Atelier Marie and Elie: Zarlburg Alchemist, vol. 1

Marie is an accomplished alchemist returning to her hometown of Zarlburg after a long time spent traveling the world. Elie is just starting out on her alchemical career, choosing to open her own shop rather than to continue her magical studies at the Zarlburg Royal Magic Academy. Together these two women will ply their trade in the service of the needy, determined to help the world…assuming they can sober up first.

Ochi’s humorous fantasy is based on a Japanese video game franchise that hasn’t made it to America, something that almost kept me from reading it. I’m not a big gamer, so I mostly avoid comics based on RPGs and other video games. This one, though, sucked me in with its bright, cheerful cover and promise of screwball fantasy. And it didn’t disappoint.

Marie and Elie’s story isn’t deep by any means, but it is a silly story with two very different main characters. Elie, the more studious one, is the voice of reason…most of the time. Marie, on the other hand, is the one who has perfected the art of running away, a valuable alchemical skill for a daredevil who doesn’t always think about the consequences of her actions. The story introduces us to a host of other characters, but does so in a smooth, flowing manner that makes them easy to remember. The plot, what there is of it, is mostly a series of funny situations revolving around Elie and Marie’s shop, their town, and the elves who inhabit the forest just outside the town walls.

Ochi’s art varies a lot from the screencaps I saw online of the game. Instead of being an almost demure beauty, Marie—along with the others—is drawn in a cute, comedic style that perfectly fits the tone of the story. The panels are crowded with art, screentone, movement lines, side comments, sound effects, etc. which should be distracting, but somehow manages to work. TokyoPop, not known for translating sound effects, is forced to here in order for the story to make sense, but they only do so for some of the effects.

While Atelier Marie and Elie is not a deep title, it is a fun read for those looking for humor manga. Check it out and see if it doesn’t just make you chuckle.

Atelier Marie and Elie: Zarlburg Alchemist, vol. 1
Yoshihiko Ochi
ISBN: 978-1-59816-525-8
TokyoPop, 2007

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