Zillia 1: Awakened by Destiny
Story – James Kinesely
Art – House of Imagi
Lately there’s been what I’d call a NEW surge in Anime/Manga love as opposed to a resurgence in the genre. I think the clear identity within mainstream visual storytelling mediums is what has really happened in all honesty. I’m hitting the crest of the age hill and I can remember growing up and reading/watching what are now classic and seminal Anime/Manga pieces. Paladins is a book that is very clearly inspired by many of these books and shows. Even the black and white interior draws from the very identifiable stylistic choices of the genres. While it does borrow, Paladins creates a new entry all its own.
As the first in a series (and a whopper too, 80 pages), Awakened by Destiny has plenty of work to do in order to get things going. We know nothing about anything and for me, the choice of housing our main characters in high school was smart. There’s already built in understanding, placement, and even some attachment as the overwhelming majority of readers can already relate on one level at minimum. The book also does a very good job of building upon that by also showing us glimpses of the characters as children. This helps with engaging these characters as well as getting a sense of their interactions and feelings for one another. There is history between them already and it was a smart choice to allow that to help the readers out.
One of the driving factors in the book is a structural element of the writing. There are hints and nuggets dropped that pay off after you’ve continued to turn the page. Of course, the narrative itself does this as well. Who the heck are the actual Paladins? After our main duo have become two of the ten the search is on. Is it possible they already know one of the others? The evil the face comes from a world that is much like ours but is powerful to the point that the brothers will need the help of the others. The villains though, they feel like more than just your run of the mill baddies set up for our good guys to overcome. Especially in this style it is very refreshing to be given full on characters across the board. The Anime/Manga arena is rife with generic bad/evil cardboard cutouts that pose threats. There is substance to the villains here.
Opposed to the common dark themes of the works that have come before it, Paladins appears to be a much more light filled universe overall. The world itself has a an air of liveliness and all around hopeful nature but that doesn’t distract from the mysterious nature of the evil that is facing the new Paladins. This book has done a good job of doing some of the hardest part of world building. It’s both given and hinted at larger elements that will be forthcoming as this tale unfolds. There’s got to be a hook (and we’ve got it in the form of both who the other Paladins are, and the full reveal of the evil they face) to continue to drive forward. We’ve got them and they work. Neither the action nor the character developing in this first entry overshadowed the other. There was enough of both to properly move things towards the ultimate journey but also make me want to go along for the ride. Add to that that we’ve got more to uncover about everything (the naming of the Paladins certainly has more to it, for example).
All in all this is an enjoyable entry into a new world and story for the genre. It differentiates itself enough to warrant further exploration as the next chapters come out.