Pilgrim Jäger Vol. 1
Fans of Priest and Hellsing now have another manga to look forward to. Pilgrim Jäger is set in Europe in 1521, when religious oppression was a daily occurrence and the only thing worse than finding out that a person was practicing witchcraft is someone accusing you of such a crime.
In this alternate world created by Toh Ubukata, dark magical forces did indeed exist in the 16th century. However, the goal of the Church was not the eradication of such forces so much as it was securing its own position of power in the world.
Adele and Karin, two gypsy performers attempting to buy their way to redemption via the church's indulgences, have a lifestyle that differs from that of the priests who claim to seek the elimination of evil.
These two young women, using strange powers granted to them by an unexplained force, hire themselves out for clandestine jobs that typically involve fighting a supernatural enemy. The women aren't allowed to read the Bible, but readers will quickly realize that they're exorcists, though if the church knew of their powers and their practice, they'd quickly be executed as heretics and witches.
Adele, a lithe warrior with the skills of an acrobat, uses a pagan cross as a weapon to fight off her opponents. She seems to possess a second personality that is darker than her typical perky, childish nature, though the significance of this trait has yet to be revealed. Adele is the only survivor of a religious cleansing of her village. Everyone else was murdered for failing to adhere to the teachings of the church, though how Adele managed to escape the genocide remains unclear.
Karin is the elder sister figure of the two. She is more serious than her slim companion and leads the two from task to task. While Karin is more buxom than Adele, she is not a less able fighter because of her increased mass in certain areas. Karin has a strange power that enables her to generate spikes from her hands (not unlike the spikes that nailed Christ to the cross) and she uses them as weapons.
In the first volume, the creators of the book establish a complex, gritty and believable world filled with complicated politics, frightening adversaries and interesting characters.
Mami Itoh's artwork isn't as clean as some other manga titles out there, but the sketchy look of her renderings adds to the mood of the manga immensely. The cover shows Adele wielding her cross and looking particularly attractive in her low-cut pants and sleeveless shirt.
The book's linework is very energetic. Itoh is as adept at illustrating good-looking characters as she is at throwing some real nasties at her readers. I really like the look of the book, and I certainly have no complaints about the very shapely protagonists.
Historical notes are provided as the chapters progress, providing an interesting (if somewhat biased) perspective on the context in which this series is set.
As one of the first releases from Anime Works, this is a respectable production. Sound effects are untranslated (a style I prefer) and the font is readable. Price and size are both standard for current manga releases.
The adaptation quality is better than ADV, but not quite as good as TOKYOPOP. While some awkwardness remains, dialogue flows well for the most part. There is the occasional grammatical or typographical error that rears its funny head from time to time, but in general, this is an acceptably edited edition. Most publishers could use a few sets of extra eyes to put out more polished editions of their books, and I expect Anime Works to clean things up as they gain experience in what is a new venture for them.
I was pleasantly pleased with Pilgrim Jäger, which so far has presented an interesting take on what was an undeniably dark time in human history. The amount of fan service doesn't overshadow the creepy, dramatic story, but the characters are appealing enough that it is welcome when we get it.
Depending on where Ubukata takes the story, it could become better or worse by the time we get to volume two. Either way, I'll be back for Itoh's eye pleasing visuals.