I wasn't that impressed with MÄR vol 1 and would no doubt have completely ignored volume 2 if I hadn't watched the MÄR anime. For some reason the anime worked a lot better than the manga and gave me a bit more enthusiasm for it, so when I saw volume 2 in my local library I decided to give it a go.
Most of my issue with volume 1 was that it
was very by-the-numbers and seemed to be cynically targeted at a specific type
of young manga fan. Volume 2's start did nothing to shake these feelings
either. Ginta and Jack search for the Dimension ÄRM
that brought Ginta to MÄR Heaven, and in the process
Babbo gets stolen by random thieves once again. Ginta and Jack's pursuit
of these stereotypical thugs brings them into contact with Alviss, the man who
summoned Ginta, who then proceeds to explain important plot points about why he
brought him. Apparently MÄR Heaven is facing a
terrible battle, a group calling themselves the Chess Pieces once brought the
world to its knees before being beaten by a champion from another world.
Now the Chess Pieces are back and Alviss has summoned a new otherworlder -
namely Ginta - to fight against them. The plot out of the way, it's back
to standard fantasy slog as Ginta, Jack and Babbo meet Edward, a talking dog who
is looking for someone to help him save a princess. The princess is frozen
in ice and there's an evil Queen and...zzzzzzz.... <snort> sorry, dropped off
there at the sheer predictability of the story. Did I mention that the
princess looked like Ginta's classmate Koyuki? No? Well she does,
which makes Ginta want to save her even more. However, to do so he will
need to get past two Chess Pieces that are there to take her to the evil queen.
Ginta is facing his most deadly battle since arriving in MÄR
Heaven, and one that may finally make him realise what kind of a threat the
Just when I was about to give up on MÄR it manages to partially redeem itself. For the most part this volume, like the first, is completely formulaic fantasy action. You have generic thugs, you have a magical castle, a princess to rescue and a sinister opponent to face. There's lots of cheesy friendship speeches and childishness, but when the Chess Pieces show up it gets a hell of a lot better. The first inkling that the series may have something more to offer is Alviss, a mysterious and powerful man who has a troubled past. His introduction changes the focus of the story from exploration to fighting. Suddenly Ginta isn't travelling in this wonderful fantasy world idly looking for a way home, but a warrior brought to protect the people of MÄR Heaven and his role will take him into direct conflict with the Chess Pieces. It then returns to type until Ginta comes up against the Chess Pieces in the princess' castle. This is where it suddenly gets good. For once Ginta is in real danger and for once there's a sniff of a slightly interesting plot rising from the mire of predictability.
The new, more grown up plotline is joined by new, more grown up characters. Alviss may be young, but he's older than Ginta in more ways than one, and the Chess Pieces and mysterious experienced warrior Alan bring a maturity to the story. The characters are generally quite interesting, although Ed the
dog is a bit pants and Princess Snow is pretty useless too. The Chess Pieces are interesting, especially the bizarre Halloween and vicious Ian, but Alan steals the show along with the witch Dorothy who shows a bit more of a dark edge to her character. The artwork also seems to improve this time round, with far more detailed backgrounds and better drawing of the action scenes. Even Babbo is starting to get a bit more likeable.
This volume is still a bit of a mixed bag, with over half of it being pretty much the same old tired kiddie fantasy from the first volume. However, when some actual peril and some decent characters are injected it really picks up. Whereas before the story was pretty aimless, all of a sudden there's a villain, henchmen, an evil plot and a cause for Ginta to fight for. It's when this happens that MÄR vol 2 becomes worth reading and I will probably even pick up the next volume. It's still not quite there as an action series, and it is still aimed at a younger audience than many Shonen series, but it's starting to look a little bit more interesting.
Not much. A few adverts are joined by a message from the author, a next volume preview and a short one-page bonus manga about Nobuyuki Anzai's assistants.