When the Valbanill War ravaged the land, humans discovered that they could harness a terrible power, sacrificing parts of their bodies in order to create demons to fight for them—a ritual that became known as a Demon Pact. But that was 40 years ago, and since the end of the war, the people have begun to rebuild and Demon Pacts have become taboo.
This is the world of The Sacred Blacksmith, a manga series that is based on a string of Japanese light novels. The storyline is simple: like her father and grandfather before her, protagonist Cecily Campbell is a knight. She wishes to carry on the name of the aristocratic Campbell family and defend Housman, the Independent Trade City founded by her grandfather. When her ancestral blade is broken in a fight with a vagabond who has made a Demon Pact, she is rescued by a young man named Luke Ainsworth who wields a curved blade called a katana.
If none of this sounds original, it’s because The Sacred Blacksmith is a clichéd sword-and-sorcery story, complete with stock characters and a bland plot. Cecily is the spunky female fighter who constantly monologues about proving herself, only to be defeated by every opponent and then rescued by Luke. Luke himself is void of personality and emotionally withdrawn, likely due to past betrayal. It is clear from the dialogue that the writer wishes to set these two up as romantic interests, but their lack of chemistry is laughable. Finally, there’s Lisa, an adorable, nymph-like ethereal being who serves as Luke’s assistant. She helps Luke to forge his katana weapons, and naturally, she has an unrequited crush on him.
Speaking of Luke’s katana, Cecily really wants one—no matter that the book opens with Cecily’s refusal to use any steel other than the blade passed down through her family. As soon as she sees Luke’s katana in action, she seems to abandon her blood loyalty, begging him to forge a katana of her own. Later, she forsakes this desire in order to wield a demon blade, a living weapon created by a Demon Pact. Unfortunately, the anthropomorphic weapon trope has been used more effectively in dozens of other series.
Although the artwork isn’t bad, the character designs don’t stand out in any way. Cecily has large breasts, short hair, a tiara on her head, and her armor consists of a breastplate with one left shoulder piece; at one point she appears in a maid’s outfit. Dark-haired Luke sports a permanent gaze of indifference, while tiny Lisa has pointy elf ears and a childlike expression. If one were to place them in a lineup with other anime and game characters, they would easily be lost.
The creators’ overreliance on common tropes continues as they often resort to cheap fan service for comedic relief. Several characters fall into Cecily’s breasts, which become exposed in battle after her clothing is shredded; and of course, there are panty shots and an obligatory bath house scene in which the female characters grab each other’s breasts.
The books include some extras, including fan art and creator commentary. The most notable add-on consists of Lisa explaining the ancient Japanese art of katana forging, which lends some historical value to the series. Lisa and Luke use magical means to create their weapons, but Lisa’s lesson provides a thorough historic and scientific explanation of the real katana and the use of folded steel. Though this is a nice supplement, it does little to make this a shelf-worthy series.
The Sacred Blacksmith, vols. 1-3
by Isao Miura
Art by Kotaro Yamada
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781937867324
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781937867652
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781937867836
Seven Seas Entertainment, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen