Review by: Kiki Van De Kamp
Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing
Author: Minoru Murao
Genre: Graphic Novel
MSRP: $9.95 US
Rating: YA (Young Adult 16+)
Release Date: Now available
It’s a tough gig being a knight of an order that has declared war on ignorance and uncovering a secret agenda that involves men of the cloth. It’s even tougher when said knight considers himself still an apprentice (called a squire) that is accompanied by a very pretty and often naked girl who possesses a hidden power. On top of that, this young knight in question also happens to be a young man of color in a time when people believed in witches and demons. Minoru Murao weaves an interesting and intense tale in volume 1 of Knights, a fresh take on a historical period.
Mist isn’t your average manga hero and it’s not because he’s a young squire that happens to be a young man of color but because he’s a character that is very capable with a sword but doesn’t brag about it. He doesn’t cop an attitude to be cool nor does he become easily annoyed. Young Mist is first a knight on a duty to protect the innocent from false accusation brought on by the holy and, secondly, a brave knight worthy of the handle the “Hammer of Holy Men.” In other words, Mist is cool without having to prove it.
Unfortunately, Mist lives in a time when the color of his dark skin was considered a sign that people of color were in league with demons. This, however, doesn’t stop Mist from performing his duties as a champion to save the falsely accused women from priests that deemed them to be witches. With the aid of a mostly naked young girl named Euphemia, Mist manages to infiltrate the European-influenced city of Excludo where they are about to burn at the stake a pretty young girl accused of witchery. Of course, Mist (who wears a mask in battle), manages to save this girl named Nina from a corrupt priest. He also manages to best a talented young knight named Leonardo.
And so begins the first chapters of Knights, a story that brings Mist and Euphemia closer to their duty to finally put an end to the witch hysteria that has overtaken the land. Of course, this isn’t a simple feat seeing as deep-rooted religious belief is engrained into the minds of devoted followers. Even Nina’s own loving father finds it hard to question the church and believe his daughter is not a witch and places Mist in a cell. Interestingly enough, Nina manages to escape her confinement and not only express her gratitude to Mist but also show genuine affection for him. Even Mist taken aback by Nina’s smile – an act the young man hasn’t experienced in his young life.
Yet it is the mysterious Euphemia that breaks Mist out of his prison. They escape only to find out that the same priest that was about to burn Nina at the stake has her locked up in a tower chained to a medieval torture device. It’s Mist that comes to the rescue to face off against the priest. He also makes an interesting revelation about witch trials and what priests have to gain from them. A brutal battle ensues and by the end we are introduced to a powerful threat that disposes of what is left of the priest.
As Nina’s growing interest in Mist leans towards the romantic side (which is wonderfully refreshing to see in a manga), she finds that Mist and Euphemia has left her father’s castle to pursue another case of false accusation. This time, however, the rescue proves to be more trouble than usual seeing as the girl in question finds it hard to question religious belief. How do you rescue somebody who believes she is who the church says she is and wants to be judged? When they face off against the accusing priest, the girl comes to realize the startling truth about witch accusations.
In the later chapter, we discover a secret about Euphemia as she battles the same threat that dispatched the priest that sentenced Nina to death in the first chapter. The fantasy take is a nice touch that keeps the story from leaning to heavily on the historical. Meanwhile, Mist and a fellow knight of the same order named Sir Wilhelm battle against a sort of mystically mutated priest named Odo. It seems like these beings called “saints” gain a power that makes them monstrous yet powerful. Perhaps it’s love or genuine gratitude, but in the end Nina attempts to find Mist. She is joined by Leonardo, the young knight Mist defeated and the same “saint” that Euphemia fought by the lake. Each have their own reasons for finding the pair but you can bet that their journey will be just as interesting.
In the end, Knights has a refreshingly unique yet familiar appeal that make this the start of a really good series worthy of attention. It’s not so much the fact that the main character isn’t your usual surly, pompous young hero with an attitude that caught my interest (although it’s definitely a plus) but the fact that the story is intelligent and rings true in a century when a hero like this was certainly needed. It’s also a fun read that doesn’t fail to entertain manga readers.
MANGA REVIEW BREAKDOWN
It’s great to see a hero of color take center stage and the historical yet fantasy feel is a wonderful change of pace that works well with the theme. Even though little is revealed about Mist, he doesn’t come off as your typical manga hero and the witch hunt theme is handled with a touch of realism.
Simply put, Knights has gorgeously detailed art that makes every character really stand out. You can never accuse Murao of laziness or skimping on the background or character art.
Wonderfully original and thoroughly exciting from start to finish, Knights is a series that starts off strongly and doesn’t fail to hook you into its world. Minoru Murao manages to shed a light on a period in history with his own interpretation yet doesn’t sacrifice the entertaining fantasy twist that makes this a series manga fans should keep an eye on.