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Qwan, vols. 1-4 (Aki Shimizu)

Chikei is a cheery young slimeball in ancient China who gets buy by petty theft, low-level con games, and, when all else fails, by stealing offerings of food left to propitiate demons. One day he captures a creepily cute little flying critter, thereby attracting the attention of its master/companion, a strange boy named Qwan. Qwan looks fairly normal except for his fair hair and the odd marks on his forehead, but as Chikei soon discovers, this is no ordinary lad. Qwan doesn't eat regular food, because his sustenance is demons. Watching Qwan slurp up a demon is quite a sight. First he politely thanks the gods for the meal, and then he just inhales, like a kid with a long strand of spaghetti. The demons just sort of unravel and run together, like chalk drawings in the rain, and Qwan sucks them up. A second later, there's no demon to be seen. Later on, we discover that Qwan can also use the energy he derives this way to heal himself from grave wounds.

Chikei quickly decides that there's money to be made in traveling with Qwan, and they hit the road. Chikei intends to search out places reputed to haunted by demons and take payment in exchange for having Qwan remove them. However, they quickly run into a strange little girl and her oddly threatening father, who seem to be running the same sort of business. From there, Qwan and Chikei soon find themselves enmeshed in national and celestial politics, and end up traveling between worlds and through time on a quest to find out who Qwan really is.

This whimsical series is beautifully drawn, in a style strangely reminiscent of some of the great Victorian/Edwardian children's books (E. Nesbit's fantasies come to mind). But it's also rather aggravating. Story lines and characters are dropped without warning, and two-thirds of the way through volume 4, we're suddenly reading about legendary Chinese politicians ... what's happening to Qwan, Shimizu-sensei? But it's so intriguing that I'll be grabbing volume 5 as soon as it becomes available.

Qwan, vols. 1-4 (review)

Shimizu has a wonderfully bizarre imagination and a sly sense of humor. The most extended set-piece that shows off both of them is the world of the mustache-people, where everyone and everything, male or female, fish or fowl, has a 'stache, and Qwan and his female companion, the courtesan and wisewoman Shaga, both have to don false facial hair to fit in. There are a number of wonderfully vivid characters. Shaga is one of the few manga women I've seen who could hold her own with the better female characters in modern fantasy. Dakki, the creepy little girl raised in the woods by insects, has a lot more to her than her doll-faced looks would suggest. I also love her wasp spy/bodyguards, Hakuhiko and Seishigaku, who have the cool looks and skills of ninja and a loyalty that makes me think of the Sanada Ten in SDK. The bishounen-esque court astrologer, Jou Kai, is very cool and so is the boy courtier Aman, who helps Qwan get into the palace. And Ukitsu, the powerful magician/philospher who wrote the mystical sutra "The Arts of Peace" (sought after by Qwan and most of the story's villains), is a cheerfully womanizing sleaze who reminds me more of Bleach's Shunsui Koryaku than of anyone else.

However, a bizarre plot twist a chapter or two into volume 4 tosses everyone but Qwan and Shaga away - or so it seems.

Shimizu-sensei - what are you doing to us???

Comments

( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
telophase
Nov. 10th, 2007 02:58 am (UTC)
I love Qwan! Now, if only the mangaka would figure out what the hell is going on with the story! *mourns the weird seeming loss of Ukitsu and Chikei*
chomiji
Nov. 10th, 2007 03:34 am (UTC)

I know! I was cross enough when she did the time-skip and all the sudden Aman was grown up ... OK, he's pretty hot, but I didn't get enough of him as a wise-ass kid. He was so much better than most wise-ass kids! And then things just sort of stop and we get those historic cautionary tales, or whatever they are!

Hrrumph~!

telophase
Nov. 10th, 2007 03:38 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was halfway through the first tale before realizing it was something totally different. I have a vague feeling that something happened to the publication schedule in Japan and it went on hiatus or something while the mangaka did other things, and the original tankoubon publisher filled out the extra space with those, just to get the volume out on the shelf already.
chomiji
Nov. 11th, 2007 04:31 am (UTC)

Yeah, at first I though it was part of the story, because she'd had other parts where we get to see some court politics. And then I was really, really annoyed when I realized that it was something completely different.

meganbmoore
Nov. 10th, 2007 07:59 am (UTC)
*mumbles something about seeing if waldenbooks has it tomorrow if they don't have the stuff on her list*
chomiji
Nov. 11th, 2007 05:37 pm (UTC)

I think you'll enjoy it! The scenes where Qwan can't figure out why Chikei wants to hang out with Shaga and her co-workers are just too cute ... the drawing style is very pretty and different.

meganbmoore
Nov. 11th, 2007 06:53 pm (UTC)
They didn't have it...(either store)

I've looked at Qwan before, but put it down as a "not until you get feedback from others about it" book
chomiji
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:45 am (UTC)

Well, you can order it next time you're ready for a new batch. It's an odd little story, but quite enchanting.

sanada
Nov. 10th, 2007 08:44 am (UTC)
Oooh, I totally forgot that I bought Volume 5 months ago... and forgot to read it! Whooooa weird stuff happens! And Aman/Cao Cao is so cool...
chomiji
Nov. 11th, 2007 05:38 pm (UTC)

Vol. 5 in Japanese? Or do you have a secret pipeline somewhere for the English version?

sanada
Nov. 11th, 2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
*laugh* Oh no, Japanese!! Volume 6 was supposedly released in August, but I wonder if there was some delay because I haven't seen it for sale until just now. According to the author's blog, there will be 7 volumes total, even though she only planned for it to be a 5-volume series!
chomiji
Nov. 12th, 2007 02:37 am (UTC)

I was gonna get all cross, because I'd checked online, and there was no sign of any vol. 5 yet on Tokyopop!

I think Dakki is going to be my "I'm so embarrassed" icon, but I need to scan her in and hand-color her ... it's the scene where she breaks down and starts giggling uneasily to her grasshopper-servant after her first appearance.

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Apr. 2nd, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
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( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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