I stopped obsessively buying everything that had a Viz Signature logo on it near the end of 2010. I dropped pretty series such as Real and Ooku: The Inner Chambers to save on money and focus on series I wanted more (such as Higurashi from Yen Press).
As such, that’s probably why I ended up not buying March Story when I first saw it on books shelves almost half a decade ago, even though the thought of it lingered in the back of my head for years.
I’ve started getting back into the Signature line recently and I’ve decided to give March Story a try. Created by the Korean duo of Hyung Min Kim and Kyung Il Yang, this is a manga I really don’t know much about, even after all this time. Let’s find out together what we have here. Is it good?
March Story Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written by: Hyung Min Kim
Drawn by: Kyung Il Yang
Translation & English Adaptation By: Camellia Nieh
It is 18th century Europe and within the sleeping countries and their cities, there are supernatural creatures and demons known as the Ill. They conceal themselves within amazing pieces of artwork, from elegant masks to lovely earrings, and lure humans into picking them up or wearing them. Once they’ve done that they take control of the human, drive them insane and act violently until enough blood has been spilled and they fully possess and kill their host.
The Ill are dangerous beings of unimaginable power and the only ones that can stop them are powerful warriors/hunters known as the Ciste Vihad. One of these Ciste Vihad is a young boy by the name of March, who is tracking down suspected pieces of art and destroying the Ill with his incredible powers. It can be a simple or incredibly difficult job, but it all depends on what March is dealing with each time.
Those my friends are famous last words.
March Story Vol. 1 is a bit tricky to talk about early on. There are four chapters in the book and the first three deal with March going to solve an Ill problem; it’s standard monster of the week kind of stuff, though a bit darker and creepier at points, reminiscent of D.Gray-Man (frankly, fans of that series should enjoy this book). While these chapters do a solid job at introducing the setting, the time period, the nature of the Ill and how they work, and a bit of March’s own story — it doesn’t feel like much is happening or a story is developing.
However, things turn around briefly during the third chapter and completely throughout all of chapter four. We finally see March’s own backstory and what brought him into the Ciste Vihad; the events are incredibly dark and downright disturbing, really adding extra levels of tragic depth to March’s character. It adds some extra character for another supporting character in the book as well and opens the door for some future storylines and subplots. I won’t spoil it here, but this is why there is a Rated M for Mature on the back of the book.
Character-wise, there’s not a lot I can actually say about the cast here. March is our main character and he’s just fine at this point; likable, capable at his job, rather smart, and willing to help out others, though a bit inconsistent in some areas (felt like the writer was still working out what he wanted to do with the character). There’s not much to him until the reveal in chapter three, where we learn that he is really a she (March just looks like a guy and there’s an actual reason for it that’s really messed up), and then seeing more about the character’s backstory in chapter four. The fourth chapter does help give you more sympathy for the character and helps you with understanding why he is the way he is. It’s decent stuff to start with, but I hope to see March’s character develop more as time goes on.
This is the moment where if you were facing that down, you run away crying like a baby.
There are only two other characters in the book that are worth mentioning (which is why I said there’s not much to say). There is Jake the Fortune-Teller, a woman who looks like a far more dressed up/makeup wearing version of Yubaba from Spirited Away. She’s a nice woman who cares deeply for March, especially after you see how the two meet in the fourth chapter, and seems to be an intelligence gathering individual for the Ciste Vihad. There is also Rodin, who is March’s mentor of sorts and has a devious and greedy side to him considering he caused the situation in the third chapter. However, that’s really it so far for the cast and again, hopefully we’ll see more development with them as time goes on or at least some new characters added to the mix.
The writing on the book is solid and works well enough, with some minor hiccups here and there. The pacing on the book is decent, always keeping the story and action going without pause. The story structure and flow were fine for the most part, but there were a couple of minor moments where there was a scene change randomly. The characterization is decent enough as well, though some more development would be nice in some areas. The dialogue and narration are just as good, though the book did repeat itself a bit with explaining what the Ill were each chapter (geez man, we get it already). The tone on the book can be a bit weird at points, some comedic elements in chapters where the focus is rather dark and moody (none thankfully during the fourth chapter) and ultimately feels a bit out of place. Either way, the book is written pretty well overall and I hope to see if there are improvements or not going forward.
The artwork is where this book is shines the most. It’s gorgeously haunting and a visual spectacle at points. The characters are uniquely designed and well depicted, showing a solid range of emotion and in body types for the most part. The scenery and locations look fantastic, while the action is incredibly flashy and striking (anytime March fights, it really is quite stunning). The utter level of detail put into some of the scenes and double page spreads is remarkable and the book is excellent at striking the right mood and tone. The book is almost worth buying for the artwork alone to see how amazing it truly is.
The only odd thing about the artwork I find is with March occasionally and the character’s appearance. Throughout most of the book the character looks like a guy through and through with how the art depicts her face and hair. However, once we learn March’s true gender, the artwork tends to now make her more feminine and those features more pronounced. I understand that there is no point now in hiding the character’s sex anymore, but making it more obvious that she is female makes it harder to believe that she is fooling anymore into believing she is a guy.
Only someone evil or kooky would be wearing something like that.
Is It Good?
March Story Vol. 1 is a very respectable, if familiar, story that offers plenty to be enjoyed. There are areas to be improved upon for sure, but the good and potential within this series outweigh the negatives. People who enjoy manga like D. Gray-Man and Chrono Crusade and are looking for something edgier, this comes very much recommended.
March Story is available from Viz Media and through our “Buy From Amazon” button at the top of the page. As of this moment, the entire series is completed and every volume is now available for purchase from Viz as well. There are only five volumes, but if you do like what you see and want to read the rest, it won’t cost you too much.