Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire
The Hooded Woman has Ricky pinned down, threatening to turn him into a poison-spewing monster like Bindi and Nanan. Meanwhile Chris, Piers, and Merah fight the zombie students of Marhawa Academy in a desperate bid to reach the hidden helicopter. Can all four of them escape? And what are the implications of the events at Marhawa for the rest of the world?
You have to appreciate a manga series where you can read each volume in roughly twenty minutes because the action just moves that fast. Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire has been one of those series for all of its five-volume run, and if that doesn't sound like enough reading time for your money, it's worth mentioning that the series re-reads pretty well too, giving you time to go back and notice more of the details, like which students from volumes one and two can be seen lurching about in the background of volume five as hideous zombies. In that sense, this final volume (and the series as a whole) works on two levels – as a quick, exciting read and as a detailed horror story after you've learned how it all turns out.
And how does it all turn out? Surprisingly well, actually. Of course, given that the manga is billed as a prequel to the sixth Resident Evil game, we do have to assume that some of the protagonists of this series are going to make it out (those who have played the game will know exactly who), but the fate of the other characters is up in the air, making for enough tension to carry the plot to its conclusion. Point-of-view character Ricky Towzawa is perhaps not as traumatized by the events of the series as we might expect him to be – although between the official end of the storyline and the epilogue, he might have gone through serious therapy; we just didn't see it – but his successful journey from “college kid trying for an easy A” to “hardened survivalist” is satisfying, and in this final book he really shows that he has, if not matured, precisely, learned how to survive rather than just tag along. Probably the most disappointing character here is Merah Biji, the female BSAA agent who, will unarguably badass, also primarily served as the fanservice of the operation. Merah never really gets any good development, merely hints that her physical prowess and fighting skills did not take away from her more emotional, traditionally “feminine” aspects. This makes her role towards the end of the volume feel less important than it ought to. While we can still very much appreciate what she does and how she does it, there's still a bit of a feeling that it came out of the blue, and had she been developed a little more it could have been a very touching scene.
What is handled well is the resolution of the Bindi/Nanan relationship. Although this also hasn't had as much development as it could have as the ground zero for the outbreak at Marhawa Academy, we never lose the feeling that the two girls care deeply for each other, and whether you give that a homoerotic interpretation or not, their devotion and reliance upon each other is central to the plot. By this volume both girls have been hideously transformed, Nanan by the Hooded Woman and Bindi by her own hand. Nanan's loss was what drove Bindi to really confront Mother Gracia's love of reputation, and the story never loses sight of that. Their ending is bittersweet, and Naoki Serizawa not only gives that a decent amount of pages but also takes care to show Nanan's father as one of the grieving parents once the BSAA cleanup team has finished with the school. It's a firm reminder that human foolishness brought these events about, driven by the very human emotions of pride, greed, and heartbreak.
Serizawa's art for this series is very dark, not just in content, which tends towards the gruesome, but also in the coloring – most of the pages are more black than white, and the grays used are dark. Even the opening color pages are in dark olive predominantly, and while it can be overwhelming, it works well with the story. The tone also helps to cover up the slight stiffness of Serizawa's people, which works better for zombies than the living. There is a very nice diversity to the cast, reflective of the fact that the BSAA is international, as is (was?) Marhawa Academy. Effort is made to keep the background zombies all different from each other, and as I said before, you can pick out previously living students from earlier volumes amongst the horde.
While Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire's final volume isn't as fully satisfying as it could be, it still manages to resolve the series' plot while leading believably into the sixth game. Surprisingly little happens, but there's never a dull moment as the book hurtles towards its finale, and it maintains the hint of sadness that many horror stories forget is necessary as a backdrop. Even if you haven't played the games and never intend to, The Marhawa Desire is a solid piece of horror manga, gross and intense and likely to please genre fans.
Overall : B
Story : B-
Art : B+
+ Doesn't drag the story out too long, appropriately violent and gross. Story maintains its tension, Bindi/Nanan plot is resolved nicely.
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