By Nakaba Suzuki
Battle-shonen series often have problems distinguishing their lead female characters as strong, and self-sufficient. There are numerous arcs in various manga that involve female characters in need of rescue, and in general it’s uncommon for the female lead to be treated as more than a love interest for the main character, or have agency in her character arc that doesn’t involve doing something for the sake of another male character. This is especially true of characters portrayed as soft spoken, good-hearted, kind girls, and even more so if the power they are saddled with characterizes them as the healer. Bleach’s Orihime is perhaps the most infuriating example, shifting from a character capable of fending for herself, with a conviction to sacrifice herself for the sake of her friends, to a helpless crybaby always relying on others to save her.
So far, Elizabeth has shown herself to be a welcome subversion to that trope. No, she’s not a fighter. She’s probably never going to be strong enough to take down an enemy on her own. But, she’s determined not to be a burden. She actively makes attempts to better herself in order to keep traveling with the Sins in spite of the increasing danger. It’s that drive, her insistence that she can take care of herself despite Melidoas’ concerns, that make her a strong character, even if she’s not strong in a traditional sense. Even in the face of danger, she adapts and is able to make quick decisions to keep herself out of harm’s way.
She’s also evolved her powers to aid her and the Sins in their fights. While we don’t know how yet, she’s able to cure herself of poisoning and heal her own wounds. Not only does this make her self-sufficient and allow her to operate independently of other characters if need be, it allows her to complement the other characters in team-based battles. The most impressive moment, however, is when she heals her attackers, recognizing who they are, and empathizing with their circumstances as a consequence of her kingdom’s actions, subsequently taking responsibility. In lesser hands, this might come across schmaltzy or naïve, but it rings true here because Elizabeth repeatedly shows a strong sense of justice, and so coolly goes about reinforcing it. In fact, it’s honestly a little badass. It’s rare that a character who isn’t physically powerful can hold their own in a fight, much less stay relevant in a series without being sidelined as a love interest. That makes Elizabeth stand out as a superior example of her character archetype, and arguably one of the best.
Strengthening these great character beats is Nakaba’s consistently excellent art. The panel where Elizabeth heals the dying assassin shows a majestic energy emanating from her fingertips, conveying the holiness of her powers. Admittedly, her arm bends in a weird way, but the composition, the use of lines, and Elizabeth’s expression sells the moment as something powerful. And, as stated before, something badass. The same is true of the closing shot with Elizabeth framed against a full moon and the night sky. Surrounding her by a white space within a black frame makes for such a simple, but awesome composition that reemphasizes this as a shining character moment. These are just a few examples, but it’s choices like these that help sell to the reader that Elizabeth is a truly special person like Elaine sees her as. The average reader might not realize it, but appealing compositions like these keep your attention focused on the character and their actions. The chapter is so visually strong the contents could remain understandable and impressive even if rendered wordless.
Beyond Elizabeth’s character arc, the most fun aspect of this chapter is in the relationship between her and Elaine. Both of them have a lot in common, what with having two pretty clueless and fight-happy love interests, and their character interactions and girl talk are really cute and amusing. Since Elaine is actually pretty powerful, she and Elizabeth might actually make it pretty far, which would be cool to see. It’s refreshing to see a pair of female characters, both love interests of main male characters, who can kick butt and hold their own as well. It’ll be exciting to see just how far they’ll get in this tournament, and I can’t wait to see how the other teams fare in the coming chapters.