Rating: 4/5 – A Promising Start to a Historical Harem Manga
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
I’ve stated before that when it comes to harem manga – stories where a fairly nondescript male finds himself fawned over by a number of beautiful women – you really only need to invest yourself in one series. The overall plotline is almost always the same: the aforementioned male eventually ends up with one of the girls and the others somehow deal with it. Ultimately it comes down to how the story is told, as opposed to what story it’s telling. Your best bet is to find the harem manga with the components that click best for you – artwork, setting, tone – and go with that.
With Holy Corpse Rising, I may wind up breaking my own edict and adding yet another harem series to my reading pile. I’m a big fan of historical manga, however tangential it may be to actual recorded history. In this case, the setting is Rome in the 15th century, with the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, the persecution of witches, and a coming war between the two. Because it’s a manga, and a harem one at that, some liberties are being taken. Don’t cite this on your historical thesis or term paper, but there’s enough material grounded in actual history to give the book some weight. Creator Hosana Tanaka separates each chapter with informational pages – some based on historical fact, others to help advance the plotline or develop a character – that create a world with a rich history built into it, even though we’re only on the first volume.
I’m also a sucker for witches, and this book promises a number of them. Indeed, the general plotline involves Nikola, the virginal monk protagonist, marrying eleven of them after resurrecting them from the grave. Bear in mind these aren’t witches of the pointy-hat and striped legging variety, but the oracles of ancient Greece: worshipers of the goddess Diana, with powers and abilities activated through interaction with Nikola. Because this is a harem manga, of course they’re also drop-dead (pun intended) gorgeous. They’re contrasted with their present-day pagan counterparts, who want nothing more than the complete destruction of the church.
I was a fan of Hosana Tanaka’s earlier series, Ninja Girls, so I knew going in I would enjoy the artwork at the very least. Here Tanaka seems to be taking a much looser approach to character rendering, and it works quite well. It almost doesn’t seem like the same artist, and that can be a refreshing thing in the manga world. The witches themselves took me back to the more stylized drawings I remember from the anime I watched growing up (Galaxy Express, Macross, etc.). Ezelvald, the first witch Nikola encounters, seems like one of Leiji Matsumoto’s creations, and that’s not meant to slight Tanaka’s ability at all. If anything, she’s a tribute to that particular style, and I’m curious to see how the other witches are rendered when they show up. Indeed, it’s this blend of old-school artistic style blended with newer trends in manga that makes this series worth further investigation.
It might take another volume to completely win me over on Holy Corpse Rising, but the series is off to a very promising start. Fans of harem manga with a historical bent will find an enjoyable read, and manga historians may find a few things to have them digging out their old tankobon for a trip down memory lane. It’s interesting that we’re seeing a number of “witch” based manga showing up on the shelves of late. This one seems to both follow and buck that trend at the same time, offering a unique take on witches and what they’re all about, while using many of the elements we’ve come to expect from a harem manga to do it.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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