Nephilim, vol. 1-2

Nephilim are a mysterious and beautiful people. One gender by day, at night they reveal their true gender, but anyone who looks at their true form is cursed to die. Imperial soldier Guy stumbles upon Abel, a young Nephilim boy, while searching for a kidnapped royal. When he later sees Abel’s true form—that of a beautiful young girl—she vows to kill him, but is she able to murder her own heart as well?

Hanamaki’s shojo romance is as light and fluffy as to cotton candy, and about as nutritious, though without the good taste. The main weakness lies in her characters. Abel is annoying to the point of grating on the reader’s nerves. While on the one hand she is all hardy-jungle-folk, always climbing trees and struggling against great odds, on the other hand she says stuff like “I’m not strong enough to cut this as a girl….” Her response to most difficult situations is to stare with wide-eyes, doing her best moon-child impression. Guy is a more appealing character, though his God’s gift to women attitude is old hat as far as manga love interests go. They fall in love too rapidly to be completely believable, again nothing new for manga, but there is nothing in the plot to explain why these two people would even like each other.

The plot itself is weak. The usual complications are thrown in the way of romance, such as one party assuming something about the other’s affections, but none of those complications are interesting  or unique enough to make the reader truly long for the next volume. Details about how the Nephilim’s biology works are sketchy, which implies that the author herself didn’t know or didn’t think that far in advance. How, for example, would a Nephilim woman reproduce if she were male for half of the day? What would happen to the baby during the time of being male? These kinds of details might not matter if secondary characters didn’t cause readers to think of them.

The art is nothing special. Guy is very attractive, but it’s hard to believe that anyone would ever think Abel was a boy, even when she was. Partly that is because of how feminine Abel and the other Nephilim look, but a lot of that is because of Hanamaki’s awkward clothing choices. (No boy would wear that many bows on one outfit.) It almost seems as if Hanamaki was being overly careful to keep her manga from having any boys’ love overtones at all, which makes the plot seem even more ludicrous. The comedy elements are cute and lightly funny, but they aren’t enough to carry the story.

There is an attempted rape and many scenes of violence, though nothing overly gratuitous. There are also a lot of sexual jokes, mostly from Guy. Overall, though, the most objectionable part of this series is the lackluster rehashing of standard manga fantasy/romance elements. There are other, better fantasy/romances out there, so readers can pass on this one.

Nephilim, vol. 1-2
Anna Hanamaki
Vol. 1, ISBN:  978-1934496-15-2
Vol. 2, ISBN: 978-934496-06-0
Aurora, 2008

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