Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Misunderstandings and a return to the sky feature prominently in the 12th and 13th volumes of Mayumi Azuma’s Erementar Gerade! With Cou and company stuck in Nad Lezen, a tiered and gentrified city near Edel Garden, the only way out may require a raid on a nearby mining facility. Meanwhile Cou and Ren’s relationship threatens to break under the weight of a horrible misunderstanding, and a foe from their past!
These two volumes are fairly interesting in that they feature the return of some elements and ideas that haven’t really been seen since the early volumes of Erementar Gerade. Namely, airships, piracy and the return of a familiar face. These elements combine and give the series a sense of things coming full circle, with Cou calling upon his air pirate roots and his love of flying to help further their quest. As planes and thievery take center stage, we get a rare opportunity to see Cou in action without Ren, relying on his wits and skills during a daring raid on a mining facility. In addition, there’s some fairly decent character work going on as Cou and Ren’s relationship encounters it’s first major issue due to a misunderstanding on Cou’s part. It’s one that threatens everything they’ve been doing up until now, and feels a bit cliche. Despite this, it plays out in a way that reinforces the need for communication and understanding when it comes to relationship problems, something that clicks with the series overall theme of gender relations.
Visually the series continues along as usual. Everything looks acceptable and the few new characters that appear are interesting enough, but not terribly striking. The big exception is the return of a villain from the early volumes of the series. The character undergoes a heavy redesign and it works beautifully. The result is a character who’s visually striking and whose design accentuates their new attitude and changed personality. The action scenes are decent enough, though not quite amazing, but it’s a nice change of pace to see Cou fighting on his own. In addition there are a few nice swashbuckling moments, courtesy of Cou and his handy hook. These are actually pretty fun to see and do a good job at capturing the feel of an action movie, more so than most of the Edel Raid focused fights that are littered throughout the series. One of the big things about this volume visually though, is the introduction of Nad Lezen’s air force. While airships and sky pirates have been an element of the series from the beginning, the ships shown have often skewed a bit more heavily towards the fantastical design wise. Nad Lezen’s air force and the ship that Cou and company make use of, fly in the face of everything we’ve been shown so far in this regard, and they stick out like a sore thumb because of it. Instead of some weird, vaguely steampunk-y multilevel airship with hallways and walkways, we get what amounts to modern fighter jets. Given all the other fantastical elements present in the series this really stands out and feels a little awkward.
Erementar Gerade continues to be a perfectly acceptable, middle of the road shonen series with odd moments that hint at a meatier theme. While these volumes move the plot ahead and contribute a bit to the theme of gender relations and relationships in general, it also does something a little unexpected. It highlights how much fun the series could be if it wasn’t adhering quite so strongly to the typical superpowered shonen formula. The scenes with Cou breaking into a mining facility and escaping from a collapsing building with Ren were more exciting and fun then just about any of Edel Raid on Edel Raid battles so far.
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