When I was asked if I wanted to review a manga my initial response was “Hell no!” Why would I want to review something that depicts women as oversexed baby dolls and is riddled with gratuitous cleavage and panty shots? Well, when I did pick up the copy of Queen Emeraldas, I was pleasantly surprised to find it has none of that nonsense. It’s a story about dreamers and the honor code for those that “sail the sea of stars”.
Queen Emeraldas Vol. 1 (Kodansha Comics)
The story centers on Hiroshi Umino, a young Earth boy who dreams of escaping his life to explore the universe, and Emeraldas, the highly respected “Pirate Queen “or “the witch of the space ways.” In the opening scenes we discover Hiroshi has built a ship and crash landed on Mars. Emeraldas appears on Mars and unknowingly comes to Hiroshi’s aid. Hiroshi is in awe of this legendary, heroic woman and her ship.
I love that Leiji Matsumoto is not afraid to call out his main character Hiroshi as a “brat”, because that is how he acts most of the time. He is a reckless kid who doesn’t want to listen to anyone. We can tell he is young but exactly how young? How old do you have to be in this universe to comprehend the mechanics of ship building and attempt space travel?
Matsumoto intrigues with tastes of new worlds and greater technology with an interwoven tale of a mysterious tether between Emeraldas and Hiroshi. There is an underlying current of unfulfilled dreams for many of the characters in this story as well. Everyone dreams of the stars but only a few dare to reach for them and we hear a few anecdotes along the way. Matsumoto infuses the overall story with mentions of code, honor and duty which evoke the idea of a pirate code but they also imbue the sense of a sci-fi samurai tale.
It takes a true artist to bring a solely black and white universe to life. A variety of textures such as ship control panels, an Earth vase and the Mars landscape are drawn in an exquisite manner. For such seemingly darkly colored imagery there is an abundance of reflective light captured on the many metallic surfaces, dials and screens. Matsumoto’s mix of grey, I assume, watercolor washes and pen and ink come together to create a powerful crash landing.
Did I like It? Yes! I was sucked in immediately. Finally, a powerful female character (more like, bad ass) that doesn’t have her breasts or butt hanging out in every other panel. No offense to the many wonderful DC and Marvel super women.
This is an imaginative story that blends an old school theme like piracy with technology and space exploration. Buy it. Read it. I promise you will be hooked.
My Fears? Hiroshi doesn’t grow up fast enough in the next volume. He needs to get his head on straight and stop crying.