The Earl and the Fairy
Story and Art by Ayuko
Original Concept by Mizue Tani
Published by Viz Media
“Lydia Carter is a fairy doctor, one of the few people with the ability to see the magical creatures who share our world. During one of her rare trips to visit her father, Lydia’s quite life is suddenly transformed when she is rescued from kidnappers by a mysterious young man!
Edgar Ashenbert claims to be descended from the human ruler of the fairy kingdom, and he urgently needs Lydia’s help to find and claim his birthright, the legendary sword of the Blue Knight Earl. Things will never be the same for Lydia as she is pulled into a dangerous quest against dark forces.”
It might be odd for me to do yet another shojo (girl’s) manga this week, but for those of the masculine type, do not fret, this will not be a constant trend. Still, comics aimed at boys and men tend to get more publicity thanks to the popularity of Marvel, DC, and Shonen Jump, so it’s only fair that comics aimed at girls and women get some spotlighting.
The first few pages are actually rather shocking. The main male protagonist, Edgar, is shown brutally interrogating a doctor named Gotham (sadly no relationship to the city), and after learning he needs a fairy doctor to find the Merrow Star, the jewel of the Blue Knight’s sword, he promptly shoots him. Immediately, Edgar is established as someone who would go to drastic measures to obtain what he wants, which leads to him kidnapping Lydia later on. In a lesser story, his actions would be viewed as cold and possibly villainous, but the story goes to great lengths to showing him as noble and having good justification for his actions. He has his asshole moments, but thankfully Lydia is wise enough to slap him for them and keep him in line.
Lydia unfortunately has some of the clichés of a shojo protagonist, namely her naivety. Despite seeing his picture in a newspaper, she fails to realize who Edgar is before being tricked onto his boat, and takes her sweet time in asking him the important questions. This is balanced by Nico, her talking cat that only she can hear due to her gift to see and hear fairies. Nico’s purpose is to be the cynical foil to Lydia’s optimism, rightfully pointing out any suspicious behavior from Edgar and his companions. Despite her shortcomings, Lydia is not a weak character. She does eventually challenge Edgar’s reasoning for his journey, revealing a crucial part of his character in the process, and her outcast nature will be endearing to readers. As one of the few people who can see fairies, she’s also one of the few who believes in them. Perhaps it’s because of her naivety and open mind that she is able to see them, which makes those traits more palatable.
The first volume serves as an introduction to the larger story and cast. Edgar and Lydia are introduced with hints at a later romance, backstory on the Blue Knight Earl is given, and we learn about the fairies of this universe. Very few fairies are actually shown in this volume, but the ones we do see are accurate to European folklore, such as the brownies and pixies. They add a touch of magic to what could otherwise be a Victorian England period piece. Overall, there is enough material in this first volume to let readers know if they’ll want to continue, with enough of a hook at the end to keep readers hyped for the next release.
This is one of the prettiest manga I have looked at in recent months. I’m not familiar with Ayuko’s work, but this has convinced to me to look for it, because her characters look gorgeous. It’s not that all of the characters are attractive, it’s the amount of detail she puts into them, especially their clothing. Victorian clothing tends to look stunning in real life, and that stunning feeling has been perfectly captured in drawn form. Since this is a shojo manga, the two leads are nearly guaranteed to be attractive. There’s nothing wrong with having a pretty boy lead in a romance story aimed at ladies, and I must say, Edgar is extremely attractive. He’s pretty enough to be a bishonen (a pretty boy), but rugged enough to be a man, so he actually looks like a capable fighter.
However, while the artwork is gorgeous, it loses some of its splendor during the fight scenes. Blur is good for conveying speed in comics, but when your characters look like massive blobs when they throw a kick, it takes the reader out of the moment. Hopefully later volumes fix this blemish on an otherwise beautiful manga.
The Earl and the Fairy does enough to put it above a standard romance manga. It has a dark hero and outcast heroine who manage to grab the audience’s sympathy, and the search for the Blue Knight Earl’s sword is full of enough backstory and magical intrigue to satisfy any fan of European folklore and fantasy. Add in the splendid artwork and you have a good manga on your hands. Readers looking for something more action-packed might want to skip this, since the few fight scenes in the manga are hard to look at. Lydia’s naivety might be annoying for some, but others might find it endearing. If you love shojo manga or just want to give one a whirl, give this a shot.
The Earl and the Fairy was published by Viz Media this year. The first two volumes are available now with the 4th and final volume coming out at the end of the year.