Wataru couldn’t be more ordinary. He’s an average student who lives a normal life with his mom and dad. His favorite things are playing video games and crushing on his classmate Kaori. All of that changes, though, when he meets a mysterious transfer student, Asikawa, who turns out to be much more than he seems.
I wasn’t holding my breath that I’d like this title. It’s a manga based on a novel that has also been an anime and a series of video games. To me that seemed like too many revisions and I was concerned that the story wouldn’t hold together well. Luckily I was soon drawn into Wataru’s world, or worlds, and found myself reluctant to leave. The main reason behind this reluctance is the empathy that Miyabe generates for her characters. Wataru is especially appealing, if simply for his ordinariness. I liked that his life, both in the real world and in the magical realm, wasn’t as perfect as it seemed at first glance. In fact that was the case with several of the characters and it gave depth to the story by adding to the characters’ motivations. She also has a talent for switching between reality and fantasy, action and pathos, humor and seriousness which helps make her story both more interesting and more believable.
Ono’s art is a nice compliment to the writing. The characters are drawn in a shonen action style, stockier and more muscular. Their faces are round, but still match their ages, especially in the teenagers. The fight scenes are also fairly well-drawn, though sometimes not as clear as they could be. Panel layouts are mostly square or rectangular, but they are clear and easy to follow. The sound effects are untranslated which sometimes confuses the action. There is a good amount of violence, especially in the fight scenes and in the back stories of some characters, which earns this its older teen (16+) rating. This nice combination of action, fantasy, and drama will leave readers ready for the next volume.
Brave Story, vol. 1
Story by Miyuki Miyabe, Art by Yoichiro Ono