Genre: Fantasy, Mythology, Manga, Seinen
Release Date: February 2012
Synopsis: A strange dimension overlaps with our reality, sending magical creatures and bloodthirsty spell casters against the forces of Hana and her team of Earth’s protectors. As the newest member in Hana’s strange group, awkward high schooler Chikahito Takamoto is looked upon with puzzlement and suspicion. His teammates have no idea how he can be immune to their special powers, and they wonder if Chikahito has any latent powers of his own. Finding himself in the middle of a high-stakes mystical war, Chikahito tries to make sense of the quirky, moody allies he’s found himself aligned with and his own feelings for Hana – a strong, short, and awfully cute warrior.
☆: 4/5 – another wonderful installment of this series – but a bit of a disappointing job on Dark Horse’s part when it came to bits of translation.
Review: I love this series – the idea of kotodama, or literally “making words into weapons”, has fascinated me for awhile now, and when CLAMP started releasing this series I got to see how the old theory of this side of magic worked – at least, in the universe that they created. While Dark Horse has done a usually spectacular job releasing the series – the touch-ups are nice, the pages crisp, the lettering clear – on the translation side of things, I feel like they didn’t quite go the extra but necessary mile when it came to the actual fights including kotodama words. In other words, if you don’t know Japanese or if you don’t have another source to compare this to, some of the fight scenes where kotodama are used will be a bit confusing if you just go by the words (and not what they turn into) alone.
Now, I’m not sure why Dark Horse did this. Volume 2 came out in Japan and the US at around the same time, and I know they’re both on the same release schedule because CLAMP wants the story to come out simultaneously in both countries, so it can be crunch time for Dark Horse when it comes to publishing this because they have other stuff to translate, including their collection of CLAMP omnibuses that they’ve been releasing for the last year or two. Or it could be that maybe once the reader sees what the words turn into (the first page of chapter four in this volume is a good example of this), they just didn’t feel the need for translation.
The good thing, though, is that they have several pages of translation notes with words and the pages that they’re on that need clarification – and these are really good, thorough notes from the editor and translator, so it makes up for the lack of translation a bit. I’m just puzzled as to why they chose not to just include the translation along with the original word on the page instead of just doing the translation notes.
Anyway, that’s just me.
We pick up where our story has left off – Chikahito and Hana are facing off against Nobunaga’s demon (oni) – yet another well-known figure from the Sengoku (Warring States) Period. A lot of anime and manga series have been created about this period as of late, but I don’t think anyone’s approached it as creatively as CLAMP. Throughout this volume of the series it really starts hitting the audience – the Sengoku Era is still going on – in fact, it never stopped. It took a little breather for a few hundred years, but it’s still going strong with the reincarnations and descendents of the original players along with their demons in this shadowy netherworld-version overlay of Kyoto proper. The actual battles in history took place all over the Kyushu and Kansai areas of Japan (basically, from Nagoya/Osaka/Kyoto southward), so I thought this was a nice touch – re-enacting epic battles through the descendents and reincarnations of the generals in the most sacred parts of Kyoto. Even with my gripe about how the translator did things, I’m glad the translation notes are there because they also clue the Western reader in and give more information about the battles, their generals (the reincarnations in this case), and information of where we know everything went down as new reincarnations of these generals appear in this volume – Tokugawa, Sanada, Mitsuhide, Masamune, and Nobunaga for this particular volume and all of the information that goes with them.
The art, as usual, is breathtaking – the battle scenes in particular, because we get to see how each demon handles the transition of word to weapon differently, their styles of fighting, and how the reincarnations are processing the current day and age of things since they are a shadowy “overlay” of the Kyoto area while fighting against their old enemies. Some of the funniest parts of this volume come from the reincarnated generals and how they try to recall their former lives (in Nobunaga’s case, with little success) in order to strategize against Chikahito and Hana further, or they’re trying to handle things the way they are now compared to their original “first life” as generals leading men on the battlefield. We also get to see how their original conflicts each other have just gotten more fierce as they compete for the demons that won their original battles all those years ago in order to become rulers of the current Kyoto hanamachi once more. Their interactions are inventive, and it feels like they’re really there, taunting each other – so CLAMP has done a really great job recreating and retelling these stories with their own characters.
Final verdict? While I can’t say that this is the best translation of the year (Dark Horse, step it up for volume 3, okay?), the source material definitely makes it onto my best of 2012 so far list. This volume may get a little confusing, but the translation notes should help you through enough to get the basics of what’s going on. If you need further assistance looking up some of the battles referenced in this volume, wikipedia is your friend. Either way, I definitely recommend this series and this volume in the series, so be sure to check it out! “Gate 7: Volume 2” is out now in North America from the fabulous Dark Horse Comics. This one’s turning into one of the more interesting manga released on this side of the pond this year, so you can’t miss it!