March Story (Manga)
Hyung Min Kim and Kyung Il Yang
Among the quiet villages and towns of 18th century Europe, demons known as the Ill hide within the most beautiful works of art. These demons are sparked to life by the torment of their creators. Attracted by their jewel-like allure, the unwary find themselves possessed by the Ill and driven to horrific acts of violence. Only the hunters of the Ciste Vihad can dispel the Ill. March is one such hunter and this is the story of his travels
I approached this Manga with caution. The overall plot sounded very similar to D.Grayman , a manga that I enjoy thoroughly. I didn’t want another half hearted attempt at D.Grayman. I can say now, that I was pleasantly surprised.
Let me start by saying that the protoganist March is indeed similar to Allen (D.GrayMan) in the sense that he also has a tragic past , harbours a demon (ill) inside him and performs exorcisms. Although not quite in the same way. This is where the plot similarity between the two series ends. D.Grayman is a typical shonen, has an overarching story and a big bad to combat. There is little or no character development of possesed people. Not so in March Story.
The first volume of March Story is episodic in nature and has 4 chapters, which is absolutely fine for the first volume of a new manga. The chapters alternate between light and dark fares. What March story does a lot better than D.Grayman is to put the spotlight on the posessed themselves in each chapter and give them character development. This act alone raises the manga a notch above mediocrity.
The first chapter is the basic introduction of the protoganist and we meet a girl who was forced to become a clown but desires to be a trapeze artist. After being possessed she is freed by March and no one is really harmed. But this chapter quickly introduces all the concepts and story elements.
The second chapter is when things begin to get serious and we get a very poignant albeit a little formulaic love story. The pain of the girl permeates through to you and you feel genuinly sorry for her in the end. This is where the manga begins to deviate further away from D.Grayman and acquires its own identity.
Third chapter is a fairly light affair and you are introduced to my favourite character from this series so far – Jake, who comes off as a little comical initially but is given a much deeper and serious role in the next chapter. You also get a twist relating to March, although at this point I am unsure why this was neccessary. If anything , this twist combined with the last chapter and ending remarks makes me think this manga may take a direction which is not quite appealing to me.
Now all of these three chapters were fairly decent, we had a good twist (if not appealing to me) along with character development. This in itself was enough to bring me back for the next volume to see whether this improves further. What really elevated this book from the rest of the flock was the last chapter which focuses on March’s background. The horror element was raised significantly and I was mesmerised by the visuals. There is tons of blood and gore befitting a manga claiming to be a horror series. The best bit about this piece that it is intense without being unneccessary gory and puts March through a life-altering horrific experience. This chapter has occasional nude images which puts this manga firmly in the Mature category.
The art is praisworthy, faces are distinguishable, expressions are near perfect , lines are clear and action scenes filled with urgency. The artist Kyung Il Yang is adept at depicting the 18th century world setting with some majestic buidlings and architecture. Two best chapters from artwork perspective is the second and the last. Second chapter has breathtaking imagery and brilliant character designs. The last chapter is beautiful in its dark horror imagery. Excellent work all around.
But for the twist in the character of March I would have been sold on the series. I have little interest in shojo horror manga with love triangles ( this series might head this way, then again it might not).
As a standalone piece this book is an excellent read, but if the author continues with the episodic nature of the series, he would lose me. I have little interest in seeing a variation of the same story repeated – March saving someone possessed by the ill – however well the story is crafted. What this book is missing right now is a misson statement. However these are early days and I feel this will come in time especially consideirng we don’t really understand Ciste Vihad very well.
Overall a satisfying debut. If my fears regarding the twist turn out to be unfounded I would be adding this to my permanent reading list.