by Casey Brienza,

Million Tears

GN 1-2

Million Tears GN 1-2
Hiromu Nishizawa's classmates, friends, and loved ones are disappearing, and it's as if they never existed! How come he is the only one who seems to notice? Clearly, something supernatural is afoot, and Hiromu soon realizes that he is going to have to take drastic action if he is to save his girlfriend Natsumi from the predations of the Destiny Thief. Little does he suspect, however, that this “drastic action” will involve the realization that he is not Hiromu at all—but rather a Destiny Thief himself called Glorious Lily, with a tragic tale of his own, who has briefly forgotten himself. But perhaps Japanese student life was not for nought, and perhaps the experience will lead to his and his beloved's long-awaited salvation…

Yuana Kazumi's mystical yet poignant Flower of the Deep Sleep is undoubtedly one of the best shoujo manga series released in English that hardly anyone seems to have read. Still, it had its die-hard fans, who were delighted when its American publisher Tokyopop announced the license of another title from Kazumi's slim body of works. Unfortunately, lightning rarely strikes in the same place twice, and the two-volume Million Tears, her first multi-part series, simply does not bat at as high a level. Although the two series share a richly-described gothic sensibility that culminates in a warmly humanistic message, it is clear that Kazumi is still in the process of earning her creative chops here, and the manga, though intriguing in places, represents a wealth of missed opportunities.

Million Tears was originally intended to last one volume at most, but at some point it was decided that it would be expanded to two. As such, the narrative pacing is quite disjointed, which subplots that really ought to have been foreshortened instead expanded, and vice versa. The manga's opening gambit, Hiromu's escalating mystery which culminates in the revelation that he is not Hiromu at all, but rather the Destiny Thief Glorious Lily who had previously consumed Hiromu's existence out of envy, would have worked well as a one-shot—but it is far too long for a two-volume series and too short for a single-volume one.

The rest of the manga likewise ebbs and flows along a narrative trajectory that appears to be striving for profundity but never ever seems to arrive there. After Glorious abandons his life as Hiromu and returns to his fellow Destiny Thieves Vermillion and Valeriana, the subsequent chapter rewinds the clock, taking the reader back to his real human existence as Taisho Era rich boy Hirokazu, who falls head over heels for a Christian missionary newly-arrived from the West. Alas, Hirokazu's father does not approve of his relationship with the girl, and helps foment a witch hunt that ends with Valeriana being burned at the stake. A horrified Hirokazu swears vengeance on all humanity, and he and Valeriana become Destiny Thieves.

Further chapters explore Hiromu's fateful encounter with Glorious, and Valeriana's friendship with a disillusioned World War II soldier who initially craves the oblivion she offers. But when he realizes that life is worth living after all, and Valeriana defends him against her compatriot's powers, it is Valeriana who loses herself, to sit catatonic for the equivalent of half a human century. The final story arc of the second and final volume, which is Kazumi's attempt to tie up the loose ends of the story into a neat little bow, proves that Million Tears is worth less than the sum of its individual parts. Glorious and Vermillion have inexplicably returned to Hiromu's school and have enrolled as students there while hiding their pasts. However, Natsumi is suspicious, and the memories that Glorious believed he erased in the previous volume are beginning to resurface. This puts her life in understandable danger, but Valeriana awakens just in time to protect her. She convinces Glorious to forgive humanity, and the two abandon their pseudo-lives. All ends happily ever after, with Hiromu restored and Glorious and Valeriana reincarnated in the modern day and destined to meet (and, presumably, fall in love) as they once did yet again.

No explanation of where the Destiny Thieves come from is ever offered, although we find out that Vermillion was never human. Yet Kazumi avoids exploring the background and motives of this mastermind, even though he is arguably the most mysterious and intriguing character of the lot—and, sadly, he is the only one left alone at the end of the story.

The artwork of Million Tears is well-composed and distinctively styled, and it definitely adds considerably to the ambiance of the series. Her draftsmanship is an acquired taste, though, and some readers may be put off by the thick yet hesitant lines and the strangely-proportioned human bodies. Kazumi's watercolor covers, on the other hand, are unequivocally lovely; so many mangaka prefer to use computer color these days, but there is a warmth, even in its subtle imperfections, to hand-drawn artwork that makes it paradoxically superior to is Photoshopped counterparts. All in all, this is a series worth checking out once if you are a fan of Flower of the Deep Sleep, but do not be surprised if you are not inclined to return to it again.

Production Info:
Overall : B-
Story : C+
Art : B

+ An intriguing story premise and attractive color covers.
Uneven execution and a somewhat idiosyncratic art style.

Story & Art: Yuana Kazumi

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Million Tears (manga)

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Million Tears (GN 1)

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