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REVIEW: Manga: Romance with a Capital “R”: From Far Away by...

FFA_cover

From Far Away by Kyoko Hikawa. Publisher: Viz. Retail: $9.99 each. 14/14 volumes released in English. Rated T for Teen (some fighting, no sex).

Dear Readers,

I’m starting to feel a little like Harriet Klausner, with all the positive manga reviews I’ve been doing. But everyone knows there’s a lot of mediocre manga out there. I’m trying to share the good ones that I’ve come to love. This next one I came to love overnight just a few weeks ago and the romance is still new and sparkly in my eyes. That’s probably not the best way to review, but consider yourself forewarned. But for that reason I’m giving this a B+, since A’s really need to stand the test of time with me.

First, thank you to you readers! You recommended this to me after my Basara review, and I read it overnight. “So what?” you might think. “Manga reads fast.” So it was 14 volumes, I dropped $70 for it (yay for coupons and sales), and I couldn’t put it down, except where I had to because I was stupid enough to only buy the first seven the first night. But I was up and hitting the bookstore first thing the next morning.

This is young adult romance and fantasy/adventure, just what I would have wanted to read as a young teen. Had these books been available back in the ??’s, they’d have become instant favorites of mine, up there with The Three Musketeers. Reading them now I know that they’re an instant comfort read for me whenever I want to be swept away into a world that, while it contains evil, is also chock full of warmth.

This isn’t a complex or a deep story. Manga readers have read many variations of it, though since this one is by one of the mangaka of the golden age, chances are she’s one of them who taught them their tricks. A girl gets transported to another land where she’s the key to saving it from a great evil and meets a handsome but lonely hero who needs her love. But as we know in romance, it’s not so much the plot as how you tell it.

The heroine, Noriko, is cute as a button. But not stupid-cute, or martyr-cute, or inept-cute as so often happens in these tales (including others by this author). She’s smart. For the first book or so she doesn’t even speak the language, but uses her head to figure out what’s going on, and makes it her first responsibility to learn to communicate. She’s very positive and loving. She comes from a close-knit family and has a loving background, no angst baby she, and she’s able to spread that to others. But most of the others don’t fall in love with her – this is not a harem story. They form other connections, those of family and friends. Noriko’s no Mary Sue. OK, she’s a little too good, but darn it, she’s so *cute* at it!

The hero Izark is the source of angst in the story. Noriko is The Awakening (stupid name but you get the point) that opens Izark up to becoming the Sky Demon, who is foretold to be a monster of great evil that will destroy the world. As a human, however, he’s about the nicest guy imaginable, though a very withdrawn one. As one might guess, neighbors and relatives weren’t inclined to think the potential Sky Demon was very loveable and shunned him, leaving him with serious angst. But Noriko only saw her rescuer and a hero and a lonely man and fell in love. And therein lies his redemption and the redemption of the world. Here a fight with a demon has thrown him into the pain of childhood flashbacks, until memories of Noriko intrude and he realizes what she means to him (the three pages and two have some fighting and running between) (as usual, reads right to left below and on the page):

ffa25.png ffa24.png<-then ffa23.png ffa22.png ffa21.png<-start here

Like all good fantasies, there’s a great group of side characters that you come to care about, good and bad, and most people are a bit of both. There are also some excellent action and fight scenes, as good as the better ones I’ve seen in shounen manga (for boys); they had me on the edge of my seat. The comedy is pretty silly and I got a kick out of some things like the village where everyone made up background stories for travelers, each more ridiculous than the last. And there are some wonderfully romantic and emotional moments throughout that had me tearing up.

ffa_vil

The art is very 80′s shoujo, but I loved it because it also has a lot of elements from the 20s. I mean, get a load of the villain (on the right). His palace is totally art deco. The artwork throughout the book is mostly clean and simple lineart. There’s not a lot of shading, and not a lot of background detail except where it’s needed to establish a setting. But while there are books where I love intricate art, I didn’t miss it here.

 

Some people won’t like this because the world is a fairly standard fantasy one, though it seems to be based upon an ancient Indian or Middle Eastern one from the costumes. There’s one main plot thread and not a lot of divergence. The h/h’s relationship never progresses beyond kissing, no sex here, but plenty of romance. The story isn’t realistic and gritty, though the lessons it teaches about friendship and love and how to live are as important and real as you’ll find in any adult manga. The morals are positive but not childish. I found the story very uplifting, which to me is what a comfort read is all about.

All in all it’s a great series for kids and adults who still love kid’s books. This is one longer series I recommend buying, especially if you have teenage girls who love manga. It can be found as a complete set at some places like justmanga.com for $114 with free shipping, or bought individually from discountanimedvd.com for $7.50 a volume for $105. But if that’s too much, do go to the library and try this one out.

I just realized I’ve reviewed three fantasy manga in a row, albeit very different ones. Next time I’ll try to do something different.

Sincerely,

ジェーン

(Jān)

reads any genre as long as the books aren't depressing. Her preferred reads these days are in manga format and come from all manga genres, but she especially likes romance, doubly so when there are beautiful men involved. With each other. Her favorites among currently-running English-translated manga series include NANA, Ze, Ouran High School Host Club, Junjou Romantica, Blood Alone, Vampire Knight, Skip Beat, Silver Diamond and anything by the holy triumvirate of BL: Ayano Yamane, Kazuma Kodaka and Youka Nitta, including any scribbles they might do on the backs of napkins.

7 Comments

  1. Maya Hunter
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 13:45:14

    Even for teens don`t you think that there should be some light sex scenes?

    ReplyReply

  2. (Jān)
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 14:55:56

    I think it’s up to the teens’ parents to decide, and up to me to tell the accurately what’s there so they can. :)

    ReplyReply

  3. Estara
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 15:00:43

    Yes, Yohoo! Finally a website with a large readership can learn about Kanata Kara! Lovely review, Jan.

    @Maya Hunter: I think this manga tried to show the emotional side of romance more than the bodily one (it was finished around 2000 – 2002? I believe, so it’s not as if the mangaka couldn’t have gotten much more direct with the then current market). This is a young couple who figure out why they are important to each other in a natural way (no destined soulmate stuff here – except for the technicality of her being the Awakening), and who actually show CHANGE when they adapt to each other.

    The carefree, loved, sheltered daughter takes up responsibility for herself and others and makes tough choices, the soul-protecting hero opens up, acts funny just to get a rise out of her and actually acknowledges how much she means to him within the story (no Kyo-unacknowledged-love for 16 volumes here). This is what Fushigi Yuugi pretended to want to be (sans harem).

    I finished collecting this last year, when I was 40. I didn’t miss the sex ^^.

    ReplyReply

  4. (Jān)
    Mar 03, 2008 @ 15:08:07

    I didn’t need sex in this story either. It’s not that kind of story. It was one of emotional ties that can change a group of strangers into family.

    ReplyReply

  5. Jill A
    Mar 04, 2008 @ 13:04:49

    Yay, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I always compare ‘girl swept away to faraway land’ stories to this, and IMO it’s never been done better, even by old series like Royal Crest.

    I have to dig this out and read it all over again now! Especially that one part in Volume 7 (pretty sure it’s 7), I’m sure you know which scene…*sigh* That’s what I call romantic.

    ReplyReply

  6. Natty
    Jul 17, 2009 @ 12:39:18

    I get really annoyed at sex scenes in manga.So many Shoujo’s have that,and I hate that.I’m okay with a kiss,but I really like those relationships that keep you guessing.I’m one of those traditional peple though who believe in sex after marriage only XD

    ReplyReply

  7. Laura
    Oct 14, 2009 @ 18:56:12

    If you like this series, have you checked out Red River? I enjoy historical romance, and have read Fushigi Yugi, From Far Away, and Red River. Watase’s Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden is in my TBR pile. I liked FFA while I read it, but it didn’t leave a lasting impression. However, RR does have mature content.

    ReplyReply

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