Writer/Artist: Ryo Hoshino / Ariko Itou
Translated by: Angela Liu
Adapted by: Mel Gilden
What They Say
Many years after a devastating war killed 80% of the population, Earth is being watched by a group of beings known as The Third, named for the third red eye on their forehead that can access various computer systems. Navigating this barren, apocalyptic landscape is Honoka, a jill-of-all-trades that uses her powerful third blue eye to detect life forces in battle as she attempts to keep her friends from The Third’s deadly grasp.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The Third’s premise is aptly described by its subtitle: “Apprentice Girl on the Desert Planet”. In this case, the “apprentice girl” is the good-natured 15-year-old Honoka, a dune runner for hire in a post-war desert world. This particular world was rescued from the brink of destruction by a three-eyed race called, creatively enough, The Third; to prevent mankind from repeating its near-destruction, The Third have also taken it upon themselves to act as supreme leaders and ban almost all modern technology. In between periods of hanging around dimly-lit bars and whining about The Third, Honoka takes on odd jobs from a wide range of clients — nearly all of which are hand-selected to point out that Honoka’s really just a softie inside her cold, hardened exterior. In fact, the beginning two-thirds of the book is dedicated to driving this point home as often and as clearly as possible: Honoka’s tasks here range from rescuing a little girl’s cat to keeping her elderly partner from dying of thirst in the desert. (Subtle.)
Once the volume moves into its fifth chapter, we finally get the first glimpse of a continuous storyline. Honoka has been hired to protect the prodigy violinist Ellenor Gutenberg, whose single-minded study of the arts has driven her to be sheltered, eccentric, and … well, you get the idea. Honoka makes the mistake of complimenting Ellenor’s abilities, causing her to storm off in a fit of screaming rage. After tracking Ellenor down, Honoka just digs herself in deeper by prodding her into playing soccer with children her age (awwww…), allowing a thief to run off with her priceless violin. Being the responsible bodyguard that she is, abandons Ellenor to dash off after the thief, only to return and discover that Ellenor herself has been kidnapped during the chase.
All sarcasm about the plot aside, it’s unusually hard for me to form any solid impressions about The Third based on what I’ve read in this first volume. Of the six chapters included in Volume 1, the first four are basically just introductory fluff. Trouble is, Honoka isn’t portrayed as complex enough at this point to really warrant this long of an introduction: the main point of these stories is to point out that Honoka’s got a heart of gold, which is a fine character trait but not something that really needs repeating four times. Any one of these stories would have been fine by itself; but by the time Itou wrapped up the fourth one, I just felt like the whole thing was drawn out much longer than it needed to be. I get it, I get it, she’s a good person … can we move on to the actual story, please?
Once the plot proper kicks off in Chapter 5, there’s not a whole lot of time left for it to leave much of an impression. We get the requisite science fiction manga clichés thrown at us one after another: the decaying civilization controlled by a shadowy cabal, the spunky heroine, the sheltered sidekick with the secret power to save everyone, etc. Then right at the point that Itou introduces the first major plot twist and the story looks like it’s about to kick into high gear, we’re greeted with a “To Be Continued” caption and an advertisement for Volume 2. It’s an incredibly underwhelming way to cap off the volume, because Hoshino hasn’t established the kind of dramatic tension needed to make an effective cliffhanger; instead, the story just sort of … stops.
Because the first volume of The Third takes so long to get where it’s going, the only strong statement I can really make about it one way or the other is that it’s a lousy way to introduce a story. With only 60 to 70 pages of actual plot development at the tail end, it comes to a halt right about the point where Itou ought to be drawing me into the story. My gut reaction isn’t that I dislike it; but there’s so little interesting stuff going on here that I think readers sitting on the fence can safely skip this one over and wait to see where Itou’s going in Volume 2.
Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B
Age Rating: 13+
Release Date: March 11th, 2008