Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Tia La Cherla
As an orphan growing up on a remote island, Erda hasn't given much thought to the ways of the world. All of that changes when he encounters a strange girl in town. The girl doesn't seem to remember much about herself, but she quickly becomes attached to Erda. This has unexpected consequences when monsters attack her and a sorcerer named Yuri appears. When Erda refuses to leave the girl (who he names Ruin), Yuri sends them to the mainland for Ruin's protection. Erda's about to get a rapid introduction to the fact that the world is a much darker, larger place than he ever imagined.
Cross Infinite World tends to focus more on light novel translations, but the few manga titles they've also licensed are interesting. Tia la Cherla is a straight fantasy (as opposed to the historical fantasy, isekai, and urban fantasy of their other manga offerings) that follows a familiar path: Erda is a young teen orphan who one day discovers that he may be some sort of chosen one. Except…maybe not? Despite the fact that Erda seems to have a calming affect on Ruin, the embodiment of darkness, tests show that he's as normal as they come. This opens the door to the possibility of Tia la Cherla being more than just a cookie cutter heroic quest with a protagonist who isn't so much predestined to be great, but is nonetheless.
The best reason for Erda's apparent specialness comes from a different idea of the “chosen one.” In most cases that's someone selected by the gods (in this case, the title of the series is the god in question) for some great destiny or other, generally saving the world. Erda, however, has been chosen by people. He was raised by Sirius, a sorcerer of some renown, and later befriends Ruin when no one else seems inclined to, leading to her forming an attachment to him. When Ruin first sees him she calls him “sun,” but given that she seems to have suffered some trauma that's left her with reduced intellectual capacity, or at least a severe case of memory loss, that may be less that he's literally the sun to her darkness and more that he's the first bright thing she's seen. While this may not hold up in later volumes, it's still an interesting notion, and one supported by the fact that the sorcerer Yuri can't seem to find anything overtly special about Erda apart from Ruin's attachment to him. If nothing else it's a testament to friendship in a way that doesn't involve overt protestations about “the power of friendship” and other manga stand-by phrases on the subject, and that's a nice change in and of itself.
Despite that, Tia la Cherla is still a fairly standard fantasy tale. The powers of light and dark are set on a collision course that people fear, two different groups are working to get their hands on Ruin, and the unexpected presence of Erda keeps gumming up the works. He's the obligatory orphan (although he does have strong bonds with his current foster family, so this isn't a straight-up orphan fantasy in the sense that he does have someone looking out for him), and there are beastmen, magic, and other genre trappings present. There's also the usual unseen narrator, but where this volume stands out is that the narrator feels more like a storyteller, as if we're sitting somewhere listening to them rather than reading narration panels. This is largely accomplished by the lyrical translation, which owes a lot more to oral storytelling traditions than literary fairy tale texts in its cadence and word choices. Again, it's a little detail that helps the book stand out in a crowded genre, and it works especially well with the fact that Erda isn't a destined hero figure because oral storytelling tends to stray from established story norms more than its written counterpart.
Yun Amano's art is sparing with the backgrounds, but reads very smoothly. The color art is easily the most striking artistic feature of the book, and again it's a shame that the publisher only does digital-only releases, because these pictures would be even more beautiful hard copy. Character designs aren't particularly innovative, but they are nice to look at, and the use of a long-earred animal as the base for the beastman (rabbit, maybe?) is a welcome change from the more standard cat, dog, or horned animal for a man. He feels like the most standard character in the story thus far, filling the so-called comic relief role, and he more often comes off as vaguely irritating than funny.
Tia la Cherla's first volume introduces us to an enjoyable fantasy narrative that is both familiar and a little off the beaten path. It doesn't do anything groundbreaking, but its final chapter sets the stage for things to move in interesting directions, and while it may not be on the level of Little Hero, it's still very much worth checking out if you're looking for a fantasy adventure.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B-
+ Interesting changes to the standard story of the chosen hero, very nice translation
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