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November 11, 2013

Bento Bako Weekly: Dawn of the Arcana volumes 8-9

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Written by: Kristin
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dawnofarcana8Title: Dawn of the Arcana
Author: Rei Toma
Publisher: Viz Media (Shojo Beat)
Volumes: Volumes 8 and 9, $9.99
Vintage: 2011 and 2012 by Shogakukan, February and April 2013 by Viz Media
Genre: Fantasy

After Prince Cain’s death at Loki’s hands, Caesar and Nakaba fled to Senan for refuge. Unfortunately the King of Senan isn’t ready to give his daughter a grand welcoming, and in fact has refused to release Rito’s mother from captivity until Nakaba forms an alliance with the kingdom of Lithuanel and acquires letina for weapons. Lithuanel is having problems of their own, however, in the form of dangerous bandits. Not to mention the struggle for succession among the kingdom’s princes. In order to secure the throne for his older brother Azhal, Akhil bargains with Nakaba to use the Arcana of Time to locate the bandits in return for an alliance with Senan. Nakaba is able to locate the site of one of their attacks, only to discover that the bandits are led by a snake ajin who floods their chosen targets with poisonous snakes. While Nakaba is under pressure to aid Azhal in capturing the bandits, Caesar begins questioning his own chosen path and realizes that he must return home to Belquat. Cain’s death means Caesar is now heir to the throne, but peace can’t wait until the current king dies. Caesar knows he needs to act, and for the first time take on the responsibility of his lineage. This does, of course, mean leaving Nakaba behind so she can finish her job in Lithuanel. It also means facing the penalties for Cain’s death, since many in Belquat are under the impression he died at Caesar’s hands. Somehow this all manages to bring Nakaba and Caesar closer together, despite Caesar’s (brief, and failed) efforts to cut Nakaba off for her own safety and happiness. Unfortunately, the bandits grow bolder and attack near the capital, prompting Caesar to depart immediately, leaving Nakaba alone in Lithuanel with only Loki by her side (and Rito). The crown prince of Lithuanel is curious about his younger brother’s guests, and now that Nakaba is effectively alone, he takes his chance to nab her for information. Worried about Caesar and not wanting to talk to the prince, Nakaba actives the Arcana of Time, only to find herself face with a vast corridor filled with locked doors. One of them finally opens, leading her to a glimpse into the past. Specifically Loki’s past, and his relationship with a woman named Lady Bella. These visions finally wake Nakaba up to the feelings Loki has long harbored toward her.

dawnofarcana9As volume 9 rolls in, Nakaba becomes unsure how to deal with Loki’s intense feelings. It seems every move he makes is made explicitly for her. Though what upsets her the most is that she never noticed, and rolled carelessly over his feelings. Now she sees it in every little gesture and look from the ajin, and it hurts her all the more now that she knows what love is like herself. There’s nothing she can do, however, since she’s in love with Caesar. Nakaba uses the Arcana to try and see Caesar, but ends up receiving a vision of the snake ajin bandit leader meeting with first-born prince Batal. She immediately informs Akhil of their relationship, and heads off to see Caesar before his ship sails. She arrives in time, but Loki gives her an ultimatum – stay in his arms, or fly to her prince; either choice will greatly influence her future. Nakaba rushes off to Caesar without a word, sealing whatever fate is waiting for her. However, as Nakaba and Caesar part, back in Belquat Caesar’s mother is plotting to raise his station through a marriage with Cain’s widow. Given that Caesar now desires to become king and rule over Belquat, some sacrifices may be on the horizon. Nakaba, of course, is still in Lithuanel, and they arrive back in the capital to find it under attack, and just in time to watch Batal himself shoot an arrow into the snake ajin. During the execution, Nakaba uses the Arcana to find the truth, and learns that a tribe of snake ajin have been used by the royal family for generations. The ajin being executed is a servant of Batal’s that he named Elaheh (“goddess”), and used to attack the villages so he would look like a hero and have the people’s support for the throne. Elaheh sacrifices herself out of love for Batal, and he executes her with a simle. Distraught over the ajin’s fate, Nakaba falls into the Arcana once more, and witnesses two equally terrible paths for Akhil ad Ahzal. With two futures laid out before her, she realizes it is up to her to choose who lives and who dies.

Wow, that’s an awful lot going on for a book I can read through in about twenty minutes. That’s really my only complaint with this series. It’s a very quick read. There’s not much action going on in the pages (and by action I don’t mean fighting, etc., I just mean regular goings on), and the dialog is sparse. Of course, Toma is quite good at drawing expressions rather than having characters explain their feelings, so that lets her cut back on the text. And while each volume is a quick read, they’re also entertaining, and the story moves steadily. There aren’t many laughs here with how serious the plot has gotten, though Toma does lighten things up here and there with a few pages that aren’t doom, gloom, and angst. But oh boy is there a lot of angst, as there tends to be when young people are experiences¬†feelings. Nakaba and Caesar’s love for each other is in full swing now, though neither of them really knows what to do about it, and Caesar spends a full chapter in volume 8 trying to distance himself so Nakaba won’t be as upset when he has to leave her behind. It doesn’t work, of course, and only ends up strengthening their bond. Which is unfortunate, depending on how you look at things, since they’re about to travel down separate paths. There are definitely difficult times ahead as both of them look toward protecting their own kingdoms and working for peace. Meanwhile, if you’re a Loki fan, prepare to have your heart crushed by the glimpse into his past, and the many sacrifices he has made to keep Nakaba safe and make her happy. The true nature of the Arcana of Time is also slowly being revealed now, as Nakaba continually uses it, at great personal risk. Turns out it’s a fickle thing, and a long way from being anything miraculous. Our heroes are growing and changing now, so stay tuned and keep reading¬†Dawn of the Arcana.

Kris
kristin@comicattack.net
@girlg33k_kris

Review copies provided by Viz Media.

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