As seems to be the trend with my blog posts lately, I have to begin by referencing an earlier review- in the case, the one where I wrote my thoughts about the Shrine of the Morning Mist anime. Based on the animated version alone, the series may not have been outstanding in any department, but it was certainly good for a solid dose of light entertainment. What new impressions of the franchise would reading the original manga bring?
Although I can’t seem to discover the full length of this manga, Tokyopop have released three volumes in English so far, and the impression seems to be that there is a lot more of the story to come. As with the anime, the series tells the tale of a boy who can see into the spirit world and the priestesses charged with protecting him, but whilst the broad strokes of the story are the same, after the first chapter or so, the specifics soon diverge.
Unlike the anime, which pushed Tadahiro to one side in favour of concentrating on Yuzu and the Priestess Club, the manga keeps him at the forefront, telling the story more from his perspective than that of his priestess classmates. Coupled with its slower pacing, this enables the manga to fill in the blanks with regards to some things that were never explained in the anime (such as cat-demon Koma’s relationship to Hiro, and the whereabouts of Yuzu’s mother), but it also acts as something of a double-edged sword; whilst Hiro certainly receives more development, so far the priestesses and their training have been pushed into the background. Of course, this may well be rectified in future volumes, and, depending on the length of the series, it might even be the case that the anime is in fact a very bare bones version of a much more detailed manga story.
Visually, Shrine of the Morning Mist’s designs are somewhat rougher than their cleaned up anime counterparts. Backgrounds are minimal, but whilst the day-to-day life panels are uncluttered and easy to read, the series runs aground when it comes to action scenes; the monsters are so malformed that it is hard to comprehend exactly what they are doing, or how our heroes are responding to them. With so much of the series depending on ‘monster of the chapter’ fights against generic enemies, this is a major weakness that pulls the manga down overall.
Whilst its weak action scenes ensure that the Shrine of the Morning Mist manga isn’t as immediately enjoyable and accessible as its animated counterpart, the difference in story between the two versions ensures that it is still worth looking into. Even though it seems to be early days for the series, there is certainly hope that this manga will bring us a more detailed version of the story than the one we have already seen.