Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rune Masquer, vol. 1 Review

Back in '90-'91, when I was first starting out learning Japanese, right after seeing Akira for the first time, I decided to order a couple magazines as a subscription from a small import shop in San Jose, CA. You gave them $50, and they'd send your selected magazines every month until the money ran out. The 2 magazines I had any interest in were Newtype and Dragon. Newtype was serializing Dark Angel, while Dragon had Dragon Half and Rune Masquer. I was just starting to fan translate Rune Masquer when it ended. The story only ran one volume before the author, Yutaka Izubuchi, cut it short. Yutaka went on to create and direct RahXephon, and he contributed mecha or costume designs to Panzer World Galient, Gundam, Patlabor and Cutie Honey. In 2009, it was announced that Rune Masquer would start up again in Monthly Comic Ryu, and that the first volume would be reprinted as well. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I was finally able to locate a copy. I haven't seen anything of the new series, but it is good to have the old story in my hands again. When it was running in Dragon, the pages were bigger and printed on glossy paper. The current book art looks very muddy. Even so, I'm happy with it.

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

Rune Masquer, by Yutaka_Izubuchi, (1991, 2009), Grade: B
There's a very heavy German element to Rune Masquer, with several characters speaking in German occasionally. "Rune" translates into Japanese as "Earth" or "the planet". The Masquers are giant mecha that had been created hundreds of years ago to protect the land. They're now apparently assigned to individual countries. The series never had the chance to develop far enough to give us much backstory. All we know is that the countries are kind of based on medieval Europe, with a couple that are preparing for war against each other. There's one species of dark-skinned, horned people, and a few characters that have semi-magical abilities. Most fighting is with swords or pole arms. A few of the higher-level characters have a form of telepathic communication called "heart speak".

(Sleipnir accepts the 2 refugees from Nereid.)

The story starts out with a young girl carrying her little brother on their way from a city where the rest of the family was destroyed by war. They encounter two Masquers - The centaur-like Sleipnir, and the Poseidon-like Nereid. Sleipnir likes their spunk and decides to adopt them, while letting them reside in Igrad, the kingdom he guards. Some years pass, and both kids grow up into strong fighters under the tutelage of the king of Igrad, Eg Ved. The boy is Real Farn, and his sister is Raha. The king's daughter, Nikea is attracted to Real, but betrothed to another knight named Ku Horin. Recently, the neighboring country of Jipard has been rattling its sabers, and Igrad's leaders are trying to decide what to do next. At about this time, several of Jipard's war zeppelins airlift 3 masquer-like Technolos mecha (Technolos are poor-grade imitations of masquers) across their borders and drop them near the castle. The zeppelins also disgorge a number of infantry that quickly overrun the castle walls. Sleipnir arrives to easily eliminate the Technolos, but the ground forces cause Ku Horin and Nikea to escape to freedom. Real disguises himself as a Jipard soldier and sneaks onto one of the airships and is carried to Jipard. Eg Ved and Raha seem to be among the handful of fighters that stay in the castle when one of the Technolos mecha self-destructs within range of the city.

(Real is good at picking up young women.)

Time passes. A young woman is playing in the city of Bern when some of the Jipard soldiers try to approach her to bring her into a dark alley. She's rescued by Real, and he's revealed to be an enemy agent before the two of them escape to the wharves. A few other new characters get introduced, including the priestess Tsukume, an older guy named Lord Farn, and a sunglasses-wearing agent named Cy Scissors. The volume ends with everyone preparing for a big event that's supposed to start the next day.

(Tsukume wants to ask for Real's help, to the displeasure of her main handmaiden.)

There's no real story yet, and the series gets dropped here, only to be restarted 18 years later. The artwork is pretty good, and a number of the female characters look very cute. The Masquers are interesting but we know nothing about them at this stage. I do want to see if I can find any of the later books to determine what's changed and what's the same. (Volumes 1-3 came out between 2009 and 2011.) Mostly, it's just for the nostalgia value, since I don't care for giant mecha stories. Still, I do like these character designs.

(Second to last page, with the principle actors appearing on stage.)

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