zine, [zeen] noun. 1. abbr. of fanzine; 2. any amateurly-published periodical. Oxford Reference


Friday, August 28, 2009

Dazzle Volumes 1 2


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via Comics Village Reviews by Alain Mendez on 8/28/09

Age Rating:  Older Teen

Genre:  Drama

Price:  $9.99

There is an old saying, "If you love your child, send her on a journey." Rahzel's father obviously believed this to be true so he kicks his 14-year-old daughter onto the street so she can learn about the world through hardship. Normally this would be utter child abandonment (which it still mostly is) but Rahzel's trump card is she is a sorceress. Not that long after being kicked out she runs into the handsome albino named Alzeid. She is intrigued by his unusual good looks and sullen disposition then demands they travel together so she can inject fun into his gray world and help find the woman who killed his father. They are soon joined by Baroqueheat, a friend of Alzeid from his past, who seems smitten with Rahzel despite the fact that she only has eyes for Alzeid. Along the road they do odd jobs including busting ghosts and protecting endangered heirs to pay for their travel expenses.

Dazzle was originally know asHatenko Yugi(Unprecedented Game) in Japan and has quite the odd pedigree. It started in the shonen magazine Monthly GFantasy a shonen anthology that actively courts a female readership. After the third book the manga changed publishers and started running in the shojo magazine Monthly Comic Zero Sum that seems to engage male readers. If anything this complex history shows that Dazzle has a good deal of appeal for women and men. We have the cute and spunky Rahzel for the guys and the handsome Alzeid and Baroqueheat for the ladies. There is romance, comedy, action, mystery, and even a little horror.

If I had to pigeon hole Dazzle in a simple category it would be fantasy drama. Most of the stories involve fairly serious missions involving betrayal or murder and most of the characters' back stories are distinctly subdued. At the same time that ignores the strong amounts of comedic content in these first two books. Rahzel, Alzeid, and Baroqueheat constantly shoot snarky little quips back and forth which makes it obvious this is from the same woman who writes the much more silly Maria†Holic. It can be a difficult balance to pull off but Dazzle is able to change gears seamlessly.  Minari Endoh knows when to break the mood with comedy, when to turn off the jokes to not dull the impact of the drama, and how to keep the overall tone dark without making everything depressingly gloomy.

Rahzel is an independent young lady who is usually quite upbeat, forward, and eager to lend a hand. She has an obvious crush on Alzeid but seems content to remain his companion for now. She is both a competent fighter and a sorceress and clearly does not a need a protector. This is good because although it is apparent that Alzeid is the stronger of the two, it makes them much more equal partners than a tough guy and his tag along damsel in distress. Alzeid is rather stoic and reserved combined with a mysterious past. While he seems very standoffish to Rahzel, it is obvious he has a good deal of affection for her even if he does not say it aloud.  Baroqueheat is a perverted and light-hearted solider that is surely covering up a just as dark and bloody past as Alzeid. He is quite vocally in lust with Rahzel but she wants absolutely nothing to do with him. He ends up tagging along with Rahzel and Alzeid under the premise of being Rahzel protector but one has to wonder if there is not more to his accompaniment.

The art is fairly detailed when not focusing on the comedy, and tends to be on the darker side with lots of shading due to the use of tone. The character designs are very attractive with lanky bodies and sharp and angular features. Each story dresses all the main characters in new outfits and you will even get more sexier and unusual designs on the title pages. Endoh seems to focus on varying Rahzel's clothing more than anyone else but she never ignores Alzeid and Baroqueheat. She also changes Rahzel's hair quite often although rarely as radically as her outfits. The fight scenes are well done and easy to follow even if they tend to be very brief but bloody. I generally chalk that up to it being much more of a drama than an action manga.

Dazzle is an unusual blend of genres that fortunately mixes very well together. The very varied genres that go into Dazzle give it a unique flavor that sets it part from other manga on the market. The blending of different genres keeps the manga fresh and fun. This sweet and sour combination is the biggest selling point. My only real question is why is the manga called Hatenko Yugi and then even more confusingly why it was changed to Dazzle in the U.S. Neither title seems particularly apt but neither is utterly incongruous with the story? One day I will hopefully get to ask Minari Endoh and/or Tokyopop.


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