Aventura Vol. 1 (Del Rey)

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aventura-header.jpgRiding on the coattails of Harry Potter comes this tale of a trio of wizard wannabes attending a school for magic. But does this new manga series have anything original to offer?

 

 

178 pgs. B&W $10.95

(W / A: Shin Midorikawa)

 

With the entire planet rabid for Harry Potter, naturally the young adult fiction market has been saturated with a series of fantasy stories based on young wizards and witches. Some are homages, others are straight-up knockoffs. All, believe it or not, are actually the latest entries in a long line of "magical school" stories. (HP fanatics should check out Jane Yolen's Wizard's Hall or Nancy Springer's Red Wizard for some charming Hogwarts predecessors.) Out of this seemingly never-ending hunger for adolescent magical hijinks comes Aventura, Shin Midorikawa's manga ode to all things wizardly.

The cover to Aventura. Click for a larger image.Drawn in a cartoonish, swords-and-sorcery style similar to that seen in the Elfquest series, Aventura follows the adventures of (gasp!) a trio of young students at the Gaius School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Here, young would-be wizards are sorted (!) into two departments-swordsmanship and magic. Lewin Randit, our young hero, is sorted into the swordsmanship side of the school, where he is shunned by his fellow students for his lack of magical ability and lowly family background. Upon encountering Chris Cottenberg and Soela Evenport, two fellow first-years, Lewin begins to believe in himself, and the stalwart trio starts taking it upon themselves to save the school from imminent doom. Qualfer Riventzel, the general swordsmanship and astronomy instructor, serves as a sexier version of Severus Snape, and Milieu Rouge Tresor, the healing magic instructor, is a pastiche of Professor McGonagall and Quistis Trepe from Final Fantasy VIII. Yeowch.

If all of this sounds familiar, it's because Harry Potter is such an ingrained part of 21st century culture that comparisons are inevitable. One has to admire Midorikawa's willingness to step into the shadows of giants with Aventura, but readers will find themselves wishing that he'd done more to subvert the magical school genre, instead of slavishly aping most of J. K. Rowling's main themes and setups. Is Aventura merely an attempt to capitalize on the genre's current popularity, or will it plumb philosophical and moral depths that Harry and his friends never reached? Only time will tell, but for now, it's mainly an Asian curiosity for the Hogwarts hardcore. | J. Bowers

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