Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Dawn of the Arcana
Now that she and Caesar have separated, Nakaba finds herself realizing that being the bearer of the Arcana of Time might mean more than she had anticipated – both personally and politically. As she moves forward and is forced to make difficult decisions, Nakaba becomes a stronger person...but maybe a harder one as well.
Did you ever dream about being psychic when you were little? How amazing would it be to know the future – what was going to happen before it actually came to pass? But what if that power showed you two possible futures, neither of them good? What if you were forced to choose between two lives, knowing that you were powerless to save both? This is the quandary Nakaba faces at the opening of Dawn of the Arcana's tenth volume. In the end of the previous book, she had two visions of the future: one where her friend Prince Akhil died, and one where his brother Prince Azhal died. The death of a prince seems inevitable...and it is up to Nakaba to choose one to save. While author Rei Toma doesn't do as much with the emotional toll this takes on the princess as she might have, it is still clearly a devastating event, and one which pushes Nakaba into a new strength. She declares to Loki, her faithful companion, “My power is no miracle. So I will transform it into one.”
Nakaba has been a strong heroine from the start of the series, and with these words Toma brings her up another notch. Where she was naïve and sheltered, to say nothing of frightened, at the series' beginning, now Nakaba has been out in both the world and the political sphere. She has learned to control her power to the point where she can choose which door to the past or future she wishes to peer through, and in mustering up her courage to continue on without Caesar because it was what was best, she proved that she had the nerve to do what must be done. Now with her declaration that she will no longer be ruled by a power she wishes she didn't have, we truly see in Nakaba the makings of a queen. But naturally with that determination we also see her becoming a little bit harder – she starts to truly make decisions that are politically motivated and have little to do with her personal happiness, working within the system to achieve her ends rather than defying it, as she and Caesar were wont to do in earlier volumes. We see Caesar doing this as well, but it is worth noting that while Nakaba makes her own choices based upon her own thoughts, Caesar is guided by Bellinus. That they come to similar conclusions and similar courses of action is interesting and speaks well of Nakaba's political savvy.
Loki, Bellinus, Lemiria, and the others all take a backseat to Nakaba in this volume, as does Caesar, although he gets more pages than any of the others. Really this volume is about developing Nakaba as a force in Belquat/Senan relations and the way she takes control of her own life, and more emotional or humorous concerns take a clear back seat. Senan prince Adel receives some development, and the status of the Ajin, the human/animal hybrids, once again comes into the fore as the volume closes. This storyline is also where we get to see that Nakaba has not completely forsaken her softer side – in fact, she often uses her Arcana for her own selfish reasons, indicating that underneath her new determination is still the frightened, lonely girl of volume one. This is reassuring, as it allows Toma to show us that her heroine is not only a Princess, but a Person as well.
While Toma's art remains about as it has been, with blank backgrounds and slightly stiff movements, she once again takes risks with Nakaba's design. Since losing her long hair several books back, Nakaba has been drawn with a boyish hairstyle; now to show time passing, Toma once again redesigns Nakaba's hair into a chin-length bob. This is different from what happens in series like Princess Jellyfish or Paradise Kiss, when the characters don different style wigs for various looks; this is an actual change to the everyday appearance of the character. The new hairstyle makes Nakaba's face look rounder, but she is still clearly the same person, showing that Toma has a good handle on what she is doing.
This is one of the most interesting volumes of Dawn of the Arcana to date, with Nakaba showing serious growth and determination as she moves forward. Her new mastery and use of her power is a little worrisome – wasn't there some mention of it physically hurting her a few books back? - but seeing her take charge is wonderful. This looks like the jumping off point for some major political and social action...so stay tuned.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Nakaba comes into her own in a big way, clearly more action, both physical and political is brewing.
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