ANIME & MANGA - Review
08:27 - 3rd July 2013, by NEO Staff

Pavane for a Dead Girl - Vol 1

From the creator of Pita-Ten and Kamichama Karin comes this historical fantasy thriller, which is set around the rather unlikely antihero Takenomaru Sagami, a violin prodigy.
Initially, we follow Nanao Kaga, an idealistic young girl who has defied her father's opposition in order to travel to a music academy in Tokyo so she can learn to play the violin. Her true motivation will be a lot more familiar to anyone who has ever been a teenager with a crush - she's actually stalking the 'Prince of Harmony', Takenomaru, whom she once overheard playing the violin during a chance encounter. Thanks to his talent (and good looks), she hasn't been able to forget him since. Once at the academy, she manages to meet her prince once more - but it's made very obvious from the start that despite his amazing musical abilities, Takenomaru might just be a little bit of a bounder.

Author Koge-Donbo has set this tale during the Meiji era of Japan, which is an interesting choice, given that the series has a lot of fantasy elements. There are some references to the era - Takenomaru is described as being half western, half Japanese (although, as is typical in manga, you would have a hard time noticing any physical differences between him and all the other characters, except that he has blond-grey hair on the cover), which, thanks to the unenlightened period he's living in, leads to him being bullied and discriminated against. Takenomaru also lives in an unusual (for the time) western style house, which his childhood friend Nakae finds intriguing when she comes to visit him. Also, a pivotal moment in Takenomaru's childhood involves him contracting small-pox, which almost led to his death. It's at this point that Takenomaru begins his transformation from victimised half-western street urchin into a highly-praised musical prodigy. In return for two blessings from an angel - the power of mad violin skills (musical genius), and the ability to be super-hot (universal allure) - Takenomaru has been charged with the task of extracting a substance known as the 'tears of Maria' from girls' hearts. This task obviously also requires him to menace the empty air with an enormous sword from time to time, whilst reminiscing out loud about the terms of his contact, because he quite reliably does so at least once every chapter.

Things don't look so great for Nanao Kaga, who still has a crush on the boy who is presumably Meiji-era's answer to Justin Beiber and Hitler, rolled into one, and it's not long before she succumbs to Takenomaru's charm and gives up the tear from her heart. Is she dead? The manga's not telling, but she's certainly quit school, leaving Takenomaru to stalk his prey once again. Unfortunately for him, one of the nuns at the academy has confiscated the magical brooch that facilitates his tear-harvesting, leaving him unsure as to how to proceed with his evil plans...

Koge-Donbo's extremely cute style might seem at odds with both the historical setting and the dark themes of the manga, but apart from making everyone look about ten years younger than they're presumably meant to be (and making all the guys look like ladies), it doesn't have a detrimental effect on the story. There will be those who pass this by because the wide-eyed style doesn't appeal to them, but equally fans of Pita-Ten and Kamichama Karin will probably snap it up regardless of its content. The historical setting is just different enough to keep it interesting, and following the action from the point of view of a scoundrel rather than the usual hero is refreshing.

With an original approach to a familiar quest-style story, Pavane for a Dead Girl may have done enough to tempt in those slightly tired of the stale fantasy-romance genre.
SCORE: 4/5
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