By Nakaba Suzuki
As a special treat, two new chapters of The Seven Deadly Sins were released this week! Since they both deal with the same subject, and don’t have too much content individually to warrant separate reviews, I’ll address them simultaneously. Chapter #161 is all about showing off what the two Commandment’s abilities are, and finally revealing the identity of the octopus-girl. To establish the focus and tone of the chapter, Nakaba highlights just how dangerous they are by devoting a grey-tinted, muddy full-page spread to characterize their ominous, evil aura. While they characters’ faces aren’t fully rendered, small touches, like Drole’s glowing eye shining beneath his cloth hood, and the almost-blood black splotches decorating the scene, effectively get across the sense of danger, dread, and fear they instill in the protagonists. That one page contains more than enough visual information to show these aren’t just bad guys, these are monsters, and their actions in the pages that follow only reinforce that.
Since we learned who Drole was before, Nakaba only gives two panels to show Matrona and Diane’s justifiable, shocked reactions before treating us to a display of his power. The precise, detailed movements his arms make as he does some sort of jutsu, resulting in a marvelous full-page spread where rock towers shoot from the ground, and the sense of energy conveyed when he claps his hands to solidify their form, are spectacular. There’s a quickness, a power, a sense of dread characterizing this sequence that really sells the scale of Drole’s abilities. They are literally ground-breaking. The result, a gigantic stage cusped by two open hands, beautifully and spookily textured and illuminated by the strong moonlight, is jaw-dropping. Suzuki is able to characterize how strong Drole is without him having to fight anyone first. We’ve never seen characters be able to transform the earth the same way he can, and it takes the threat presented by the situation to a different level.
Drole is just a monster in terms of strength, though. The whole package comes in the form of the octopus-girl. This previously unnamed member of the Commandments had existed as a point of speculation for the longest time, and there were few blatant clues on what her abilities were, and if she might be someone connected to the mythology of the story like her partner. The beginning of chapter #161 makes it clear that her name and true identity was a secret deservedly kept. The chapter is front-loaded with foreshadowing, with King and Elaine unable to keep their eyes off of her, and disturbed by the vibes she’s emanating. Their reaction immediately informs the reader that she’s not only dangerous, but is likely someone especially frightening to the fairy folk. It’s a clever hook to let the reader know what the core focus of this chapter will be, and serves to complement the ending reveal as a bookend, characterizing #161 as a chapter dedicated to the octopus-girl, even with the time spent on Drole.
After more hints are dropped that she’s related to the fairy folk, and wields similar magic to them, she sends out a barrage of deadly thorns out to kill all the stragglers in the maze. The following images are so graphic and brutal that I’m surprised Nakaba was able to get away with them. One panel has a thorn tear through three people’s heads at once; another showing multiple strings of people impaled through their chests, hung limp, lifeless, while the deadly plants target more helpless victims. The scariest part is that we see one person manage to evade the thorns, only to immediately bleed out from his eyes, nose, and mouth from poison bubbling and festering in his wound, then dropping dead. The final images show strings of corpses hung up across the maze, still impaled by the thorns, and a silhouette of giant hands on the coliseum, with thorns scattering out of it and throughout the vast maze, feel like something out of a horror manga. It’s vicious, brutal, cruel, and all juxtaposed with the reveal of octopus girl’s true form. As it turns out, she’s not octopus, but a butterfly, with gigantic, majestic, intricately detailed wings, long following black hair, with the tips of her dress almost making her feet look like another pair of wings. An otherworldly, holy-looking figure, one whom you would never think capable of such cruelty at first glance. Then, the revelation of who she is. The first fairy king, Gloxina.
The reveal is just brilliant. We knew before that Drole was a highly revered ancestor of the giant clan, so to have his partner be the first fairy king makes them a complementary duo of highly regarded ancestors, turned traitor against their own kind. There’s equal factors for fascination with both characters: why they ally themselves with the demon clan and renounce their former races; and how once noble and honorable warriors could become so villainous and heartless. The reader is not only impressed with their strength and capabilities, but wants to learn more about their histories as well. Moreover, the connection to the fairy folk and the giant clan gives many of the protagonists a personal and emotional stake in fighting with them, namely King and Diane. It’s clear that these two have been paired up together for a good reason, and it’s a good bet that they’ll be the ones who will ultimately fight and defeat Gloxina and Drole in the final showdown. There’s a lot to be developed with King and Diane’s character arcs as well as their personal relationship, and since we’ve already had a lot of strong development for Meliodas and Ban recently, it’s only fair they should take the limelight this time around.
Of course, this arc has a lot of characters involved, so some of that spotlight is going to inevitably be shared. Much a big deal has been made of Gowther’s true identity and Escanor’s strength that they will most certainly get their moments in this arc. The whole pairing system is also likely to lead to a lot of interesting fights since so many of the teams are mismatched, to almost comedic effect, such as Escanor and Hawk and Matrona and Oslo. The biggest mismatch of all, and of course the big dramatic reveal at the end of these chapters, is the pairing of Elizabeth and Elaine, both of who aren’t fighters and stand no chance against pretty much any other pair. Since Meliodas and Ban are a duo, they no doubt will probably come to their ladies’ aid and try to protect them as much as they can throughout the tournament, hindering their ability to go all out. Though, perhaps this situation might evolve Elizabeth’s powers to a level where she can fend for herself, as her character arc has been building up for a while now. Either way, it throws a wrench into the mix, adding another layer of tension to the arc in just the right ways, and seeing how it plays out should prove very fun.
With some great villain reveals, shocking displays of power and intriguing questions to be explored, the second fighting festival arc is off to a strong start. Adding a team-based dynamic to the fighting should mix things up nicely, and the pairings have a lot of really cool possibilities to them. If I have any complaint with these chapters, it’s that Crunchyroll messed up the layout of the two-page spreads twice: both during the reveal of the coliseum, and the reveal of Gloxina’s true form. Crunchyroll messes up with these more often when they should, and it really breaks the immersion and impact of these moments whenever they do. A little extra care in ensuring the two page spreads aren’t split apart isn’t too much to ask, is it? In any case, that’s a minor complaint that’s more about Crunchyroll than the series itself. The Seven Deadly Sins has been firing on all cylinders for a while now, and after these excellent chapters, it sure doesn’t look like it’ll be letting up anytime soon.