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May 11, 2015

Bento Bako Weekly: The Angel of Elhamburg

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Written by: Kristin
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angelofelhamburgTitle: The Angel of Elhamburg
Author: Aki
Publisher: Yen Press
Volume: One-shot, $18.00 (HC)
Vintage: 2013 by Shodensha Publishing, March 2015 by Yen Press
Genre: Fantasy

Madeth and Lalvan have been friends since childhood, and now they have waged war and brought down a corrupt ruler together. Madeth becomes High King, while Lalvan works as his assistant and leads the army. Madeth has the charisma to lead, the personality that makes people follow him, but he’s otherwise not much better than a commoner. It’s Lalvan who understands politics, who can read and write, and is well-learned. Still, Lalvan steps aside and puts all of his efforts toward lifting up Madeth. During their travels, Lalvan has seen Madeth be blessed by fairies and angels, though no one else has seen them, and they never come near Lalvan himself. Resentment and jealousy has built over the years, as Lalvan watches his friend earn everything, while he believes he is the better man. He even wrote the love letters that grabbed the attention of Lady Prima, and she attempts to seduce him before marrying Madeth. It’s that single, short, empty moment that sets off a chain of events that will bring this new kingdom crumbling down. When Lady Prima gives birth to a son, Perseus, Madeth is struck by the child’s likeness to Lalvan. He accuses Lalvan of having an affair with his wife, and this false accusation shatters Lalvan, who decides to leave. In his absence, Madeth falls apart. Another child is born, this time without suspicion, and he pushes Perseus aside. Without the love of his father, hate grows inside Perseus, and eventually the young man turns against his father. With the country dividing between the two heirs, the people turn to Lalvan for guidance.

Gorgeously drawn, but that’s expected from Aki. Also far too short. It was originally intended as a simple one-shot, so I’m glad it got a full volume, but I think it could use at least two. The pacing is fine, except for some oddly placed time jumps and flashbacks (they aren’t denoted by anything so sometimes it takes a couple panels to realize what’s happened). The story is a really lovely read. Two friends crumble under the weight of jealousy and resentment. Despite how pure of heart Lalvan is, below the surface he struggles with his inferior position to his friend. At the same time, Madeth is jealous of all his friend is capable of. There is a sense, however, that perhaps Madeth is so incapable of things because Lalvan automatically does everything, leaving Madeth behind. Then again, that’s often the fate of a leader; the servants must perform all the tasks while the leader sits on his throne and gives the people a sense of safety and leadership. There are moments where Madeth is frustrated by this, where he wants to join Lalvan on the battlefield, but is denied. On the other hand, he has little desire to work hard to better himself (though again, this may be because he has Lalvan to do everything for him). The angel of the book’s title has little role in the story, other than to jump start Lalvan’s resentment (why do they always bless the useless Madeth but shy away from him?), and serve as a catalyst for Perseus to seek out companionship with Lalvan. Otherwise they’re spectators, watching the world below them, since certainly their “blessings” don’t seem to be of much use. Or maybe they’re attempting to bless the one who needs it most. In which case it’s a bit cruel to show themselves to others. Yen Press has done a nice job with the presentation – the book itself is a dark red with a red, white, and black jacket. Plus a gorgeous color page in the front of the book, and a solid translation. If you’re interested in more of Aki’s work, check out Olympos.




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