I have very mixed feelings about this one. There is a germ of a very intriguing storyline in this but its overall female exploitiveness distracts rather than enhances the storyline. Sex can be a powerful motivator but in this one it’s getting more salacious and tawdry than compelling.
The interesting part of the storyline: Alexander Herr, ‘Sasha’ is a thirteen year old alchemist, the Iron qwaser who is on a mission to defeat the Golden qwaser who killed his parents and to help recover the Theotokos of Sary Su, a critical important icon for the Orthodox church, the whereabouts possibly known to Tomo’s father and Mafuyu’s adoptive father, now missing. Tomo is the weakest of the group, having had a holy nail pounded into her chest which drains her ‘soma’ her life force. Mafuyu is Tomo’s self-appointed protector. The last of the group is Teresa, an Orthodox nun who is an excellent fighter. Her job is to keep the one-eyed priest apprised of their progress and more importantly to supply soma to Sasha as his ‘Mary’.
In this volume, the copper qwaser arrives, a Loli sadist who might be as young as Sasha. Ekaterina certainly looks that young but she is a fully functioning sexual sadist into humiliation and abuse. Whether or not she’s there to help Sasha or fight him is uncertain but she has teamed up with Miyuri and her second in command as school princesses and bullies, Hana. In fact, Ekaterina quickly pegs Hana as a submissive lesbian and makes her, her slave and her ‘Mary’. The opening chapter is mostly an unrealistic bra shopping trip I’ve ever seen but ends with Ekaterina’s powers being shown and her getting her claws into Hana. Sasha, however, hands her a humiliating defeat with Mafuyu’s help.
The next chapter introduces Teresa’s history, a violent one and unfortunately believable. She was a young Serbian Orthodox girl whose sister hides her in a closet to protect her when a Croatian military troop comes by to rape and ‘ethnically cleanse’ the area (something that was going on from both groups back in the 90’s, so yeah unpleasant but believable). Most of the women were killed by the chlorine qwaser who is now back and looking for the icon. Sasha and Teresa go to fight him and this time Ekaterina lends a hand.
The last two chapters are odd ones. In one, Mafuyu goes off on her own to help Tomo and ends up unconscious and taken in by a man and his young daughter? (That isn’t clear). Sasha asks for Ekaterina’s help. In the last one all of them end up losing to Miyuri and having to do her bidding (I have no idea what’s going on here but naturally she has them all, including Sasha, in French Maids outfits). They’re readying an exhibit where they’ll show off Miyuri’s family wealth including a special Faberge egg that someone wanted to buy from them. The underhanded buyer sends in a gang of mercenaries to steal the egg.
Really, it’s an interesting story line. I could even handle that the soma is given via suckling the breast. That should be enough nudity for everyone (especially considering the shota-qualities of having a thirteen year old boy sucking tit all the time). But the manga takes way more opportunities than that. There are up skirt shots, panties coming down shots, and just about any time they can get some one out of their clothes the better. It’s more tiresome than titillating. Looking over these chapters we have endless half dressed scenes while bra shopping, Ekaterina’s pantiless upskirt, the Croatian-Serbian rape scenes, Mafuyu and the other girl skinny dipping (because that’s what you do with strangers), Hana’s BDSM dub-con training and all mercenaries want to see teenaged girls nude. I can only imagine what the anime must look like (somewhere there IS an uncensored version of it).
I have no illusions that this will change in its approach to nudity, fan service and sexuality. Oddly there are almost no male characters (the priest and Sasha being the only two recurring ones so far) so it’s mostly female on female nudity with bath scenes, changing scenes and Ekaterina and Hana’s out and out lolicon activities. I’m not sure I’d keep reading (oh probably) but it’s probably a moot point. Between piracy and other concerns Tokyopop has gone out of business. If I want to follow it, I’d have to chase down the websites that killed it in the first place.
Books: 24 Manga : 28