By Nakaba Suzuki
The Fighting Festival had so much momentum that to cut away from it so abruptly, even just for one chapter, feels rather jarring. We’re reintroduced to characters we haven’t touched base with for a while, like Guila, Denzel, and Dreyfus, but so much is crammed into the chapter that what remains is a scattered, unfocused collection of character moments, foreshadowing, and exposition. Were these well established, secondary characters, the transition would’ve been smoother. But the subplot with the Pleiades has such intermittent focus it’s easy to forget these characters even exist. It’s not that they aren’t interesting or memorable, but they’re still relatively new characters, and have yet to cross paths with the Sins themselves. As such, they feel disconnected from the main storyline while featured in a side story taking place in the same universe, rather than an integral part of the narrative. This chapter begins the process of intersecting stories revolving around the two groups, but the manner in which it’s done could be more compelling.
The bits involving the Pleiades are so unfocused and scattered it’s hard to figure out what to really take away from them. As usual, Deldry and Arden’s banter and bickering is used for comic relief, and a scene where Deldry teases Arden for getting worked up over her injuries establishes a romantic tension between them. Unfortunately, there’s not much to dig into there. That’s a pretty typical direction to take with a boy-girl team, and we haven’t been given enough character moments with them recently that makes the development particularly meaningful. As for the rest of the team, they don’t really stand out individually. but presenting them all hanging around together and chatting with each other at least gives a sense that they are a tight-knit, and close group of friends.
Above everyone, Denzel and Deathpierce get the most screen-time and character building out of anyone in the chapter. Not character development necessarily, but we learn a little more about their abilities. Denzel can apparently send the ghosts of his enemies out to haunt his foes, while Deathpierce is friends with the Great Gazoo
The more established secondary characters don’t fare much better. Really, the only reason Guila is in this chapter is to learn Gowther’s secret, and mull on her relationship with him. By far the most baffling and pointless character reintroduction is “Nica.” This character is introduced as a seemingly new addition to the Holy Knights under Guila’s command, and much is made to build up her newness. By the end of the chapter all of that mystique is thrown out the window and she’s revealed to be, in fact, Veronica. There really isn’t much point to obscuring her identity at the beginning of the chapter if it’s already revealed at the end, especially since it’s done with little fanfare. It feels like a waste of time, and while Veronica joining the Holy Knights is a neat development in theory, not much is done with it in the chapter itself to make it actually endearing or interesting.
The purpose of the chapter is to build up future events, and much of that buildup is interesting. Despite Dreyfus now being haunted by the people he’s killed, one of the most important, the ex-king Baltra, has yet to show up. Does this mean that he might not truly be dead after all? Moreover, the Commandments have devastated the territories around Liones, leaving no survivors and only destruction in their wake. Considering just one Commandment took out the second strongest army on the continent besides Liones’ own, the country and its people are in for a dire fight indeed.
Finally, the series reemphasizes, once again, that Gowther is one of the Commandments, and people question who’s side he’s really on. This is perhaps the most frustrating part of the chapter: we’ve know this about Gowther for over a dozen chapters now, but the series still hasn’t done anything with it, besides restating his existence. However, the silver lining is that the chapter concludes by setting up a fight between Gowther & Guila and Hawk & Escanor. The fact both teams are dysfunctional and mismatched is promising in of itself, but we also finally learn Gowther’s motivation for winning the Festival: obtaining a human heart. We know that Gowther is basically a homunculus with human emotions, so it’s fitting, if maybe a bit cliche, that his wish is basically the same as the Tin Man’s from The Wizard of Oz. But at least something more about the character is finally revealed and primed for being explored. Here’s hoping next week’s fight does so more entertainingly than the info dumps in this chapter were.
Lastly, I noticed several spelling and typesetting errors in this chapter. While most aren’t too distracting, some things like misspelling “knights” as “kvnights” like on page 6 and the awkward phrase “you owe you one” said by Veronica on page 23 are so blatantly incorrect that it’s strange that they, among other mistakes, got past Kodansha’s editing team. I know that translating manga on a weekly basis is a tough, fast-paced job, and mistakes will occasionally slip through. But the fact that the chapter hasn’t been reedited to correct them is less forgivable, especially since Viz’s Weekly Shonen Jump service is always on top on making corrections as soon as they learn about any errors. Hopefully this was just an off week for Kodansha’s staff, and errors like these won’t start becoming a recurring problem.