Direction: Right to Left
by: Natsumi Itsuki
Thor and his twin brother, Rai, are cast off to a forsaken planet by unknown masked men after witnessing the suspicious death of their parents. Given only a beam knife and a smelly satchel, they wander together in search of civilization on the primarily plant based world. They soon discover the plants have the advantage. Only the strong survive; the ones who throw away their humanity and become the beasts humans once were.
I’ve had this series since it was first released way back by Tokyopop, and part of me hopes someone will relicense it, since my copies are getting a bit battered
I loved the anime, and the manga is just so much better. The art of the series is exceptional, with amazing character designs and mecha. The settings are really well done as well, with the planetary side of things being close, hot, and even a bit stifling when they’re needed. Then later on in the series the reverse, cold and frigid as the night sets in. This is a well balanced change that really makes the night and day cycles of the story come to life.
Like wise the spaceport and research facilities towards the end of the series have a different type of cold feeling, a sterile mechanical cold, which is amazing. The feel of this style of art sets the stage for the story, and draws the reader into the setting long before they’ve read the actual story.
The mecha designs are pretty interesting, a great combo of futuristic and piecemeal slapped together feel, which is needed for certain parts of the settings.
The characters are where it’s at though, with out a doubt this series has some of the best characters ever used in manga. Their personalities are perfectly defined even before the story begins, and their character design fits the personality perfectly. What really surprised me however is that this was true even for the secondary and tertiary characters. Usually these none plot characters get very little love, but this time all of the characters were well done.
As a result I found I was attached to the characters before the first volume was over. Natsumi says it herself in her afterword, that while the story is about Thor, it’s nothing really without the support characters whose life gives Thor’s story emphasis.
I really liked the way that while the focus was on Thor, plenty of time was given to other characters, such as Zagi and Third.
Story wise when i first read it ages ago I felt it was to short, however that’s because a lot of manga actually drag out the story. Natsumi seems to have hit that sweet spot for manga, where it’s not dragged out, but nor is it sped through. While it does feel it’s fast, that’s because this is a fast paced series.
Despite pacing of the series, as i said, there’s lots of character development. We get to see Thor and Tiz mature, and the other characters change as the time and settings pass. We see Thor go from a naive kid to a slightly less naive man. The way he changes is great, while he matures and becomes more of a beast, he still maintains his naivety. Usually this could come across as forced since the two personalities usually wouldn’t mix. However Natsumi pulls it off, balancing his violence with the naivety.
I like how the other characters change as well, we get to see Zagi becoming more ruthless, but with definite goals that he’s aiming for. Tiz having to deal with the revelation that she’ll never have Thor’s heart, and having to give him up for a new girl.
Chen was one of the best changes though, when she’s introduced she’s strong, powerful and self determined. This changes over the course of the series, and the changes she goes through are rather dramatically played out and intense.
If you want dramatic and intense though it’s got to be in the later part of the series, it’s only brief, but the Thor x Zagi x Tiz x Karin relationship is a huge turning point of the series. Frankly i think that’s one of the most heart wrenching relationships I’ve ever seen in manga and when that short arc was concluded i cried. Natsumi was great at drawing out the emotions needed for the scenes as well painting the perfect scenes.
Tokyopop released this in three omnibus editions, and the quality of the releases degrades fast over the course of the series.
On the editing and formatting side of things i don’t really have any issues, in fact i think it was one of their best releases. Same can be said for their translation and the extras they added to the volumes. Though it would have been nice to have the original colour pages.
However the quality of the books themselves degraded significantly. Volume one was pretty well put together, with a good firm cover to protect the volumes. However volume three’s cover was essentially paper and has already fallen apart. I’ve had to replace it twice due to the amount of times I’ve read it. this isn’t possible to replace now given the ridiculous cost of buying the volume (around £20 at the mo). It’s a shame really, since given it’s size, it does take a bit of a beating.
Overall though, if you can get your hands on this series it’s well worth investing in. It’s a great series, with a great anime adaption as well.