MANGA REVIEW | "Blade of the Moon Princess" - Volume One
It sometimes takes awhile for a manga creator to find their voice. In the case of Tatsuya Endo, he found his visual style early in his debut work TISTA. However, it wasn’t without its share of flaws, especially when it comes to both story and characters. With his second series Blade of the Moon Princess, he was able to craft some memorable heroes and villains. Alas, he once again had trouble with creating a proper narrative for it.
That’s not to say that he wasn’t trying. In fact, the concept of Blade of the Moon Princess is a pretty cool one. Take the Japanese classic "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter", and inject it with a shonen manga soul. And instead of making Princess Kaguya a beautiful infant, she’s now a rambunctious teenager with a desire to kick ass and chew bubblegum. It’s the makings of what should be a shonen hit. So where does it go wrong?
For starters, it takes a very long time to get the story going. Although we get a good back story about the Moon that Kaguya resides on, it takes awhile before the meat of the tale is ready to be tasted. We see her mother — the Empress of the Moon — is having some health troubles, with it looking like she’ll never see her daughter’s coming-of-age ceremony. But it’s not until the last third of the 70-page premiere chapter do we get an idea of what’s going on.
The terrorist attack that occurs is where the beating heart of Blade of the Moon Princess starts to pump. Seeing Kaguya’s mother, who is clearly nearing death, push herself to protect her child becomes the moment the wild teen needs to start growing up. And while she’s sent to Earth, it’s all to prepare her more for the battle to reclaim the throne when the time is right (and act similar to a certain elusive samurai). Once the old couple from the classic tale enters the picture, the real story starts to unfold.
Of course, it’s still not without some storytelling flaws, which come from a bad case of the “been there, done thats”. The story of Kaguya being mistaken for another princess is a tale as old as time, which only gets better the more she starts pummeling a puny lord with a case of Napoleon complex. But there’s too much of a repeated narrative that makes it hard to really get into this story, with only Endo’s artwork being its saving grace. (The way Kaguya fights with her sword is very beautiful to watch, especially when you see it go against a fury of arrows.)
There is some footing found in the third chapter of Blade of the Immortal Princess. The introduction of a rock musician (are we going by the rules of Inu-Oh here?) finally brings a good level of chemistry to our main character. She’s thankfully no damsel-in-distress, as she’s more tougher than any guy here, but his entrance does give her the focus and state-of-mind that’s required of a good hero. Also, the battle between her and a guy who raided the closet of Hedwig and the Angry Inch winds up being entertaining both from an action and a comedic perspective.
Still, one cannot ignore the rocky storytelling points of Blade of the Moon Princess. It’s visually stunning, and it has some great characters. Sadly, it takes two-thirds of the first volume to really review up its engines. This manga was written nearly a decade before Tatsuya Endo thought of the Forger Family, which looks more and more like the place the creator mastered his narrative chops. Nevertheless, Blade of the Moon Princess offers yet another look at the “what will bes” of a writer who’ll one day create one of the most popular series in the world.
Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media.