Saturday, January 26, 2013

Not quite Joan of Arc

Book: Joan Books I-III
Author/illustrator: Yoshikazu Yasuhiko
Pages: 579 total
Published: originals in 1995-1996, English translations in 2000 (Comics One)

Joan of Arc’s story is excellent to read when you want to latch on to someone else’s higher purpose and also swords. Although it’s got all the same details, this is not Joan of Arc’s actual story in these three manga volumes, and I spent most of my reading time wondering why.

Emil is a lot like Joan, in that she comes from the same town and grew up with the same stepdad and dresses like a boy and goes in her stepdad’s place to advance the same cause – only this time it’s a more muddled conflict between the King and the Dauphine of France instead of just France vs. England, so not only does Emil have a finer point of ideology to hang her conviction on, she also has a harder time figuring out who’s on her side for the King.

I would’ve enjoyed this so much more if it had either been a straight history of Joan of Arc or Emil finishing Joan’s crusade through her own completely different story. Instead, both stories get watered down and smushed together into a half-assed reincarnation journey that was frustrating mostly because Emil knew exactly how Joan’s worked out but does the same thing anyway hoping for pretty much the same result only not quite so burn-y at the end. My favorite part was when the ghost/spirit of Joan calls this out and is all, “Why’d you come to Orleans, dumbass? I sent you on this mission to get it done, not get you killed like me!”

It’s still exciting and a quest for justice against a Dauphin sporting the worst ‘80s-villian bowl-cut/fringe combo this side of a Very Special Episode, with exacting political intrigue and battles and stuff. But then she gets sentenced to burn at the stake (gee, I wonder who could’ve helped her prevent that…), and right as they’re tying her up, the stake is struck by lightning and the dauphin sees an effigy of Joan (‘s ghost? Spirit?) burning, and that’s it. He gives in to Emil, surrenders his rebellion, waits for his dad to die before trying to be king again (according to the prologue).

The art is gorgeous watercolor with colors that can contrast so much better than I ever thought of water colors being able to, all contained within long, ominous inked outlines. But sometimes in quarter profiles a person will blatantly have only one eye – like, the other one wasn’t even sketched in shadow or anything – and the speech bubbles don’t look like they were changed to accommodate the English translations so that makes for odd deciphering once in awhile.

I read this series a LOT quicker than I thought I would, so I can bring them back to the anime club my boyfriend heads on Wednesday nights and put them back on his Free Manga!! cart for The Teenagers to discover and give a good home.   

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