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Angelic Runes, Volume 1

Review

Angelic Runes, Volume 1

written and illustrated by Makoto Tateno

While passing through a remote village, the magic user Sowil encounters a horrifying sight: The villagers are preparing to bury two innocent children --- a girl named Allueh and a boy named Erudite --- alive! But when he confronts the villagers, they insist that it is not they but rather these twins who are the horrifying ones; the children are cursed, and every word that issues from their lips strikes terror into the hearts of listeners. Sowil, however, is undeterred and volunteers to take Allueh and Erudite off of their hands. As it turns out, they are oracles; Erudite speaks to angels, while Allueh speaks to demons.

Soon, however, it becomes clear that the real mystery at hand is not these children but rather Sowil himself. Neither the divine nor devilish beings that the twins speak to know anything about him or the potent runic magic he wields so skillfully. It is, in fact, otherworldly. So why was he born into this one? It is a question that many are asking, including the deities to whom the twins speak, Sowil’s handsome mentor Taurus…and Sowil himself.

Creator Makoto Tateno is a prolific veteran mangaka who has published everything from magical adventures for girls such as King of Cards, homoerotic romance for teens and adults such as Yellow, and manga adaptations of popular Japanese live-action television dramas such as Night Head. In all instances, her work can be easily recognized for its consistent, albeit at times workmanlike, quality of storytelling and beautiful, shoujo manga-style artwork and character designs. Angelic Runes, originally published in Japan by Shodensha in 2007 and released in English adaptation by Digital Manga Publishing, is a strong entry into the high fantasy genre, a series sure to provide enjoyment to die-hard Tateno devotees and manga fans alike.

In her talkback at the end of the first volume, Tateno admits that she is a “lukewarm fan of the fantasy genre.” To compensate for her lack of familiarity with all but the most famous of fantasy tales, she draws heavily from mythological and religious tradition --- hence all of the angels and demons speaking through Allueh and Erudite. However, as it turns out, this strategy works sublimely, and when combined with the occasional quirky doses of pitch-perfect comic relief, there is a liveliness to this work that many ostensibly more “original” fantasy manga series simply cannot match. Great stories are great stories, and borrowing from them definitely gives Angelic Runes an unearned boost of quality.

As always, Tateno’s artwork --- and particularly her character designs --- is exquisite. The first volume’s beguiling full-color cover illustration is just the beginning. Sowil is your generic blond bishounen, and his mentor Taurus is a tall, dark and handsome hunk who, incidentally, is an alternate universe version of another Tateno series character. For moé fans, the wins are sure to please; their dewy eyes and innocent, deadpan expressions --- while delivering odd, off-color, or outright hilarious comments --- will send the contingent of cute fans swooning. Fortunately, these characters are more than just a bunch of pretty faces, and the unresolved mysteries surrounding their respective existences will have you coming back for more.

Reviewed by Casey Brienza on July 28, 2009

Angelic Runes, Volume 1
written and illustrated by Makoto Tateno

  • Publication Date: July 28, 2009
  • Genres: Manga
  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1569701229
  • ISBN-13: 9781569701225