Monday, December 10, 2012

Manga Review: Paros no Ken volume 3

We ended the previous volume of Paros no Ken on yet another cliffhanger- but this time the threat is real.

The contestants in the sword-fighting tournament are whittled down, and Yurias is one of the semi-finalists. Erminia hopes he'll win because they have sparred together since they were children and she has never lost to him. At this point, Yurias is competing not with the aim of marrying Erminia, but of freeing her to choose whoever she wants.

However, Yurias's next opponent not only defeats him, he slashes his right eye and exults over it. Technically, the man who blinded Yurias is still allowed to compete.

Enraged, Erminia rushes into the arena to challenge him, and the livid spectators cheer her on. Erminia holds her own to the point that the folks who had wanted her to be a delicate flower are really impressed. But then her opponent knocks her sword out of her hand, her uncle Alphonse throws her another sword, and Erminia finds, too late, that she has walked into a trap.

Long story short, Erminia's father dies, Kauros takes over Paros's capital, and Erminia wakes up imprisoned. The third prince of Kauros is there when she wakes up. He confirms what happened and tells her she will be his bride. The prince of Kauros is a sewer of a human being ("You may act like a man, but that does not change the fact that you are a woman! And women must submit to men." After being rejected by her: "Erminia... what a pity it is that such a beautiful woman holds men in such disdain. I shall cure you of that illness."), and tries to rape her, but thankfully, doesn't go through with it. He figures he'll have plenty of time to break her after she marries him in Kauros.

The procession escorting Erminia to Kauros stops at a town overnight, where Fiona and Erminia are reunited.

How did Fiona get there after what happened in volume 2? After being raped, Fiona threw herself into the river nearby and was rescued downstream by a nice older couple who live in the countryside. While living with them, she recovered somewhat.

After learning what happened to Paros's capital and Erminia, she organized the other youths in the area into a rebel group (in case you're wondering, Fiona is sixteen; Erminia is eighteen), helped Yurias leave his captivity (he was much less stringently guarded than Erminia; and somehow, knew what happened to Fiona), and hatched a plan to get Erminia to safety.

While the people who attended the sword-fighting tournament easily bought Alphonse's reason for indicting Erminia for her father's death, most of the citizens of Paros recognize that Alphonse's argument for Erminia's guilt is bullshit and are still willing to resist the Kauran military under her. Their loyalty to Erminia and Paros is so moving, in fact, that I felt pretty awful for them re-reading this volume, knowing how things would pan out.

In a nutshell, Fiona, Erminia, and Yurias all ultimately sacrifice everything else for love, and Fiona and Erminia get to be together.

The ending is pretty abrupt and leaves Paros's fate more ambiguous than I'd like. I suspect Kurimoto Kaoru wound up not having as much time to resolve things as she wanted, and had to do the best she could given the page count she had left. But, erm, despite the ending's problems- especially considering this series's context and the fact that Kurimoto could have easily written an unhappy ending for Erminia and Fiona for perfectly valid reasons- I'm glad Kurimoto was like "lol Nope" to ending things with Erminia accepting Fiona's sacrifice and sacrificing her own happiness with her, and made Erminia save Fiona anyway.

Despite its flaws, this is a very worthwhile series, both for its value to the yuri genre and simple entertainment value- especially if you're in the mood for a romance that is more plot-oriented than most.

Story: B+
Art: A
Overall: B+

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