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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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05/30/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Arcana 1"

Arcana #1
by So-Young Lee
Published by TOKYOPOP

Review by Tom Good

Inez, a young girl with the power to communicate with animals, is outdoors with her faithful dog Zode when they witness the first snowfall in the land in a hundred years. Then after surviving a terrifying encounter with a demon, Inez wakes up in the Imperial Palace. There she begins to learn of her destiny, which involves her abilities and the ancient race of dragons.

Visually, Arcana has a lot of gender ambiguity. Two of the male characters, Yulan and the Emperor, are both drawn with flowing hair, narrow faces, thin eyebrows, earrings, and dark, full lips. If the text had not specifically said they were male, I would have been fairly certain that they were both women. And several other male characters have a very feminine appearance. On the other hand, the heroine Inez appears with more masculine clothing and posture, and a boyish body. These artistic choices do add to the sense of mystery in the story.

The book introduces many different characters and mysteries, but it is written with a style that hints at things rather than spelling everything out. Whereas some manga stumble with too much clunky, plodding exposition, Arcana shows what can be accomplished with a lighter touch. The characters always seem to be speaking to each other and not making asides to the reader. This rewards attentive readers with a satisfying feeling of discovery.

Though Arcana uses some well-worn themes dragons, demons, and a child with a mysterious destiny its treatment of them makes the story feel fresh and new. The art uses delicate, fine lines and subtle textures to give the book a very pretty, dreamlike look. It makes for a good start to a new series.

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