Phantom Dream Manga Volume 1 Review

Genei Musou/幻影夢想
Phantom Dream Manga Volume 1 Review

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Phantom Dream Manga Volume 1 ReviewHaving loved Takaya-sensei’s Fruits Basket manga, it was only natural that I would explore some of her other manga titles done before Fruits Basket. So why not start with her first ever manga, Genei Musou — aka: Phantom Dream? Fortunately, TokyoPop has provided a means for me to do this.

***SPOILERS WILL FOLLOW!***

The manga features OTOYA Tamaki, who’s a high school boy who’s the monshu (head priest) of the local temple. Tamaki has been trained to exorcise jaki — an evil spirit or demon-like entity that feed off of human negativity. Some of Tamaki’s powers include shichiboujin (a defensive barrier/shield), creating a shieki (something that does the will of the creator), and summoning a gohou — a spirit-creature that protects the one who summons it.

Joining Tamaki is his childhood friend and now girlfriend Asahi, who addresses Tamaki as “Tamaki-chan.” She’s seemingly a normal girl who’s determined to support Tamaki no matter what (and he can be a bit abusive to her as well as loving). However, she does appear to have some small abilities of her own that have yet to be truly realized. Just so you know, Asahi and Tamaki are in a sexual relationship. Its not really overt, but there is an image of the two of them in bed together apparently nude and a bit later, Asahi wakes up to find Tamaki gone and she is nude. Plus, this all happens at the temple and apparently Tamaki’s mother doesn’t have a problem with Asahi sleeping over.

The first story has Tamaki’s and Asahi’s old childhood friend Mitsuru come back into their life when she transfers to their high school. Unfortunately, she’s possessed by a jaki created from Mitsuru’s own fears over the loss of her twin sister. So Tamaki has to overcome his own doubts and limitations to help out their friend.

This story is rather uninspired. That’s not to say it is bad, but it was difficult for me to get into the story. There was no hook that just reached out and grabbed me about the story, nor the characters sadly. I couldn’t be brought to care about Mitsuru or her condition.

Unfortunately, this is the case for the other stories as well. The one with the boy who has some sort of relationship with butterflies didn’t grab me. The final story where the main story plot of a rivalry between two families (Gekka and Otoya) whereby we see that the teen male from the Gekka family is causing the jaki to appear doesn’t really stir me either, though I may give this a second read before attempting volume 2.

So what’s missing from the stories? Conceptually, I step back and see this is an interesting idea of a Japanese mystic-priest and his girlfriend. However, I find that Takaya-sensei’s method of laying out the story isn’t very good. In Fruits Basket, she uses those (sometimes lengthy) dialog moments where the “speaker” of those words aren’t clear. That’s in play here too and it is a bit frustrating because since the stories and characters haven’t grabbed me, having thoughts spread out by sometimes unknown speakers that cause the reader to stop in order to go back and pick up exactly who’s thinking/saying these things isn’t good.

That’s not the only issue though. I think that because this is Takaya-sensei’s first manga combined with tighter controls over what she could and could not write by her editor(s) also weakens the manga story and plays out in the presentation.

Art-wise, Takaya-sensei is a bit rough here, but to be honest, I think it is better than her simplistic art style she has today where characters have limited personality in their character designs. In Phantom Dream, all the characters are easily identifiable once introduced.

TokyoPop’s lack of translator notes comes into negative play with this volume. The translator and adapter for this manga have elected to use several new Japanese terms (some of which I’ve ID’d in this review) and while they define them when introduced (or shortly thereafter), having a central place to get a refresher on what a “gohou” (or the like) is would have been nice. I’m all in favor of using Japanese terms to bring a Japanese perspective to things and I’ve no problem with learning new terms. I just wish they’d have those translator notes.

As I mentioned, I’m going to have to read this manga a second time before I attempt to read volume 2, which I’d already purchased. Feeling the need to read a manga a 2nd time doesn’t bode well in this case because had I not already purchased volume 2 ahead of time, I don’t think I would have bothered and would have just sold the manga on eBay or something. However, since I do have a second volume to read, I will reread this first volume in order to be fair to the second. Who knows, maybe I’ll find it better the second time around.

As it is, I consider this a somewhat below-average manga. There’s not enough fun or intrigue to really grip me and the characters aren’t anything special, nor do they stand out in my mind. Your mileage may vary though. ^_^

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7 Responses to “Phantom Dream Manga Volume 1 Review”

  1. AstroNerdBoy says:

    I’ve read the manga a 2nd time. When I initially wrote this review some 2-weeks ago, I found that I had a hard time even getting myself to reread the manga. However, having now done so, I can say that it is better than my initial impression left me with. Takaya-sensei’s presentation still isn’t very good though.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think the manga is that bad but you can tell this is Natsuki’s first work. The second volume is better but I won’t spoil it for you.

  3. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Well, I’ll be writing a review of volume 2 soon. ^_^

  4. Ysabet says:

    I’m pretty biased, being both the adapter on this series and a huge Takaya fan, but I think it improves noticeably from volume to volume. ^_^ And bias aside, I just wanted to mention that the plan is for volume 3+ to have a glossary and character list.

  5. AstroNerdBoy says:

    Ysabet — Wow. That’s excellent news about volume 3 up. TokyoPop hasn’t left me too pleased of late with their raising prices on lower-quality printing but a glossary and character list will be most welcome.

    Also, thanks for the heads up on how the story goes in future volumes. I’ve now read volume 2 and I was rather surprised by some things in a good way.

    Too bad you weren’t on the “Tsubasa” project because they took a 180º different approach to their translation/adaptation, which really disappointed me. However, that’s a future review as I can force myself to finish that first book.

    Keep up the good work. ^_^ I’ll have to keep an eye open for your projects from here on out. ^_^

  6. Ysabet says:

    As cost-cutting measures go, that bothers me less than having more titles put on hold would, but I do miss the heavier paper. :/ (I’ve been really happy about some titles reappearing on the schedule!)

    Vol. 2 is much more indicative of the series’ feel from here on out. ^^ I don’t think the story’s for everyone, but I keep being sad when people read only vol. 1 and stop. (Which isn’t a criticism–forming a first impression from a first volume is pretty fair!)

    It’s been a while since I read the first volume of Those With Wings (I don’t remember much about the English script), so mostly what I remember striking me was how different it is from Takaya’s other series. Dream has a lot of thematic overlap with Fruits Basket, as does her current series, while TWW is a completely different thing. ^^ I admit I wish I’d been on that title, too, but again–huge Takaya fan. (Fruits Basket is my all-time favorite series.) I’m very happy about getting to work on Dream.

    Thanks, and please do! Unsurprisingly, I always like reading reviews of things I work on.

  7. […] I mentioned in my review of volume 1 of this manga, I had to reread that volume before proceeding to volume 2. That’s because […]

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