From Far Away Vol. 2
In keeping with the theme of fantasy that I have going on this month, it is only natural that we take some time to explore the strange world created by Kyoko Hikawa.
As fantasies go, this isn’t the most outlandish world I’ve seen. It’s not as bizarre as the wild setting for Bandit King Jing, but rather closer in nature to a past version of Earth.
Yet with alien creatures, characters endowed with unusual powers, and a prophecy of doom hanging over the whole shebang, this world is certainly not Earth.
That much, at least, is obvious when an explosion rips teenaged Noriko from modern day Japan and deposits her in the middle of a beast-ridden forest. As the daughter of a science fiction writer, she’s no stranger to unfamiliar worlds and magical powers, but she never believed she’d be encountering them herself. We’re told that she’s been visited by dreams of a beautiful world in the past, "not of this Earth", but very little of this story (so far) takes place in the 'real' world.
Indeed, the tale takes little time in throwing the poor girl into the fray. In the first volume, she is rescued from both indigenous monsters and small bands of warriors that are inexplicably hunting her down by the young, handsome and stoic Izark.
Izark is a fearsome fighter and evades her pursuers as easily as he eliminates the beasties eager to snack on Noriko. Unfortunately, she doesn’t speak the local language, and so she cannot easily communicate with her savior.
This is just as well, however, for if she could understand the dialogue around her, she might realize the incredibly significant role she’s expected to play in the destiny of her new land. She also might discover that the reason Izark happened to be in the same woods as her fortuitous arrival was so that he could kill her.
True to standard shoujo form, From Far Away keeps readers from being able to predict the various twists and turns in its plot too easily. The complexity of the tale steadily increases as more and more is revealed about Noriko’s new world.
Hikawa’s art style differs from most of the other series currently available. It isn’t as finely detailed as Yuu Watase’s work, and in general, it comes across as more cartoonish than realistic. However, the look works well in this series, for it matches Noriko’s plucky personality, instilling the visuals with energy.
Even though this is set in a fantasy realm, the visuals aren’t especially otherworldly. Being a work that is more character-driven than centered on the scenery, this is a forgivable offense.
The character designs are good, though they don’t tread beyond the boundaries of a typical shoujo lineup. Female characters are cute and expressive, enemies are appropriately creepy and/or sleazy, and of course, the male leads are dreamboats.
Viz’s staff, as usual, has done a fine job adapting the work from the original Japanese. It reads well, and there were no noticeable grammatical hiccups or spelling errors.
From Far Away is a worthy addition to the growing catalogue of cross-world fantasy stories. It doesn’t rank as one of the best, such as Fushigi Yugi or The Twelve Kingdoms, but it’s a very solid story told well. The first two volumes haven’t broken new ground, but as with all long-running series (I believe this is merely the beginning of this particular tale), there’s certainly room for growth.
That is, so long as Izark doesn’t kill Noriko before she has a chance to develop as a character.