Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
March's unconscious body is kidnapped by the beautiful Ill Janjaghee, who bathes in the blood of beautiful women to keep herself young and fresh. When Jake, Belma, and Rodin learn what is going on, all three set out to save March from the woman who took Jake's happiness away. Can March be saved, both from Janjaghee and the Ill that she herself harbors? And what will be the ultimate price of victory?
If there is one thing March Story unequivocally has going for it, it's the art. Yang Kyung-Il's linework is reminiscent of Takeshi Obata's work on Ral Ω Grad, with lush yet relatively believable female figures, soft hair, and intricate designs, particularly, in this case, in the art deco whiplash line. Equal attention is paid to both characters and backgrounds, and there's an otherworldly beauty to the book that enhances Kim Hyung-Min's dark fantasy story. Even if you couldn't read the words, this would be a volume that you could simply stare at for a long time.
Fortunately we can enjoy the text right along with the pictures. In this final volume, we end the story of March, a young woman who has disguised herself as a man in order to fight human-possessing demons known as “Ill,” and it brings to a close the hunt for the infamous and murderous Ill Janjaghee and the Ill that has a hold on March's life. It has threatened to come out and take her over once she falls in love, and this has been perilously close for a while now, as March is (barely) repressing reciprocated feelings for antiquarian Rodin. Kim's story does deal with this threat, but in a way that is not quite what is expected, even for the Ill – love, after all, does not only exist in its romantic form.
While the series may be named after March, in this volume it becomes very clear Jake is really the heroine. It has been tempting to use her almost caricatured design as a way to write her off as the “goofy old lady,” but in this volume we really see that Jake's look is more of an homage to the scary and powerful old women of Miyazaki films than anything else. With March unconscious for most of this final book, Jake takes center stage, and we begin to see that it was really her story all along. Such a reversal is a big risk this late in the game, but Kim pulls it off admirably, possibly because there was always a sneaking suspicion that Jake was actually the more interesting of the two main female characters anyway. She and Janjaghee battle to the death, and with each seemingly deadly strike, the stakes are raised. While it is ultimately up to March to save the day and resolve everything, it is Jake who we are thinking about when the last page is turned.
While the story nominally takes place during the late 18th century (possibly to draw a parallel with The Brothers Grimm beginning their work of collecting folk tales), only Rodin's character design really shows it. The setting does, however, give us a very firm sense of “once upon a time” as the real time period, and the use of thorns, vines, and butterflies helps enormously to create the mood. Janjaghee herself is an interesting take on Elizabeth of Bathory, the so-called Bloody Countess who is rumored to have bathed in the blood of virgins to retain her youth and beauty. That Bathory herself lived in the 16th century actually adds to the atmosphere of the supposed time period, making Janjaghee appear an even more fearsome foe than she clearly already is. The only semi-sour note in the setting is fellow Ill-hunter Belma, whose penchant for rippling his muscles until his shirt bursts feels like a poorly-timed comedic intrusion. Luckily he is mostly on his serious behavior here, and thus doesn't distract or detract as much as he has in other volumes.
In some ways it is too bad that March Story only made it to five volumes, because there is still a lot of its world to be explored. On the other hand, this final book wraps things up nicely, bringing a mostly satisfying conclusion to March and Jake's stories as it resolves their personal tales. This volume is very violent in that resolution, with gouts of blood spraying on almost every page, but it doesn't feel gruesome just for show and Janjaghee proves to be a good final boss. With its brief musing on love and semi-tragic finale, March Story glides nicely to a close, leaving us wanting more, but still managing to wrap up the tale and to give us the kind of ending its world implies.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : A-
+ Beautiful art, Janjaghee is a good villain (plus her name is fun to say). Jake's character really shines, interesting consideration of love.
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