Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time
The curse seed has at last been found as Akram's plans begin to destroy the Capital. Akane must resurface from the cave and gather all eight Guardians together to summon the Four Gods in order to stave off destruction. But with the Guardians still under the curse, will she be able to succeed? And whose heart truly speaks to hers?
Well, maybe the last part of that summary isn't really a question. Either Viz or the original editors at Hakusensha didn't want to leave anything to the imagination, because the cover to the final volume of Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time qualifies as a spoiler. On the one hand, readers could most likely see this turn of events coming. On the other, it's still giving away a significant portion of the series' resolution. Fortunately Tohko Mizuno's illustration is beautiful, with delicate lines and colors, so that if nothing else, this is one of the prettier covers to grace the series.
Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time began its English translation in the pages of the now-defunct Shojo Beat magazine, where it demonstrated some pacing flaws. Over the course of its seventeen volumes there have been some significant improvements on that front, and most of this final volume moves at a reasonable and well-thought out clip. Most of the book focuses on the battle with the Black Kirin, a monster that emerges from a corrupted Dragon Spring and begins laying waste to the Capital. The Guardians are still suffering from the memory wipe curse that was laid on them, and while a few are willing to stand up and fight for something and someone they barely remember, others are less noble. Tomomasa, whose character has been slightly doubtful from the get-go, reveals some insecurities that he has been harboring, causing him to lock horns with Tenma over what they ought to do. This allows for some added depth to both characters that enhances the “fish out of water” qualities that the modern characters have from time to time exhibited. It also serves to highlight the fact that Tomomasa is an adult in a very different position than the teenage Tenma, perhaps a contrast that could also speak to the differences between Akane's and Akram's philosophies as well.
Unfortunately, this is about as deep as it gets with character wrap-ups. Yes, Inori comes to a realization about Iktidarl and Sefle, but after that there is simply a parade of cliches, with everyone quietly confessing their feelings for Akane to one another and a lot of talk about what it means to trust someone. This is where the pacing begins to fall off a bit, as after the grand return of Akane, the story indulges in a false climax. While this is a reasonable narrative trick in a better written story, here it just chops up the ending, making the true denoument feel rushed and tacked on. The very ending of the volume, and thereby the series as a whole, suffers from a lack of explanation, similarly to the very first pages of the first volume. How did these events come about? Was there a ritual involved? What happened after Akane's final stand? None of these questions are really answered, and a brief flashback does little to alleviate the reader's confusion and vague sense of dissatisfaction.
Happily Mizuno's art remains attractive. Her lines are delicate, giving everyone a distinct yet hazy look, and her attention to detail is worth remarking upon. Little things like the worn edges on the treads of Inori's sandals or the swing of a piece of string add depth to the artwork, and the fact that she doesn't take shortcuts by eliminating clothing ties or strands of hair is impressive. She doesn't over-tone while still using a fair amount of gray space, and while some pages are crowded, the panels are always easy to follow. It's a shame that the artbook for the series hasn't been released, because Mizuno's drawings really are a pleasure to look at.
Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time has never been an A-list series. It has consistently suffered from a lack of good explanations and choppy pacing, and while this final volume is an improvement, it is still not enough to truly salvage the other sixteen. It is, however, sufficiently interesting and romantic to merit finishing, and readers who only read what was in the magazine should be able to pick this up to see how it ends with minimal difficulties. It isn't a smooth a game adaptation as some others out there, but it isn't the worst either. With its final volume, Haruka ends somewhat how it started – in the realm of firmly mediocre.
Overall : C
Story : C
Art : B+
+ Beautiful art, improved pacing. Some interesting character moments and a pretty good ending.
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