Currently Reading: Reimei no Arcana

I was debating about which manga I should talk about next, but then I realized that I’ve been gushing about Reimei no Arcana more than any other shoujo manga I can think of. So here you go.

Here’s a look at a manga I had no idea was licensed until about three days ago, and one of the few shoujo manga in serialization that comes even close to touching on political themes, Reimei no Arcana.

Reimei no Arcana by Touma Rei

Reimei no Arcana by Touma Rei

Summary: Relations between neighbouring countries Senan and Belquat are strained, so the two leaders have decided to marry Princess Nakaba of Senan and Prince Caesar of Belquat in order to improve ties. However, discrimination against red-headed people like Nakaba is widespread in Belquat, and the fact that her manservant Loki is half-human, half-animal isn’t helping things. Can their relationship improve? And how will Nakaba’s mysterious power affect the events in both of their homelands?

Thoughts so far:

Since I’ve been on a bit of a political kick lately, Reimei no Arcana is right up my alley. Gosh, I love this manga.

I really admire the depth of the universe that Touma-sensei has created. While it doesn’t seem to complex at first glance, she’s constructed it in such a way that it’s easy to demonstrate examples of discrimination, allowing parallels to be drawn to our own society. Let’s take the discrimination against people with fair hair as an example. It’s easy to draw parallels even to North American society, since there is a notable amount of discrimination against people with red hair. I think that this might have been coincidental on the author’s part, but it’s still pretty interesting to think about.

I also really like the idea of a class of “sub-persons” within the society of this manga. While the author makes it easy to make this association by giving the characters animal features, it’s still easy to draw comparisons to human history when certain segments of society were given a similar label. In addition, many of these characters stand up for justice more than some of the human characters of this manga ever do.

I really love the characters of this manga. It’s not Game of Thrones-esque in the depth of its characterization, but it’s doing a pretty good job. An interesting aspect of this manga is that most of the character’s aren’t bad or good to the core – they have moments where they’re willing to do morally-grey things in order to protect what’s important to them.

I love that Nakaba has this situation that she’s been beat down her whole life, but she still has this incredible sense of self-worth and inner strength. One of my favourite moments of her comes from the first chapter, when Caesar corners her and she says something like “it doesn’t matter what you do to me, all that’s changed is the country I’m going to die in”. If that’s not badass, I don’t know what is. I also like that she has a really strong side to her personality, but a softer one along with it. That might seem a bit sterotypical within this genre, but the way Nakaba is written just makes it seem really natural.

I appreciate the fact that Caesar starts off as a bit of a jerk, because that’s the way you would expect him to be. He is a prince of the wealthier country of the two, and all he’s known is privilege for most of his life. It’s kind of a given that he would treat the princess of the weaker country badly, considering that he’s grown up in an environment that has not only condoned, but encouraged such behaviour. Thankfully, he grows into a more likeable person as the manga progresses, but he almost turns into a stereotypical shoujo hero of sorts while this happens. It’s a little bit disappointing, considering that I have really high standards for this manga, but the change doesn’t make him unlikeable in any way.

Loki is a really interesting case. He starts out in a way where you think you know what kind of character he is, but in the later chapters he starts to turn into this very layered kind of personality. He has only one motivation – to protect Nakaba – and the lengths to which he would go to do that surprised even me. I’m never going to look at manservant/bodyguard types the same way ever again!

I don’t really want to comment on the plot of Reimei no Arcana within this review, simply because of the amount of plot twists this manga has. They’re not large in number, but they are amazing. There’s genocide, there’s murder, there are unexpected political and romantic developments that you will NOT see coming. They WILL blow your mind (maybe). Take my word for it, I am VERY picky about manga plots, but this manga has me enthralled for each and every update.

The art is amazing. I really like the fact that from the start of serialization to the most current chapters, the art has maintained a consistent quality while still evolving. While it’s not on an Emma level of detail (I don’t think it needs to be either, though), it’s really nice to look at. The character designs are really distinct and well executed as well.

Overall, this is a shoujo manga you shouldn’t miss. I don’t care if you wait until the manga ends to start reading it (I personally think you should be reading this right now), but you definitely need to put it on your “to read” list immediately!

Rating: 9.0/10