animefringe may 2003 / reviews

Seraphic Feather Vol.3: Target Zone
Format: left-to-right manga
Production: Dark Horse Comics / Hiroyuki Utatane / Toshiya Takeda
Comments: The latest installment sheds some light on the backstories of its characters, but still leaves much in the dark.
Animefringe Reviews:
Seraphic Feather Vol.3: Target Zone

I find it somewhat hard to review this title fairly. After all, I feel that it's like taking a square inch of a painting of unknown size, a single frame from a movie, or a page from a book, and coming up with an opinion on it. I really don't know enough of where this is going to truly know where I am in the plot right now. One thing's for certain--this is an intriguing tale thus far.

The overall plot of the book involves mankind's discovery of a frighteningly potent alien technology. Once harnessed, its bearers will gain power of creation or destruction over anything in existence. Many forces are vying to take hold of this power, though at this point, I'm not quite sure who the bad guys really are.

Three volumes into a series, it would be nice to know who I'm rooting for.

Honestly, though, I wouldn't mind the suspense so much if this series was released in a more timely fashion. To put it more accurately, I wish new installments were coming once every two months instead of twice a year. Half a year is a long time to ponder this appealing but purposefully complex story. In this volume, we learn more about the battle-ready vixen Miss M-Zak. As we discover how her past is linked to Sunao Oumi (the main protagonist), more questions are raised than answered, making the wait for the next release almost unbearable.

One thing I've noted before--it seems as if Dark Horse Comics chooses only the most beautiful manga for publication. Just as in Oh My Goddess, Shadow Star, and 3x3 Eyes, delicate, graceful lines demand attention from discerning readers. This particular volume focuses more on characters than background elements, but when an object is rendered, it is with no less skill than the extremely eye catching character designs. The playful fan service sprinkled throughout manages to be very sexy but not too insultingly abundant, and it works as a reminder of Utatane's past as a writer of more "mature" comics.

Another fact about Dark Horse I've noted in other reviews is their rather steep prices, slow production rate, and flipped manga. I love the publisher, and their translations are as admirable as the quality of their books. However, I'd be ecstatic if they'd start selling their manga unflipped at a lower price point. I enjoy all of their titles, so I'm willing to pay a little extra for what Dark Horse produces, but the mainstream audience isn't as easily swayed as myself. As I mentioned in my review of the latest Oh My Goddess manga, hopefully things will change for Dark Horse soon, just as it has for TOKYOPOP and Viz in the past year.

In the meantime, this is an addictive science fiction tale with quite a bit of potential to knock its readers' socks off. The artwork is excellent, the characters have depth, and the storyline is unique. I just wish I had 10 more volumes of the series in my hands now, rather than have to wait five years for them to arrive. Again, I suppose there's hope that Dark Horse will ramp up its production schedule as the industry grows even more.