I’ve been reading Wayward since it first started in 2014, and obviously I’ve enjoy it since I’m here on the fifth volume, still kickin’ it. I was pretty pissed off at the end of Vol. 4 because Ayane was one of my favorite characters in the series, and her passing felt like a stunt to make the rather boring Irish arc seem more important to the overall story than it actually was. At the beginning of Vol. 5, we find out the truth behind Rori’s parents’ meeting and subsequent love affair and how it was orchestrated by the Celtic Druids. From what I understand, the Druids are the new gods of Ireland, similar to how Rori and her crew replaced the Yokai as the new gods of Japan. The old gods, called the Sidhe, are hoarding the magic that the Druids need. So, the Druids lured Rori’s mother to Ireland and set her up with Rori’s father (who is also a Druid) so that they would have a child who possessed both nations’ power and could use the child as the bridge to take back the Sidhe’s magic. Rori is incredibly upset by this, but strangely goes along with the Druid’s plan anyway.
Back in Japan, Inaba and Segawa (who formed a tentative alliance at the end of the last volume and are in hiding because Nurarihyon is controlling the ministry of defense now) bust Nikaido out of the hospital he’s being detained in. Meanwhile, Ohara’s anger at Rori for making her family forget her and dragging her into this has come to a boiling point. Ohara loses control and retreats into the spirit realm surrounded by Japanese folklore spirits called ‘object ghosts.’ While she’s stuck in the spirit realm, Shirai must deal with her energy creating a gigantic version of herself out of building material. The two parts of these volumes are entirely without crossover until the very end. This leads to some strange transitions and an overall disconnect between the two thematically.
A problem Wayward always has, that doesn’t improve in this installment, is its lack of depth or connection to its characters. The plot is at the forefront of all the development, and the characters feel more like pawns than people. This makes the ending where all the kids (minus Ayane, who there is practically no mention of in this volume) finally get to see each other again that much less impactful. Why do I care that they’re all back together when I can’t even remember some of their names most of the time, and when in earlier issues all they did was fight with each other? Part of this is a pacing problem. There’s never breathing room when it comes to moving the plot along, which in most stories is when you get to learn more about the characters. I’m not saying that plot progression is bad, but it has to be balanced with character development, or you end up five volumes in with no real interest in what happens to the characters.
Wayward has never been a bad looking series. From the styling of the covers, to the inking that uses a lot more colors for the lines than black, to the bright and varied coloring, to the pencils that are full of personality, this series continues to be one to marvel at graphically and artistically. I’m a sucker for important pieces of the story being used as panel borders. so when the threads of fate were used this way, I was very enthralled with it. Some of the characters’ facial expressions in this volume are over-exaggerated for no reason, and the lettering when Ohara is made of building material was distracting. But, these are just minor gripes that I can forgive when it comes down to it.
The essays about Irish and Japanese folklore in the back are always interesting and add a lot of insight to the various use of that folklore in the volume, but I can’t imagine a lot of people read them. This volume wouldn’t make me drop the series, and while it’s more action packed and exciting than the last, it’s not something I would say is an immediate must-read. The old problems that have plagued this series since the beginning aren’t corrected, and as time goes on, it only makes me as a reader drift further away from it. I like Wayward, but I can’t see myself ever loving it.