I hope that everyone is having a good week, even if it is still just more of the daily grind.
Things have been going fairly well here, aside from an annoyance that cropped up from something starting this month, and I can still do what I like.
I was expecting to get at least two books this, but because a preorder got cancelled by the publisher, I only get one book this month, and it has recently arrived, which means that I need to get my butt in gear.
Today, I will be reviewing that book, which is called The Ancient Magus Bride Volume 9 by Kore Yamazaki.
As I have given a series synopsis in an earlier post, I will not go over it again.
After parting with Ainsworth, because she noticed that he was trying to do something to her friend, Chise finds herself in Josef's hideout, where he plans to carry out their agreement.
Meanwhile, Ainsworth is down about what happened and wants to get Chise back, but if he is too careless, the two will no longer be together and the missing dragon case might not get resolved.
While the manga has still been looking good for now, that does not always mean that a series is going to remain good, so it is nice to see where things are going.
And after reading this, I can say that I kind of liked it, but not as much as the previous installment.
From the moment that I opened up and started reading this volume, I found myself engrossed enough that I did not want to stop reading for any reason, though not quite to the degree that I would have liked to have.
One of the most important things for a work fiction is how it begins, because the reader wants to immerse themselves into another world and temporarily escape life, and a great beginning can provide that.
While the way to go about this differs, depending on the medium used to present the story and if it is a standalone work or part of series, manga is usually serialized in magazines, though they look more like regular paperback books, and that means that each chapter must pick up somewhere around the time it left.
Even though I am not entirely pleased with how this volume started out, because I felt more lost than I did while reading both The Case Study of Vanitas Volume 4 and A Certain Scientific Railgun Volume 13, as things felt a bit out of place, especially after looking through the pages of the previous volume, it still did a good job of grabbing my attention because I was wondering what was going on and how Ainsworth became such a mess, as well as what had happened to Chise after Josef had forced her to make an agreement with him.
If Kore Yamazaki had not out the chapter like this, or even in the one way that I think would have been way better, which would have been to start things off with Chise, instead of Ainsworth, I would have been much more disappointed, because Kore has shown herself to be able to deliver something that is just as good as Jun Mochizuki, and delivering an even worse beginning would have hurt her credibility.
Thankfully, Kore Yamazaki did not decide to make things worse, which means that I can let her off with a passing grade.
Hopefully, future volumes will be able to have a much better start than this one did, but because Kore Yamazaki is not the only one responsible for getting this series out to the world, I would not be surprised if Mag Garden, or whoever they have compile these volumes together, decided to have a terrible beginning, like Shogakukan has in a number of the volumes of Detective Conan that had been released so far, and I am ready to rip into things if it gets that bad.
I also liked how Chise's and Josef's pasts were explored.
Early on in this series, I had thought that Chise was treated very poorly by her family, with how her mother tried to kill her and many of her other relatives either pretty much did not care one bit about her or did not want to take her in, leading her to ponder suicide and ultimately putting herself up for auction.
However, as the series went on, I saw that Chise's mother did care for her like a good mother should, and it made me want to find out what how a loving mother that like would try to kill Chise, as well as see if Chise could move beyond the past.
In this volume, after we find out where Chise went and Josef, also known as Cartaphilus, the wandering jew, removes Chise's eyes, visions of Chise's past are shown, with Chise getting as much of a front row seat as a fly on the wall, and it goes through almost everything up to the time where her father abandons Chise and her mother, including the stresses she had.
Seeing those stresses, from things like getting an income to survive to noticing that Chise attracts more monsters than she does, it made sense that Chise's mother would get the sudden impulse to kill her, because taking care of and protecting a child is a lot of work for a single parent, and her history of unstable employ made her unhireable.
By having these scenes in here, Kore Yamazaki reminded me of what have to live I have through and why doubting everyone is very important, even though I have definitely had a much better life than Chise did and still do, as well as helped to explain why that nightmarish memory of Chise's mother haunted her enough that she forgot about all of those good moments in her life.
If these scenes were removed from the chapters found in this volume, I would have been disappointed, as I would not have seen the change in Chise that slowly developed over nine volumes, and would have made her a character that is almost as boring to follow as Touma Kamijou.
The second thing that made these flashbacks great was the exploration of Josef's past.
While Chise's past has been somewhat mysterious, due to the contradictions of what was shown before, but Cartaphilus's past has been of much greater interest to me because we see somebody that has been consumed by greed and wants both immortality and a body that would not rot away, which would encompass both immortality and eternal youth, but we never see the motivation for why it came about.
Here, in this volume, after meeting the entity that was responsible for Cartaphilus's curse, who is called eternal life, and being asked to grant a wish, Chise reaches out towards Cartaphilus and digs into his memory.
Moments later, we see a person name Josef going about his day and stumble upon a man that is near death, yet he never dies, named Cartaphilus, and we see that he tries so hard to heal Cartaphilus, but he breaks down in frustration and decides to merge.
While the revelation that Josef and Cartaphilus are not the same person is not that surprising, considering how that has already been hinted at one point in the series and eternal life verifies it in this volume, it helped me to understand Cartaphilus's motivations, and it even helped to make something that occurs later in the volume that much more heartfelt.
If Josef's past was not explored, I would have been even more disappointed, because things were already feeling a bit lacking from the confusing, yet kind of forgivable beginning, and one of the things that is so nice about the manga version of this series is how Kore Yamazaki can deliver the emotions necessary to make things great.
Fortunately, Kore Yamazaki did not forget to flesh things out, and that makes me want to give her a good round of applause.
Hopefully, Kore will be able to keep this up in the future volumes, as many fans of the series, as well as myself, would like to see this series do well over here, but, just like every other creator that has ever lived, Kore Yamazaki will eventually reach her peak and go downhill, so I have to be ready for when she does something stupid.
Speaking of how Cartaphilus's past made thing more heartfelt, the thing that I liked the most was how Chise got on Cartaphilus's case and told him to make up his mind.
After the pasts of Chise and Cartaphilus's past were explorered, Cartaphilus ran away, as he was dealing with more than Chise, and Chise chases after him.
A bit later, once she catches up to him, Cartaphilus goes on about how nobody understand him and Josef and suffered ridicule, to which Chise said, "What is it you want? Do you want to be understood? Or do you want to believe you're the only one in the whole world who's suffering? Do you want to think like I did?"
Later, in the same conversation, Chise says, "Your pain only belongs to you. The hardships I've been through, the suffering you endured…Only we can understand our own pain. No one else, no matter how hard they try, can ever truly understand."
This hit me real hard for two reasons.
First, it reminds me of how flawed we are and that we can never know everything, even when we do not make the mistake of projecting our current level of consciousness of other people, like my elders have tried to do, one of which was one of the moments that was well meaning, yet not the right thing to do.
We may all live in the same world, inside the cage of civilization, and face many of the same hardships, such as needing money for shelter, utilities, food, taxes, transportation, but all of us have hardships of our own and some of us, such as yours truly, have realities where we must have the resolve to do something that we do not want to or even something society, as a whole, considers unacceptable if the possibility ever occurs.
Because of these vast differences between each of us, we cannot see things, like what is killing a person's motivation to do what they want to or possibly believe that the truth that they have come to is a lie, and, as Chise stated, we are suffering alone in our pain, even if the hardships are essentially the same as everyone else's.
If we could truly sit down with others and take time understand their position, before we pass on judgment or say things that do not really help, especially in instances where the problem is circular, we might be able to have a better society, even if it does not change that the fact we are born and die inside a cage.
However, because we cannot do, thus ending up with an inferior form empathy, and think that the answer is so simple, we will always be suffering from our own pain, like how some people hate that their time, and possibly the company's, is being wasted with so-called normal jobs, yet have factors that make other, respectable routes next to impossible.
The other reason why this moment stood out, and was the thing that really made it stick out though, was how Chise added in that because of the pain and suffering that Cartaphilus can do anything, regardless of consequences.
This part hit me, because it made Chise's and Josef's memories important to what was going on, and gave it the kind of emotional power that this scene really needed, as well as showed me just how far Chise had come from being the girl that did not care whether she lived or died.
While I would not say that things were completely perfect here, though much closer to it than how the volume started, it gave me something that I had felt been missing throughout the volume, and made me glad to see that Chise made a stand to resolve things herself for once.
If this moment had been left out the volume, or had not occurred at all, I would have been much more disappointed, as this has so far been one of the best series that I have read, and by removing things like this, I would have been left with the same kind of feelings that I felt with episode 9 of the anime adaptation.
Thankfully, Kore remembered what made this series so great to begin with, and was able to create yet another powerful moment.
Hopefully, things like this will continue to be present in the series, as that is what makes Kore one of the best mangaka out there, but with how things are not completely up to snuff in this volume, I would not be surprised if things become worse.
Outside of those things, I cannot think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that stood out to me as much as what I have already talked about and could not be shoehorned it.
Because my interest was grabbed quickly, though not necessarily very well, Chise's and Josef's past was explored a bit, which helped to create one of the best moments of the volume, this was a fairly decent read.
Although I liked the book, there are some issues.
However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, there were two things that bothered me, though they are kind of related.
First, when I opened up this book and started reading, I felt very confused.
When people delve into works of fiction, they want to be able to escape into the world of that work, and one of the things that really drives people mad is if they are confused about what is going on.
Now, some people may be screaming that things would not make complete sense, as this was originally published as part of a serial publication, so things would not make sense if you pick it up right in middle.
However, I have been following this series since late 2015 and read every volume available in my area up to this one, and I felt very confused about what was going on.
Back in the previous volume, Cartaphilus had forced Chise to go with him and Ainsworth had done something utterly horrible to the point where she says that she cannot be with him as he is now.
When this volume starts up, I am shown a road and then it goes to Ainsworth, who seemingly intends to go find Chise, but was prevented from leaving and was suffering.
With how much time Chise and Ainsworth spent together, I can kind of see him succumbing to this state, but I have almost no hint of what has happened before, even though the small flashbacks that show Ainsworth's feelings towards Chise, up until we find out what happened to Chise.
While a standalone work of fiction can start wherever the creator wants, whether that be the actual beginning, or showing us something to get us interested then delve into the events leading up to that situation, but with installments of a series, things need to be picked up at some point after the final page of the previous installment and give people who are keeping up with the series something to remind them of what happened.
However, the way Kore Yamazaki started the first chapter of this volume does not really give me any good clues of what had happened, unless I read the previous installment immediately before I delved into this.
If manga like this had better release schedules over here, I would not be too mad about this little, as it would have been negated, but because I have to wait almost half a year for each volume, even though Seven Seas Entertainment is only one volume behind the Japanese releases, but because there would be no way to speed things up, things like this happen.
What's going on, Kore? I can usually follow along with what is going on, but this is pretty awful.
If things started out with Chise, I would have been less confused, and I would have enjoyed myself more, but by starting with Ainsworth, and in a way that made me think that I would be seeing flashbacks from the previous volume, yet it only revealed how much he wanted Chise back, I had a hard time remembering that Chise was angry with Ainsworth and went with Cartaphilus.
Unfortunately, Kore Yamazaki decided to start the chapter with Ainsworth desperately wanting to get Chise back, and it made it hard for me to connect things together.
Hopefully, future chapters will have a better start than this one did, as I want to say that I could actually enjoy reading a series that I consider a favorite, but I will not be surprised if Kore does anything else that would be a stupid move.
The thing that I hated the most though was how there was very little emotion to be found in this volume.
Yes, I did say that there was one moment that really felt powerful to me, but there were some scenes that I wanted to feel what Chise was feeling, yet I felt more like an outsider looking in, rather than immersed in a great series.
If I had to say why, and is the reason that the two things that bothered me are related, is that I was not reminded very well of what had occurred before.
For example, when Ainsworth finally stands beside Chise, I want to feel that she is still angry with him, yet knows she needs his help, but the way things read and are presented do not convey that emotion beyond Chise's expression on the page.
As I had almost no idea what had happened in the last volume, though I am now at least back where I have access to all the copies of this series that I have, I did not really get the kinds of feelings that I wanted, nor did I truly understand what Chise is feeling.
One of the great things about manga, and even prose fiction, like that of Agatha Christie, is that we, the audience can get the character's thoughts and other indicators of how a person is truly feeling, and have it projected in a way that the audience can feel those emotions too.
However, if the only way to get those emotions is by reading a working immediately after the preceding title, things end up lacking.
The fact that Kore Yamazaki knows how bring out those emotions is one reason why I was drawn to the series, other than the fact that Kore knows how to spin things to give it the necessary vibe of originality.
Sadly, Kore Yamazaki failed this time around, because much of the content really relies on having the knowledge of past events fresh in one's mind.
Hopefully, Kore Yamazaki will be able to do better with the next volume, but I must also be prepared to drop a series that I considered to be great, as I know that things can get worse, though I cannot guarantee that it will happen like I could with Detective Conan.
Thankfully, those were the only things that really bothered me, so I can at least leave Kore Yamazaki with some bit of hope.
While there were only two things wrong, the fact that they are connected and is something that no manga reader should have to put up with did hurt my enjoyment.
Despite the fact that there were two things that annoyed me, the good balanced things out enough to make this worth reading.
I mainly recommend this to fans of The Ancient Magus Bride, as they will be able to enjoy this the most, though it would be best to read this immediately after reading the previous volume.
As for everyone else, I would say skip this one, unless you can snag both the this volume and the previous, as past events need to be fresh in one's mind while reading this.
If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider supporting me on Patreon, or if you want to check out the reviewed title for yourself, buy The Ancient Magus Bride Volume 9 from Book Depository, who offers free shipping to many countries around the world, so that I can continue following a series that many enjoy and possibly find more worth while reads for you guys to check out.
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