When I first tried reviewing a manga series, it was a bit of a challenge. But, I did at least know I wanted to give more manga a shot and review much more of them. Cut to this past spring when I was given the request to review a manga series I had never heard of before. It’s a bit longer than Solinen was, but that’s ok because who doesn’t love reading sometimes?
+Anima is a 10 volume Adventure/Fantasy series written by Natsumi Mukai and published by MediaWorks in Japan. The manga ran in Dengeki Comic Gao! from January 2001 to March 2005. As of this review the manga is licensed in Australia thanks to Madman Entertainment and in North America by Tokyopop… However, the likelihood of finding it in the states is slim since Tokyopop kinda went under a several years ago…. And may possibly be making a come back… Who knows.
In the country of Astaria, some humans have an unusual gift that grants them the ability to morph one or more of their body parts, such as limbs, into a form of an animal's body part. Some are capable of even more radical changes, such as growing wings or full-body transformation. The transformation processes are very fast, and occur at the user's will. When inactive, the morphed areas revert to normal, leaving the person's clothing and body completely untouched. The only visual mark of this ability appears on the body of the person, in the form of a black birthmark that determines an individuals’s anima. Occasionally, the user bears some behavioral characteristics of their animal, but this is not very common. +Anima are not treated kindly by the "normal" humans. Therefore, when some are treated bad enough or have a taken over neglected feeling, their anima often takes over them. This story revolves around four +Anima children: Cooro, Husky, Senri, and Nana. Brought together by their +Anima powers, they search for others like themselves and a place to belong. Along the way, they encounter villains and friends alike, as well as other +Anima.
If we were going to classify the art style used for +Anima, it would fall more in line with the typical Shoujo style based on the character designs. It also makes sense to classify it here as the men that are drawn in this manga are either rather adorable, beautiful, or attractive. At least this is the case for Cooro, Husky, and Senri. While the character designs are simple, there are moments where the art exemplify their features as well as the backgrounds and scenes, helping to set the tone and give the different locals some bit of an exotic look to them. During those times, the art style can become absolutely beautiful! During the off times, it may cut corners in order to keep a decent look within the limited budget and schedule. Luckily, it does use those moments for the sake of comedy and doesn’t use it for some of those really lovely looking moments. Because that would just look really off compared to the rest of the manga.
The story is rather simplistic and easy to get through, with several larger arcs as well as small one off stories placed in as filler in order to give some breathing room. With the use of a journey in order to progress the story along, our four main characters get to meet and interact with many different individuals varying from human to +Anima and with several backgrounds such as military and slave. What makes the story the most interesting is learning and understanding the world created and what kind of laws or ethics are involved. One minute, we’re meeting a military man looking to make an agreement with an +Anima tribe, of sorts, and the next we encounter a town where a woman runs the show and her daughter is rather controlling when it comes to her friends. While meeting these different people and hear their many stories, we also learn more about +Anima themselves. How they came to be and what it is that causes them to be this way. While the many stories do grab interest in one way or another, sadly there is a small problem of lack of explanation. I’ll explain a little bit more when I discuss Cooro, but there are parts of the story that don’t seem to be fully developed. Plot threads seem unfinished or in some need of further development while others may seem a little rushed at times. This can cause some missing story elements by the end of the series that seem to be swept under the rug or rushed in order to try and make sure there are little to no loss ends. It’s a little saddening because the world building and story were rather good. It just might have suffered from lack of popularity for it to be cancelled. At least, that’s what I hope it is and not the manga author being lazy cause that would be a crying shame.
By the end of the journey, +Anima builds an interesting world for itself and gives perspective on the many sides it contains. The ethical and moral themes are there along with some interesting ideals and philosophies using a simplistic art style to coincide with it. However, some parts of the story could use a bit more development or closure while some characters could have used some extra development themselves or a not so rushed arc that leaves you a little disappointed. Whatever your decision, +Anima still has an interesting story and style to it that it will make those ten volumes seem like nothing at all! It’s at least rather different than what I’ve read before.
Special thanks to Zenithwillrule for this request! Next time, things get a little supernatural with a Himegami. Until then, otaku on my friends.
Final Rating: 6/10 - A great premise that takes small missteps, but still executes well!