Vaughan & Chiang's "Paper Girls" Builds a Familiar Yet Disconcerting World
Mayumi Azuma returns to the world of Erementar Gerade in Erementar Gerade: Flag of the Bluesky, Vol. 1. Following an attack on the desert Kingdom of Fuajarl by Edel Garden, Princess Achea and a small group of survivors seek to reclaim the Kingdom from its usurpers and avenge her father’s death! Unbeknownst to Achea and her comrades however, Edel Garden’s forces are set to return to find what they were looking for in their initial attack upon her kingdom, her father’s Edel Raid, Jeen, who also happens to be one of the Seven Glittering Jewels, one of the most powerful Edel Raid’s in existence!
This first volume is fast paced introduction to the world and its cast, and one that relies on a certain amount of knowledge about the Erementar Gerade franchise to be fully grasped and understood. There’s little information given regarding what an Elemental Gelade is or what a Glittering Jewel is and why it’s important. Admittedly these are world building aspects that will hopefully be touched upon and fleshed out as it goes on, but had I been coming into this cold I’d be a little confused about those terms. Despite this, Azuma did do pretty good job at introducing the main cast and explaining their motivations. Each of the main group, with the exception of Melfond Liblodich a foreign would be store owner, gets a flash back elaborating on their background and their links to Achea and her father. This does a good job at explaining their motivations, along with explaining how each character generally relates and views the rest of the cast. The humor in the volume, much like in the original series, is reliant upon some pervy jokes and comical overreactions. In some cases this actually leads to odd moments that make little sense story wise. One such moment comes as Melfond blows her way out of a jail cell, only to be recaptured and tossed back into it… and later on revealing that she still has explosives on her. The initial break out and her subsequent recapture was played for laughs, but you’d think that after the first time her jailers might have searched her and found the others.
The art bounces around all over the place. Some of the characters’ designs are slick, but none of them really jump out as terribly memorable or eye catching. With the series being set in a desert land, there’s a vague Middle Eastern feel to a great deal of the visuals and designs, which is a nice break from the more typical sci-fi/fantasy mashup that made up most of the designs from the original Erementar Gerade series. The action scenes leave something to be desired and are rather messy and difficult to follow, lacking any real kind of visual flow or hook. Every now and then though, there’s something that looks descent, such as a large two page spread depicting a chase scene involving a tank and horses. There’s also a distinct lack of backgrounds, which often leaves things feeling like they’re floating in a void, which is a shame because the unique setting seems like the kind of thing that would lend itself to some interesting visuals.
I must admit that I’m partly reading this in the hopes that it might clear up some of the murkier aspects of the original Erementar Gerade series. There were a lot of unanswered questions at the end of the original, such as what Edel Garden’s ultimate goals were, and who was its great leader? The first volume shows no signs of going in that direction, and instead introduces us to an entirely new cast in an entirely different region of the Erementar Gerade world. While the the female lead, and fantasy desert setting is interesting and gives me a little hope for the series, I can only hope that as it goes on Erementar Gerade: Flag of the Bluesky has a bit more to it beyond those surface elements, and manages to avoid some of the pitfalls that the original series found itself falling into.
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