Today, we have another guest review – this time by Friend of Yuri Eric P, who has become a right-hand pinky to me, if not a whole right hand. lol Eric sends us news items, suggestions of things to keep an eye out for and reviews, as well as always being a big supporter of Yuricon and ALC. So, thanks Eric – take it away!
Angel/Dust is a one-shot manga about Yuina, your typical plain-jane high school girl who never stood out much and preferred it that way.
One day an angelic woman literally falls from the sky in front of her. She reveals her code-name to be ‘Seraph’ and that she’s an Emulate, a bioroid from an alternate dimension of Earth. In the world she came from, Emulates were made to integrate with human beings on an atomic level, drawing out their latent capabilities.
While stranded on Yuina’s Earth, she forms a contract with Yuina(sealed with a kiss much to Yuina’s surprise,) exchanging memories and knowledge, and thus the typical plain-jane high school girl becomes a winged super-girl and, through this, discovers many aspects of herself. Another female Emulate named Lucifer arrives on the scene, forms a contract with Yuina’s classmate Akiho, who in turn regards Yuina as a (pathetic)rival. What follows is a customary battle between Good and Evil.
At this deceptively simple manga’s heart it’s about a young girl growing up, but there are still a range of plot complexities squeezed into just nine chapters. While trying not to go into real spoiler details, it sheds light on what kind of world Earth becomes in the future. Unless Yuina just bears a striking resemblance to the woman Seraph said was important to her, it even hints Seraph and Yuina may have known each other in that world, and regardless of the manga’s bittersweet ending they would find each other again. How that happens, it doesn’t say; it just leaves you wondering.
To try to describe this manga would make it sound like a condensed mess; while it might be condensed it’s certainly not a mess, at least in my opinion. What’s important are the concepts and themes it revolves around, such as living life and not running away from facing problems, and there it says everything it needs to say.
While not groundbreaking, Aoi Nanase’s artwork is really beautiful. Maybe readers have seen better, more finely-detailed angelic imagery in manga like Angel Sanctuary, or even anime like Haibane Renmei, but the designs in Angel/Dust are still lovely eye candy. When I first followed this manga in Newtype USA (before it went defunct), it was like seeing it all on a big-screen theater, especially with the Emulate battles. In its smaller-sized manga format, it’s like appreciating it on the home TV. The pictures are still pretty to look at, but it’s really something else when you get to read it in the original Newtype size.
Whatever Yuri there is, it’s all subtext. I know what you’re all thinking; if it’s subtext, it could easily be seen as not Yuri (Ms. Friedman made it clear to me in an e-mail she doesn’t believe there’s any trace of it in this title, and this review’s not likely to change her mind). We’ve heard this argument many times over, in such titles as Haibane Renmei and Noir, and Tetragrammaton Labyrinth, all of which have plausible deniability built right into them.
After when Seraph ‘forms the contract’ with Yuina, the latter wakes up in bed the next morning and finds Seraph in bed with her and screams. Later in the story, Seraph tries making Yuina breakfast, with imperfect results. These are classic/standard scenes out of almost all awkward romances that involve one of the two characters not being human. On the other hand, they can just be seen as usual comedy/fanservice scenes and nothing more. Yuina and Seraph have many moments together that could be interpreted either way.
So what example could make readers at least open up to the idea of the subtext? For a good example, I’ll have to reference the sequel manga, Angel/Dust Neo. In this story, average-joe Akito forms a contract with not one, not two, but three Emulates. The contract-sealing ‘kiss’ itself may mostly be to exchange knowledge/memories and to bring out the person’s latent potential, but their bond still develops into something more, and they all vie for his attention and affection. So if making a contract is a metaphor fors ealing a romantic relationship of some kind, why would it be any different between Yuina and Seraph? Maybe in their case, it could be seen as an example of that ‘intense emotional connection’ that Erica has touched on before, where it’s not consciously recognized as ‘love’ or ‘desire’ but the attraction’s still there on a subtle level. \\
Quickly regarding Angel/Dust Neo; it may have a more upbeat narrative than Angel/Dust, but I wouldn’t recommend it so much. Angel/Dust’s storyline may feel rushed, but at least it had a beginning, middle, and an end. Angel/Dust Neo has a beginning—then stops. Its ets everything up for what might have been a long-running series, but then just ends before the real story gets rolling; literally nothing happens. It’s a good thing it stops before we’d have to read through another generic, formulaic harem title (even here you’d find the amnesiac girl, punkish girl, and lolicon girl), but then what’s the point? The only two things that make Angel/Dust Neo worth reading would be to see more of Aoi Nanase’s artwork, and for Yuina’s(all-too-)brief cameo in the first couple pages, which provides a miniscule, cryptic clue to how her world bridges with that of Seraph’s world.
All in all, Angel/Dust is one of those stories where you can find deeper meaning to it if you want, and even if you just take it at surface level you might still find it enjoyable light reading. Just looking at the cover should give enough sense of what you’re in for.
Art – 9 (you can’t go wrong with angel-images, and AoiNanase does it well)
Story – 7
Characters – 7
Yuri – 1 (I’d actually say 2, but I’ll just play it safe here)
Service – 0 (unless you count Seraph’s getup in thesecond chapter, then maybe 1)
Overall – 7
Erica here again. Thanks Eric, it’s always great to get a point of view that is not my own. It’s true that I don’t think of this series as Yuri, but plenty of people do, so I’m really glad that you wrote this review for us. ^_^