The Guin Saga series as a franchise is as epic as the story that it tells. The Guin Saga novels are an insanely popular with 126 books in the main series and 21 side story novels. There is a manga, an anime, cds, artbooks, rpgs, and even a musical based on the books. The only thing that stopped the series was the author’s untimely death. So with a mountain of source material it can be quiet a daunting task to try to adapt any of the Guin Saga story. But fortunately there is a simpler place to start. The side story novels start with Guin as an established character but are stand-alone stories that do not directly tie into the massive ongoing plot of the main storyline. One or two major characters carry over but most of the main story is unimportant and unaffected by the events in this manga, which make it and unusual but excellent place to start.
Originally reviewed by Alain Mendez
The country of Cheironia is under the grip of a horrible plague that is clearly magical in nature is killing more and more people each day. The acting King of Cheironia, Guin has gone to the Alley of Charms, capital’s sorcery district in search of answers. During his attempt to find a remedy he finds him self allying with Als the Toeq Rat a shifty pimp, Valusa a “dancer”, and Yelisha a former black magician. It turns out that all four of them are vital keys to discovering who is behind the plague eating away at Cheironia and stopping the great evil at the source.
Guin is the majestic king of Cheironia. He is a chiseled warrior and a decisive leader. But Guin is no ordinary King. Guin has been cursed to wear a leopard’s mask on his head and had been robbed of his memories for reason unknown to him. All he knows is that he has been placed on a path where he is always in the middle of monumental events. Guin himself mostly comes off as a stoic hero who gets things done but says very little. He does show emotion at important moments when he does show anger, surprise, or shock. They are just enough to show he is deeper than a monotone character but not enough to comprise his overall image.
Valusa’s main purpose is to be the spunky sidekick. While she does more than just sit around, scream, and have to be saved like some female sidekicks she only really becomes truly usefully at the end of the story. Until then she mainly has a three-fold purpose. One for someone for to react to things that Guin is too badass to react to. The second is to have someone for Guin to bounce ideas off of. And thirdly she also provides some constant female presence and some fan service. Guin other companion Als has much the same function as Valusa oddly enough just without the fanservice. He is mostly there to act cowardly and have another person for Guin to play off of. He does a few more cool tricks before the climax but his main role is also only revealed at the end. Yelisha mainly exists to move the plot along like an Obi-Wan Kenobi like character. I was most interested in his back story as a magician that is now hunted for turning his back on the dark arts but I assume that is mostly expanded upon in the main series.
Overall the story itself is serviceable. It’s nothing super original but it is well done and have a mixture of mystery and action. It moves along at a brisk pace that only occasionally pauses to catch its breath much like the main story line. The main titular seven magi are mostly unexplored except for Black Witch Thamia who gets a decent amount of screen time and back story. All the other magi are mostly there to try to seduce Guin, kill Guin, kill each other, and most probably some mixture of the three. They are there to create odd-looking magi for Guin to fight. Be it mask wearing planet men, demented jesters, or goat legged demons. The plot is never too deep but it’s supposed to be a fun but dark adventure in the spirit of the old serials like Flash Gordan or The Phantom. Adventure that keeps moving forward from one cliffhanger to the next while connecting us to the characters so we care when they are thrown into danger. When Guin’s emotionally distant wife is in danger we get the clear sense that Guin cares for her deeply despite the fact she wants nothing to do with this “beast man” she has been forced to marry.
The art in the seven magi reminds me of Berserk in character design and overall art style. Kazuaki Yanagisawa is not as detailed or polished as Kentaro Miura more recent work on Berserk but it is cleaner than the early volumes of Berserk as well. For some reason the thing that mainly threw me off is that Guin’s head looks so small compared to the rest of his body that a times full body shots made me chuckle. Other than that the art is quite good at giving you a good feeling for the fantasy action, which is exactly what it is supposed to do. It has a good western fantasy vibe while maintaining a distinctly manga flavor.
In a way I feel I the manga did its main purpose beside entertain me which is to make me want to read more Guin Saga. I’m also very curious how much and how well adapted the manga is from the original novel. How much liberty did Kazuaki Yanagisawa taking in adapting this to a manga? In the books we usually get much more inner dialog and insights into the thought process of the characters but that would have matter the manga much more cluttered than it needed to be. Yanagisawa is good at conveying what the characters are feeling with his art but I am curious if we are missing any nuances or plot elements that had to be cut for expediency. Mainly I want to know how Guin got from the fifth book to where he is at the start of the manga. How did Guin become the king of Cheironia and what has happened to all of Guin’s allies from earlier books? As they said at the end of Conan the Barbarian, “But that is another story.”