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Thursday, November 17, 2011

License Line: The Once And Future King

What is License Line? Put simply, it's a bi-weekly feature on Nagareboshi Reviews in which yours truly posts about a certain anime/manga series that truly, desperately needs to be licensed and put on my shelves ASAP - from the obscure but well-deserving manga to the stream worthy but not yet DVD licensed anime.

I love children's manga. I really, really do. Some of my favorite series are technically targeted at an age demographic way beneath my own - Magical Pokémon Journey, Bakegyamon, and so on. It really does seem to be an underrepresented genre in the English language manga market these days; if it's not Pokémon or video game-related, it probably isn't selling that well, which means non-Nintendo kids' manga licenses don't have very good chances at being brought over since their chance of selling are much much lower.

But one company that was willing to sell quite a few kids' manga titles in its heyday was ADV Manga, and one of those titles was The First King Adventure/賢者の長き不在 by Moyamu Fujino, originally published in Mag Garden in Japan and published in English by ADV until - well, you know. Actually, even before the company closed, it seemed that First King Adventure was one of those titles whose releases came out sporadically at best until it stopped completely.

ADV only came out with two out of eight volumes before running out of steam, and to be completely honest the quality of it releases were less than optimal; there’s random untranslated Japanese in the second volume, for goodness’ sake! But you know what? It was so good. And it deserves a second chance to finish its run in English.

The story of First King Adventure revolves around a young man named Varume who is on a quest to become the king of his homeland, and in order to do that he must make contracts with the masters of spirit to complete the royal crest on his hand and prove his worth as heir to the throne. And he doesn’t have much time to do it before the curse of the quest keeps him from the throne – forever.

As he travels across Japan, he ends up befriending a group of young children, united in little except for their shared loneliness and need for friendship. They are drawn to Varume’s magnetic, kind personality, and with this the stage is set for a series of fantastic adventures that explore the world of magic and human kindness as Varume builds his contracts as well as his friendships with those he meets on his quest.

For a series targeted at young kids, it deals with some very mature themes: loneliness; acceptance; inner conflict; the importance of different relationships. The children that Varume meet deal with some heavy issues – some of them have serious abandonment hang-ups, others have problem making connections with others due to social anxieties. Varume himself also has trouble making the necessary connections to become king, so his troubles mirror those of his young companions in a lovely sort of way.

It’s a slow moving story, but it’s paced in a way to give everyone development before they move forward, which puts characters at a greater position to impact the story in the long run. Except, of course, English language readers haven’t seen any of that long run yet! Getting the two books that are out in English is a difficult task indeed; both of them are out of print, and it can be a little pricey to find used copies. Really, to see this back in print as well as have new volumes come out would make my year. I love the stories of Varume and friends, and would definitely love to actually read them all and follow Varume’s quest to the end.