Friday, November 15, 2013

Manga Review: Bokura no Kiseki

I half remember where I first stumbled across this manga, I could have sworn I was on a thread on Anime News Network, I believe something had just gotten an anime adaptation, and someone said something dismissive about this title so of course I went and looked it up. I checked yesterday though and could not find the thread at all so perhaps I found this one via tumblr as well. Regardless, I looked it up and went ahead and tried out the first chapter expecting, based on the tone of the person who first mentioned it, to dislike it and quit halfway through. After the first chapter though there was a little bit of swearing on my part as I realized that this was exactly the kind of manga I loved, I was hooked, and had next to no hopes that it would ever get licensed, a truly winning combination!

Bokura no Kiseki by Kumeta Natsuo 

The manga title translates as "Our Miracle" but I've never seen anybody actually use it, probably because it's so generic (and I have no idea at this point what the "miracle" is supposed to be, that they've all been reincarnated???).

When he was a kid Harusami Minami told his classmates that he was the reincarnation of a princess from a far off land and unsurprisingly was teased for it mercilessly. By middle school he knows well enough to keep quiet about it and seems to doubt even himself a little bit. But when cornered by bullies he almost unthinkingly uses magic to scare them off and suddenly there's no doubt that everything he remembers, from the people around him to being killed by invaders from his fiancee's country, is completely true. A few years later he's starting high school with a surprisingly tight-knit class and jotting down everything he remembers from his former life in a notebook written in the old language. When a few of his classmates find the book they don't tease him about it, Minami has gotten too good at lying over the years to distract them, but some of them seem confused by it. And later that night when someone starts firing off magic in the school building he finds out why, suddenly his classmates are remembering their past lives as well and they were all connected to Princesse Veronica's life. As everyone begins to sort out who they were and which side they were on the various groups of students all have the same goal, to figure out what happened hundreds of years ago and why they died.

Often I feel bad about writing a long synopsis of a story but considering just how detailed the set-up for this one is this time it feels reasonable. This truly is a story best read in chunks and preferably with a character chart nearby (heck, I even took one from one of the later volumes and added onto it since it wasn't detailed enough!) since there are about five different factions of characters to keep track of, some of whom overlap, and about 20 characters which means 20 in the present day and 20 in the past (plus a few key players from the past who haven't shown up yet that the reader knows of, most notably Veronica's betrothed Prince Eugene). And in case anyone was wondering if they've been reading this right, yes Minami is a guy and Veronica was a girl, both cisgendered and straight, honestly since he's grown up with most of her memories it just doesn't seem to phase him at all (I believe either the series proper or the omakes makes mention of this at least once). 

I actually really like Minami as a main character since he's just a bit more manipulative than normal which keeps things interesting. Admittedly, part of the reason he is manipulative is due to his friends advising hiding that he really is Veronica (which I honestly do agree with from a logical perspective, not just because it makes things more dramatic) but I still find it rather interesting to see that his classmates who knew Veronica (who wasn't that terrifying) completely cave in to his bluffs and think it speaks volumes about how isolated Minami has been if his classmates can't work out that if Minami isn't like this and Veronica wasn't like this then it must clearly be a bluff. This doesn't mean that I think the other characters are dumb however, I'll certainly allow that high emotions and general confusion (unlike Minami whose memories gradually returned over 15 years, and still aren't completely there it seems, all of his classmates had theirs return all at once and are having a hard time reconciling the war with their current situation) account for a lot of the character's freaking out. 

Heck, I like a lot of the character dynamics here. Like I said in the summary, they've all just started high school so some of them have known each other for years and years but a lot of them haven't yet they were shaping up to be a really fun, close-knit class. And then you have characters realizing that their childhood friends were on the opposite side in their past lives which means that they very well could have been fighting and killing each other* and have to work it out. I'll admit that I like the "characters on the opposite sides for reasons they can't control" trope more as I get older but what I really like here is seeing the characters having to choose how they'll let it define each other, especially since some groups were keeping secrets in the past and have to deal with those as well. And the story really does focus on a lot of different characters, lately it's branched out from following just the three main groups (the Zestrains, Moswicks, and the neutral Church) to follow some characters who are forming splinter groups and I just love both how complicated it's become and watching one or two characters in particular navigate and manipulate their way through because they don't know that much which in my eyes makes them even more relatable. All of the characters that the story has focused on thus far feel like real, fleshed out characters with a lot of different emotions and goals right now since they are so rounded I can't fault the story for not focusing on every character (although I do wonder if there will be an important reason later on why some of them, namely a few servants on both sides, were also reincarnated).

So what exactly is the plot some people might be asking by now, especially since that's what I usually talk about first about a story. Well, in short the characters have two goals; one that everybody shares is trying to figure out how they all died and putting together what everyone remembers (since even the Moswicks, where the attackers came from, have said that they don't know anything and given that the story shows their points of view I'm inclined to believe them). Minami's group, and the Church as well to a lesser extent, is also trying to figure out who was attacking people with magic that first night in the school since at this point it's clear that this person is a key player in the current day plot and probably the story of the past as well. I have my own theories on who it might be (since again, there are two key players and one moderately important one still missing, although the story has all but confirmed one of them is present this has become more complicated) but I'm sure that no matter how it turns out that it'll be interesting. I'm slightly torn on the pacing of the story again, the chapters are long (I think the magazine it runs in is published every two months) so a lot happens but the story so far, at 8 volumes, has all happened within the span of a month I believe which does stretch my suspension of disbelief a bit. Then again, as I already mentioned, add together teenagers, sudden intense memories about how you were just attacked and dying, plus the realization that you have no idea whose telling the truth and whose lying around you, yes I can see why a lot is going on at the same time. 

As for licensing, well, I'm not that optimistic here. The publisher is Ichijinsha (and it looks like the magazine is a spin off of Comic Zero-Sum, of course that's why I liked it!) so no publisher except Kodansha is restricted from it but I don't know how well it really fits with any of the current manga publishers. Someone asked Seven Seas about it on tumblr and it sounds like the fact that it's already 8 volumes long has them hesitant (I don't see it ending in under 12 volumes myself, under 20 but maybe more like 12-16, but that's just going by how the plot currently feels to me and the scanlations seem to be behind by at least a few chapters if not an entire volume). The manga-ka hasn't had anything published over here before, looks like she hasn't done much except a shorter series or two and contributed to a few anthologies, so that's nothing to worry about here but it's always good to check. And aside from the size, this is older shojo (not precisely josei but rather close to the line), fantasy, not much romance going on (since with how messy everything has gotten people are a bit turned off by romance for the moment), and it has some kinda-complicated politicking in it. I would love to be wrong about all of this and have it picked up but as it currently stands I guess this is another manga which I need to plan on importing for myself someday.

*admittedly it's unlikely that they managed to kill each because of one detail, that you had to be killed by magic to be reincarnated, although a large chunk of the characters were magic users. And that detail actually makes the story even more interesting, how did all of these characters die by magic, especially some that were nowhere near Veronica's castle when the hostilities go down? It seems that everyone's memories get hazier right before their deaths so no one knows, Minami actually realizes that what he thought were Veronica's last moments in fact weren't and unsurprisingly it looks like her last few moments were rather important ones.