Whether you are breathlessly waiting for the next installment of Delicious in Dungeon or new to Ryoko Kui’s manga, this collection of short stories is perfect to introduce to new readers or satisfy fans.
Seven stories of magic, romance, and humor, set in different time periods, show the broad range of Ryoko Kui’s artistic and storytelling abilities. “The Dragon Turret” is a historical drama with intense, detailed pen and ink work, showing the futility of war and the pointlessness of prejudice. “The Mermaid Refuge” delves into what it means to be sentient and human, with simple, child-like lines and faces that match the innocence of the story and the theme of children becoming adults and grappling with serious questions. “My God” blends detailed landscapes with humorous depictions of humans and spirits in a sometimes funny sometimes regretful story of change and growth. “Wolves don’t lie” moves rapidly between full-page detailed drawings of wolves and night scenes to emotional scenes between the main character and his mother to chibi characters and a few quick lines demonstrating humor and emotion. The story’s multiple art styles further the plot of a child with a disability struggling to become an adult and understand the choices their parent made for them. It’s not all serious though, as it ends on a humorous note, and there are plenty of silly moments throughout the story, humanizing the characters and showing how they adjust to their lives. “Byakuroku the Penniless” is the closest of all the stories to pure folktale, blending traditional art and broad caricature with a touching story of family and the struggle between art and poverty. “‘My Child is Precious’ Cries the Dragon” is a darker story; the slowly growing horror of the increasingly dark tale is marked by subtle hints of monstrous qualities in the characters and made all the darker by the peaceful forest they travel through. The final story, “The Inutanis” is pure humor, a parody of the detective story, with a broad cast of family characters from children to grandparents, and a briskly-paced series of events.
This is rated Teen, but there’s not necessarily any graphic content included. There are definitely some darker themes and violence, usually shown off-scene, but this collection is more likely to appeal to teens up through adults because of the more philosophical bent of some of the stories and the adult or teen perspectives of most of the stories. They explore the transition from child to adult, making difficult choices, and more mature ways of thinking as well as broader themes of war, spirituality, and change.
Copious text notes are included in the end flaps, explaining honorifics, cultural references, and more, and there are also some humorous bonus comics included. This is an ideal book for readers who haven’t experienced manga yet, as the broad range of art styles and stories will allow them to explore which type of manga might interest them the most. For those who have already settled on their manga style of choice, this may encourage them to try some different genres.
Seven Little Sons of the Dragon
By Ryoko Kui
Yen Press, 2019
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)