Story and Art – Aki Shimizu
Original Concept – Konami
English Label– Tokyopop
Release Date – 05/2004
First Volume ISBN – 1-59182-765-5
Genre – Action, Fantasy
Age Rating – 13+
Volumes – 7 (currently at 4)
A few years back a child was born who would eventually lead his tribe to war. His people, a tribe of warriors called the Karaya, say he was blessed by the wind and earth. He was named Hugo – a Karaya word for arrow feathers.
In a few years Hugo would begin his adventures close to home. He befriended a baby gryphon: a legendary beast which is half eagle, half lion. These mighty beasts are beautiful and fearless and could be threat to anyone. But the bond between these two is stronger than any Karaya warrior, which would eventually lead to them both becoming two of the finest warriors in their tribe. That is just one of many friendships made in this story; a story with 108 characters, families, friends, and enemies all victims of an evil plot to create chaos in this region.
To the west a battle rages. The six clans of the Grasslands (Alma Kinan, Chisha, Duck, Karaya, Lizard, and Safir) have engaged in a border war against the Zexen Federation. What was a small dispute not too long ago has torn this continent apart. But there are factions that would like to put an end to this war, but we will talk about them a little later. In the heat of battle, the daughter of hero doubts her place in this war. Years ago, when she heard of her father’s death, she began the long process to get her to the battlefield, now there the fear, mayhem and death that comes from battle has become to overcome. In these circumstances the rules are simple… survive. Either run and live with cowardice; or fight and face death head on. Chris Longfellow decided she must fight to survive, and thus began her role in this story as “the Silver Maiden.”
As I noted earlier there are those who would like to see the end to this war. They understand that little will be gained for most involved, and those who will profit may never even see a battlefield as they count their riches. For the time being, a truce will be called. The elders of the Grasslands see their families torn by these battles. They have everything to lose. Even on the other side some are seeing profits come down and moral hit lows. But among all of those who wish for peace there are a few that need this conflict to continue. They are the ones that will attack during a truce agreement. They will continue to spread the confusion and watch the flames of war start up again. And finally there will be a point where neither Chris nor Hugo, two young warriors who moments ago were on their own successful truce missions, will possibly ever wish each other peace. Their meeting is the start of this new war, but who is really behind all of this?
Shimizu’s designs are wonderful. Sharp lines make for good looking characters of all sorts (ducks, humans, lizards, mythical monsters…). Add some beautiful costumes (nice patterns making good use of ink and screen tone) and it can be hard to find problems with these characters. Unfortunately, Shimizu is not very consistent with them. Occasionally they are kind of half-done and in some situations they can look plain sloppy (especially in action scenes and panels where characters are further back in their setting. Faces lose detail dramatically and lines become thicker but become sloppy and squiggly.)
Backgrounds are very nice though. They are used quite often, even in some of the more involved action scenes. The background designs are not very fancy (there is some nice inking here as well) but they do the job and with a fun active layout I found myself really enjoying the look of Suikoden on pulp almost more than I do in pixels.
As a compliment to Konami’s RPG video game series, Shimizu’s interpretation goes a little further into the large cast than Konami ever could in their games. Without worrying about levelling up or getting through confrontations, we get to experience a version of the story where the roles are set and readers play no part in this adventure. Instead we can all enjoy this adventure; cling on to factions; and despise others motivations. A lot less work but just as fun.
Volume 1 does a great job of introducing this world. Without prior history of any of the Suikoden readers can quickly get into this title and be off on their journey. But if there is something that readers might want to worry about, it has to be the 108 characters. As an old fan of the series, as soon as I started reading I was trying to look up each new face on the list presented at the end of this GN. Shimizu in her ato-gaki noted that this aspect would be hard, but I an sure there will be time for all of them to make an impact on this story. Finding out how could be almost as fun as just reading this title. Suikoden is another solid fantasy title full of fun art, great characters and a good balance of action and drama.