Manga Reviews

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Sui Tang Heroes

Sui Tang Heroes
By Gao Yung

Scanslated by Fifaynet

Set towards the end of the Sui dynasty (581AD - 618AD), various events are driving China towards civil war. The current Emperor has been plagued by nightmares of his downfall and of the character for water. As a result, he's ordered the assassinations of many nobles and political figures, on the basis that they have that character in their name. He has also been oppressing the peasants and several smaller uprisings have already occured.

Meanwhile, the prime minister (Yuwen) has developed some ambitions towards the throne, and has begun recruiting talented warriors towards his side, so that he may take power once the Emperor falls. At the same time, the leader of the Turkish tribes in China has raised an army to kill the Emperor and take power for himself. And in the midst of all this turmoil, the Li family, a family of nobles, is beginning to move as well. Their second son Li Shimin is a brilliant philosopher, who envisions creating a utopian words where rich and poor are equal. Furthermore, he may be the one prophesized to start the next dynasty. However, the prophet has been killed and each of the sides is vying for control through a combination of diplomacy and backstabbing. What will happen when full blown war breaks out? And who is destined to be the new Emperor?

I'm generally a big fan of historical fiction and this is no exception. The amount of intrigue between the characters is entertaining, as each person has his or her own agenda and given that most of the story is based off reality there are never large leaps of faith or conflicting information. The plot is very fast-paced as we get to see characters moving their subordinates around constantly, in an attempt to prepare themselves for the upcoming war.

The characters themselves are very realistic in terms of emotions and actions (as well they should be, being based in part in reality). Ambition and desires play no small part in their actions and even cloud their judgement at times. The author does a good job of conveying this. Unfortunately, there are too many characters. As of chapter 10 (the end of the second volume), there are at least 8 major characters split over the three sides and many minor ones as well. This makes it very difficult to keep track of who's who and where each person is going.

The art is the one weakness for this manga. The background art is beautiful but rare and the characters are highly detailed. Unfortunately, the characters' emotions are poorly drawn, leading many scenes to look as if they are filled with beautiful china dolls. Even worse, many of the main characters have very similar features, relying only on one feature or another to distinguish between them (often it's the hair color). The fact that you have to put effort into distinguishing between different characters is a major sticking point for the art.

Overall, this is an entertaining romp through historical China and the well crafted plot keep it an interesting read. I just wish this was in a novel form so I could rely on my own imagination to conjure up the events.

Rating: 6.5/10.0


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