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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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11/20/2007 Archived Entry: "Manga reivew: Enchanter, Vol. 5"

Enchanter, Vol. 5
By Izumi Kawachi
Digital Manga Publishing

Review by Tom Good

My personal rule of thumb for distinguishing good artists from great artists is this: I might like the work of a good artist a lot, but with a great artist, that appreciation is always stained with some degree of jealousy and annoyance at not being able to create such things myself. It's a selfish, horrible rule of thumb, I know, but I have found it quite reliable. And by that measure, Izumi Kawachi certainly qualifies as a great artist.

Let's start with the front cover. This cover art contains an intriguing detail: the character Kimura has two different colored eyes, one brown and one blue. This is an unusual but real trait called heterochromia. The coloring here must be deliberate since it also occurs on the back cover of volume 6. Whether or not the reader notices this at a conscious level, in some way this detail marks the character and the story as special.

After picking up on this, I started to notice that throughout the book Kawachi often draws the eyes of the characters Kimura, Haruhiko and Fulcanelli with the left pupil much more dilated than the right. It is a subtle thing, but once you notice it, it jumps out at you. And the demon girl Eukanaria is never shown this way, so it seems to be a specific look for certain characters, and not just a stylized way of drawing. The dilation of one pupil also happens to be a real thing, sometimes caused by a condition called Adie Syndrome. I don't know if Kawachi is playing to her opthamologist readers, or just making an aesthetic choice, but it is interesting either way.

I also must at least mention the great use of negative space around the top and right sides of the front cover, which brings to mind the tradition of Chinese landscape painting. This blank white portion of the cover not only displays the lettering of the title to good effect, but it also creates a visual tension where Kimura seems to be falling out towards the viewer.

Enchanter #5 begins, on the inside cover page, with a very nice pinup drawing (and by "very nice" I mean that I blush and take a deep breath when I look at it). It is playful and over-the-top, yet brilliantly done. A beautiful young woman reclines, covered only by a string bikini top and a strategically positioned tropical drink. A straw dangles from her mouth and she looks up with a wink. Another straw beckons from the glass, as if inviting the viewer to join in.

Kawachi cleverly uses the second straw to enhance the impact of the picture. As with the unusual eye details mentioned above, it is something not all readers will consciously notice. And though I hesitate to use the word "subtle" in connection with a cheesecake shot like this, there are many interesting things going on artistically in this page. The legs extend beyond the boundaries of the page, and are suggested with just a few lines and a few shades of gray. Without context these shapes would not seem much like legs at all. And while the shoulders are well-defined with crisp lines, the arms barely appear, vanishing into the background. Kawachi draws just enough to allow the viewer's mind to fill in the rest.

And now for my review of page two . . . just kidding, though if I had enough time I probably could say something about each and every page, which shows how much this manga has to offer.

The plot of volume 5 finally provides a satisfying back story to explain the behavior of the beautiful demon Eukanaria. Since the beginning of the series she has craved the body of the hero Haruhiko, but only as a host for the spirit of the sorcerer Fulcanelli. But now Haruhiko looks into Eukanaria's mind while she is dreaming, and he sees a flashback to the relationship between Eukanaria and Fulcanelli, and starts to understand her motivations. This scene makes her into a more sympathetic character, not just a demon trying to take advantage of a young man.

In fact, one of the interesting things about Enchanter is that it has no real villains in the classic sense. The plot often introduces a new character who seems threatening or possibly evil, only to reveal later that he or she may have more reasonable goals after all. In this world, characters tend to first see situations as more dire than they really are, and then be pleasantly surprised by how things turn out. This, combined with the effective comedy throughout the series, gives the story a cheery and uplifting quality.

The word baka (idiot) appears untranslated in several places, including a scene where Haruhiko calls the demon "Bakanaria" instead of "Eukanaria." Though the context makes it clear that this is some sort of insult, it does reveal some confidence in English-speaking manga fans' knowledge of common Japanese words. It also makes me wonder how much the Internet has raised the bar for readers, who can now investigate any unfamiliar term with a quick Google search.

For me, with Volume 5, Enchanter really turned the corner from being a fun manga to being a must-read manga. If you like the romantic comedy genre, this is a series you shouldn't miss.

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