Rating: 4/5 – A Fantasy that Manages to Avoid the Tropes
I really enjoyed the anime of The Sacred Blacksmith when I saw it, so I was excited to see a manga version of it solicited. Unfortunately, the company that secured the original license must have lost it, because the book was canceled just after it first appeared in Previews. Fortunately, Seven Seas Entertainment picked up that license, and I’m particularly glad they did. This is a beautiful volume, printed in a slightly larger size than your typical manga tankobon, and loaded with extras at the end of the first volume explaining how swords are forged, notes from the writer Isao Miura, and previews of the next volume.
On the surface, the story of the Sacred Blacksmith will be familiar to anyone who’s been exposed to fantasy manga for a long period of time. Cecily Campbell is part of a line of warrior knights who protect the realm from demons – remnants of a not-so-forgotten war. Her lack of experience is counterbalanced by her determination, but even that can only get you so far when the ancestral blade of your family is destroyed in battle. Enter Luke Ainsworth, a master blacksmith who has forged a katana so powerful it can split iron in two. Cecily begs Luke to reforge her blade so she can reclaim her honor, and the two have a moments of antagonistic bickering that will no doubt lead to romance within a few volumes.
Sound familiar? Change a name or two and I’ve probably described a good third of the fantasy-based manga available. Tropes exist for a reason – they’re used by writers not necessarily as crutches or clichés – but because they work. Audiences understand them. They expect them. Even so, it’s refreshing to see The Sacred Blacksmith try and turn a few of those tropes around.
Case in point, Cecily herself. Given to the ways of fanservice at nearly every opportunity (will there ever be a warrior maiden who dresses sensibly for combat?), it’d be easy to dismiss her as a hapless female foil ready to swoon into the arms of the dashing Luke Ainsworth at every opportunity. That is, until she realizes that’s how she’s acting and, sword in hand, charges into battle to kick a little butt of her own, even putting herself in harm’s way to protect Luke from a particularly vicious assault. She’s a complex character, wanting to bring honor to her family name despite her youth and inexperience, while at the same time developing feelings for the stranger who has entered her life.
Artist Kotaro Yamada brings the anime to the printed page wonderfully, capturing the action and swordplay scenes that made the video version of this tale so much fun to watch. Cecily is beautiful, but deadly. Luke is handsome, but troubled. In what is perhaps the best testament, Miura openly praises Yamada’s ability to bring the novel to life in manga format at the end of the book.
The Sacred Blacksmith is off to a great start. Fans of the anime will want to check out the manga version, as the artwork and adaptation is nothing but excellent. If the creative team on this book can keep producing volumes of this caliber, it will likely have a cherished place on your bookshelf. I know it will on mine.
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