Archive for November 2010

A Million Tears

TITLE: A Million Tears
RATING: Teen (13+)
SCORE: 6 (Fine)
RECOMMENDED FOR FANS OF: Yuana Kazumi (mangaka of Flower of the Deep Sleep and Haru Hana), drama, supernatural, romance

Back in this review for Haru Hana, I put forth the hypothesis that mangaka Yuana Kazumi was better at portraying drama than she was comedy, so I tracked down some copies of her earlier, out-of-print series, A Million Tears, to put my theory to the test. The verdict? Yes, she does much better with dramatic material, although this series isn’t without its flaws.

Hiromu is just an average, ordinary sixteen-year-old high school student. He enjoys playing on his school’s champion basketball team, and he has a cute, if slightly quirky, girlfriend named Natsumi. One day, though, one of his friends suddenly goes missing, and to make matters worse, not only does no one care about the guy’s disappearance, they don’t even remember him! It’s as if the friend never existed at all, and soon other kids at Hiromu’s school begin disappearing as well, literally without a trace.

The disappearances turn out to be the work of a guy named Vermillion, a Destiny Thief who lives off the existances of humans. Once he “eats” someone, they vanish completely, even from people’s memories. The victims cease to exist. Hiromu, however, remembers the vanished people because he’s a Destiny Thief as well, whose real name is Glorious. He lost his memories of being a Destiny Thief after stealing the existance of the real Hiromu and assuming his life, but he begins to recover those memories after Vermillion re-introduces him to Valeriana, Glorious’ near-vegetative wife.

There’s a lot about the theme of this series I like. Using the hook of Destiny Thieves to explore the nature of existance and what it means to truly be alive is a clever idea, and the series manages to be quite deep despite its brevity.

The problem is, as noted at the end of Volume 1, A Million Tears was originally meant to be a single volume, meaning that Kazumi had to quickly think of ways to expand her basic plot. It seems she decided to do that by adding a series of flashbacks, detailing Glorious’ life from when he first became a Destiny Thief to how he became Hiromu. It’s not that these chapters are superfluous; they do serve a purpose. The first flashback shows how Hirokazu — the future Glorious — fell in love with Valeriana and decided to become a Destiny Thief in order to save her life, the second is about Glorious meeting the original Hiromu, and the third, taking place in between the first two memories, explains how Valeriana ended up in her near-vegetative state. The memories flesh out the characters’ history and build up the theme of the story.

The problem I have with these middle chapters is that they don’t really flow naturally into the plot. They just happen with no real warning or build-up, causing the reader confusion at first as they try to decipher exactly when things are happening. The flashbacks are just…there, and while they are interesting and answer a lot of questions, I just wish they felt more integrated into the narrative itself instead of feeling like tacked-on filler.

Another problem is that some of the characters’ personalities aren’t particularly well-defined. For example, Hiromu’s girlfriend Natsumi is supposed to be a little on the strange side, but she seems pretty normal to me. Sure, her classmates think she’s crazy when Hiromu disappears and she keeps insisting that he existed, but she was always supposed to be a little weird. Yet the only time I really saw that trait expressed before Hiromu’s reawakening as Glorious is when he tries to confide in her about his fears that he’s going crazy and she starts up a speech about how maybe everybody else is crazy instead. (It’s also revealed that she’s in the Sumo Club, which I guess is a bit unusual for a cute teenage girl.) Then there’s Vermillion, who remains a bit of a cipher throughout the whole series. He’s quite attached to Glorious, but it’s never made clear exactly what the nature of his feelings are. Is he in love Glorious? Lonely and just wants a friend? Does he just enjoy toying with people? Apparently, unlike Glorious and Valeriana, who were originally human, he was always a Destiny Thief, but where exactly did he come from?

The characterization of Hiromu/Glorious/Hirokazu, though, is rather well done. Each aspect is different, yet not radically so. You have Hirokazu, the bitter little rich boy who resents his engagement to a woman who he doesn’t love, yet shows kindness to the beautiful foreigner who arrives into town on a missionary mission when everyone else shuns her; Hiromu, the kind high school basketball player in love with his girlfriend; and Glorious — revengeful against humans for what happened in the past, devoted to Valeriana, and willing to do anything so that they can be together forever, yet hesistant to erase Natsumi even after she learns the truth about who he is. There’s a nice conflict between his Hirokazu personality and his Hiromu personality when he’s restored as Glorious that I enjoyed.

I also liked the artwork, especially the beautiful watercolor covers. It’s not as polished as Haru Hana, and both female leads have dreadful hairstyles, but there’s still something quite appealing about it. Vermillion, in particular, has some really nice facial expressions that I loved.

A Million Tears is most definitely a flawed work, but as one of Kazumi’s earlier works, that’s to be expected. Still, if you enjoyed the more dramatic parts of Haru Hana, I think it’s worth a look.

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