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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tetragrammaton Labyrinth - Review

I guess this will be one of those hidden posts that you all will have to track down in some obscure way later on. Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is a graphic novel by Ei Itou that I've been following for some time. The English translations are released by Seven Seas who have originally supported a lot of OEL graphic novels as well as niche (even by webcomic standards) webcomics.

It's about two Sisters in pre-industrial London, Angela and Meg who deal with the unholy. Meg is the typical incorrectly presented, japanese incarnation of a Catholic sister and Angela is a girl who supposedly can't die. Consequently, she also stopped aging. It starts off as a typical demon hunter's story and goes through the first novel like one.

What's notable about Tetragrammaton Labyrinth is that, first off, each volume is decently long. It's not fantasy novel long nor poem book short. It's a good sized read that should take around one and a half to two hours or so depending on your reading speed. It's also "normal" sized (as opposed to manga sized) so you get larger frames and more room for detail. Reading one novel tends to cover a lot of material. Whether it's because there's so much room or whether it's because the plot is rushed, I can't really tell for sure. The pacing does seem a little fast, but at the same time, I don't feel like I'm missing key plot points.

Placed in the category of "nuns with guns," a good reference to this would be Chrono Crusade in London. Even the gunsmith engineers look similar. Speaking of which, the art in Tetragrammaton (i'm shortening it to one word) ranges from exquisite to lazy. I'm not particularly sure if it's because action scenes weren't originally Ei Itou's main work but there are instances when fight scenes are well choreographed (as much as paper can choreograph such scenes) and others are in what a friend of mine likes to call "before and after shots" in which you have the "charging" frame prior to contact, followed by a blood splatter frame, followed by the result. Taking a look at it closely, there is quite a few of these scenes and it overall degrades the quality of the series. What's most frustrating is that this looks like the result of laziness rather than lack of artistic direction (maybe it's both) at the same time, the scenes which look like a lot of effort has been made shows.

The really detailed backgrounds stand out. The world in which the characters walk is really well done and I give props to the amount of cobblestones drawn. And characters themselves, although somewhat generic, work well with the story.

My friends say I have a "girls with guns" complex. Perhaps I do considering Black Lagoon, Chrono Crusade, Venus Versus Virus, this, and a few others that I've seen/read. It's probably some psychological issue I have, but regardless, I think that overall this can be/is a quality series. Yes, a good handful is actually riddled with cliches, but the point is to look for the unique elements. From the first four novels only, there's a lot of traveling involved and a good amount of research has been done. One thing that this series would need is that extra effort to keep the quality stable at a high. There's potential in this series, but it's really up to Itou to make that push. I can't really tag this as a "Zerreth's Pick" yet. I would still need to see more to make a fair judgment to truly recommend this.

Edit: I forgot to set the time again....

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