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October 20, 2010

Bento Bako Lite: March Story vol. 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: March Story
Author: Hyung Min Kim, with art by Kyung Il Yang
Publisher: Viz Media (Viz Signature)
Volume: Volume 1 (ongoing), $12.99
Vintage: 2008 by Shogakukan in Japan, October 2010 by Viz Media (in stores this week)
Genre: Supernatural, horror, drama

Never touch an object if you don’t know what it is, for demons called Ill like to possess objects of great beauty, and will take over the mind and devour the heart of the person who touches the object. Enter March, an Ill hunter, or Ciste Vihad, who tracks down Ill possessed objects and collects them. But March isn’t an ordinary Ill hunter. Not only is March the only hunter capable of exorcising Ill from humans (but only if the Ill hasn’t killed anyone yet), March is possessed by an Ill. March has conquered this Ill, but it’s always there in the hunter’s mind, haunting his dreams. This Ill is lying dormant, waiting for March to fall in love and awaken it, when it will devour March’s heart.

The volume is broken up into distinct Ill hunts, as March travels the land performing his job, and ends with revealing March’s tragic origins. The first story, “Thorn Hunter,” introduces March and has him tracking down a pair of earrings. The hunt leads him to a circus, where the daughter of the ring master suffers teasing at the hands of her fellow clowns for her clumsy nature and inexperience. Because he will not let her perform on the trapeze, Pircollet believe her father is ashamed of her. She falls victim to an Ill-possessed earring that feeds on her feelings of inferiority. “Orche the Masked” is a tragic love story. In a city where everyone wears masquerade masks to prevent them from being attacked by a masked Ill, March meets a mask maker named Zen. Zen has summoned March to exorcise the Ill from her friend and love, Ochre. Unfortunately, as Orche has already killed many times, March cannot fulfill her wish. A jealous rivalry between these two mask makers brings about a tragic end. In “Windblown Memories of Colored Glass,” a new character appears. The handsome Rodin, who owns an antique shop, and often summons March to collect Ill for him. When a spoiled little boy comes into his shop looking for a birthday present, Rodin sells him a very expensive glass fox. Unfortunately, this glass fox is possessed by an Ill, but unlike most Ill, it has no desire to kill. It simply wants to fulfill a mysterious promise to return to someone’s side. March decides to aid the Ill, and is led by it to a surprising location. A secret about March is also revealed. The final story, “Black Dream” tells the origin of March and describes how he gained his powers and became possessed by an Ill. A genuine nightmare filled with blood and death, the tragic loss of family, a secret fate, and the meeting of Jake the Ciste Vihad and Rodin the antique seller. Short personal comics by the author and artist round off the volume.

March explains Ills to the young Pircollet in March Story.

If March looks overly effeminate, it’s because March is actually female. This is to protect her, to, if I understand correctly, prevent a man from falling in love with her so she is not in danger of waking the Ill within her. Of course, that doesn’t really prevent anything, since March can fall in love. And indeed, she appears to harbor some feelings for Rodin, which I imagine will cause some problems for her later. There’s actually some other instances of playing around with names, dress, and sexuality. I’m not really sure of the reason yet, other than it’s just an aesthetic the creators may be going for. March pretends to be a boy and the large and buxomly Ciste Vihad who rescued her is named Jake, though I don’t know if this trend will continue. The book is sort of a tale of morality, or at least a telling tale of the dangers of emotions like jealousy, greed, and hatred. The Ills feast on these negative emotions, and indeed call out to those who harbor them, tempting them with power and knowledge. Even so, the Ills often have stories that are just as interesting as the stories of those they possess (or at least, one or the other; the stories in this volume either focus on the possessed person or the Ill itself, but not both, except in March’s case). The art is well done, and creates some haunting and harsh imagery, fitting well with the tone of the story and the action. The thorns March uses to attack Ill represent a couple of things – the Ill object that has possessed her, as well as the barrier she puts up to keep others out of her heart. Due to her situation and her position as an Ill hunter, March can’t be a delicate rose, but is herself a thorn. Even so, her manners are remarkably gentle at times, especially when she deals with Pircollet in this volume. When March gets down to business, though, she can be ruthless. It seems to send a few mixed messages. Still, the story telling itself is solid, and the stories here are heartbreaking.


Review copy provided by Viz Media.