"Thermae Romae is the perfect manga for fans of a) classical history and b) taking baths." Well, who doesn't love both of those?
Reviewby Zac Bertschy, Oct 25th 2005
A Midnight Opera
Ein Delalune is a mega-popular gothic rock star with a secret: he's undead! On top of his game and desperately in love with a woman who'll follow him anywhere, Ein's unlife takes a turn for the worse when his werewolf brother Leroux—whose sibling rivalry with Ein turns bloody and brutal—pops up to tell him that they must band together to stop an ancient menace from destroying mankind.
American-created manga (AmeriManga to some, OEL and WorldManga to others) has had a hard time finding its audience here in America for a few important reasons; one, it isn't Japanese, and two, as it happens, a lot of it isn't very good. One of the fundamental problems behind the entire concept of AmeriManga is that you're asking an artist—sometimes an artist with no prior real-world publishing or writing experience, someone who doesn't understand the intricate and at times downright scientific methods behind writing a competent story—to emulate something foreign. Can creativity be found in an exercise that, from its very inception, is derivative? How can we expect real innovation from an artist who we know is attempting to ape a particular style rather than create their own? These questions plague Hans Steinbach's A Midnight Opera; it's a wholly derivative, over-the-top, ludicrously amateurish foray into the now-tired realm of supernatural gothic drama.
A Midnight Opera follows the questionably named Ein Delalune, an undead gothic rock star who's forced to work with his bloodthirsty, lycanthropic brother in order to stop the undead nation (which sounds like a failed metal band) from raising hell in modern society. Not a terrible idea for a manga, right? Well, unfortunately the author has read far too many Anne Rice novels and has taken what could have been a modestly entertaining bit of clichéd gothy fun and transformed it into a ridiculous carnival of terrible dialogue, amateurish art and thick layers of undeserved pretension. If you thought something like Interview with the Vampire was overwrought and silly, A Midnight Opera will have you howling.
The biggest problem with A Midnight Opera is the dialogue, which fluctuates between eye-rollingly lame and absolutely terrible. Melodramatic and totally stiff, most of it sounds like song lyrics rejected by My Chemical Romance; it's all over-the-top, angst-ridden emo nonsense. Here's a sample:
“I feel the weight of my heart. I bleed it dry in a deluge of ferocity and fear for a duty I don't completely understand. And I can't even try to understand it. Because then I'll realize that my love for her… far overshadows it. Is it so dangerous to love me? Is it so… useless?”
Dialogue like this makes me want to roll my eyes so hard they burst out of the back of my skull. I'd be dead, but at least I'll have made my point. When the dialogue doesn't sound like Steinbach lifted it out of some goth teenager's Livejournal, it sounds like he stole it straight from Anne Rice. I defy anyone to take this book seriously when the characters are talking like that. The typos don't help, either.
The other major problem is the art. The artist's bio in the back of the book states that he's never had any formal art training, a claim backed up by the sometimes unbelievably bad art this book has to display. Steinbach's biggest problems involve perspective and anatomy; he struggles to make his characters look the same from panel to panel and especially has a difficult time making their profile shots match their forward shots. Action is rendered with lots of diagonal lines and wacky angles, but still it feels static. And it's hard to tell if this is Steinbach's fault or not, but the theater marquee for the “Rue Morgue” (see, it's gothic, right?) is one of the most unprofessional looking things I've seen in an American manga thus far; Steinbach simply drew the marquee and then downloaded a generic gothic font and slapped the letters on there. He didn't even bother to drop the image into Photoshop and tilt the letters so they matched the perspective of the sign. He could have done this in MS Paint.
It's hard to tell if A Midnight Opera is an exercise in plain marketing hubris—pandering directly to the Hot Topic crowd—or simply a case of the author taking himself and his work far too seriously and churning out cliché after cliché, convinced of his own genius, unaware of the tripe he's created. It's possible that it's a combination of both, but that doesn't change the fact that this book isn't worth reading. We're all still waiting for the first truly great American manga to come down the pike; once something really spectacular hits, maybe it'll finally find the legitimacy and respect in the marketplace it has the potential to harvest. Until then, we're stuck with junk like A Midnight Opera, a pale, hackneyed imitation of the real thing. Skip it.
Story : D
Art : F
+ The cover illustration isn't half bad.
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