resonate with me as a reader. Once the psuedo-philosophical overtones are stripped away, we’re left with a derivate underlying supernatural storyline populated with generic shoujo characters.

Looking past its pretentious veneer, Million Tears suffers from serious writing and characterization problems. These issues are underscored by Hiromu’s constants mood swings and erratic behavior: he leaps from complete tranquility to screaming angst the moment anyone lays a finger on his girlfriend, yet doesn’t seem to be fazed in the least by sudden displays of magical powers or by the constant threats to steal his soul. Things settle down a little bit during the flashback chapter, but the randomness and unevenness return the following chapter when we witness the original Hiromu’s schizophrenic behavior toward his alter ego. These plot problems are compounded by the ham-fisted dialog and trite philosophical asides — such as Vermillion chastising Hiromu for “only see[ing] what’s visible” (isn’t that exactly what “visible” means?), or Natsumi dismissing Hiromu’s concerns about his sanity with an irrelevant discourse on recent scientific research.

Tokyopop’s marketing people clearly have a different definition of “gorgeously illustrated” than I do. Much of the artwork in Million Tears is bland at best, and a disappointingly large portion is downright sloppy. Body proportions vary wildly from panel to panel, with heads frequently deflating to half their normal size and hands apparently expanding to pick up the slack. Characters locked in embrace degenerate into unrecognizable piles of skin, cloth, and hair with facial features, hands, or even entire limbs randomly missing. Perspective ranges from nonexistent to overly exaggerated with no apparent rationale, and is sometimes not even consistent within the same panel. And so on.

To be fair, not the entire volume suffers from these sorts of issues. As the story progresses, the artwork gradually improves, and artistic gaffes become both less frequent and less blatant. With that in mind, I’d still be hard-pressed to call the art spectacular; at best, it’s adequate.

In Summary:
In all, this volume is hard to recommend. Despite my objections to Kazumi’s drawing and writing styles, it’s not really an actively bad piece of work: it’s simply bland and uninteresting, and the layer of feigned pretentiousness just isn’t enough to mask these basic flaws. Unless things improve substantially in the final volume, there are much better titles to spend your money on.

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

Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Release Date: July 30th, 2007
MSRP: $9.99

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