Of course, you’re unlikely to be reading this with much conviction that you’ll actually by the series if it gets a good review if you haven’t already been convinced by the series, but for those following it up until this point, briefly, volume five offers more of the same, but escapes feeling dull or lacklustre as a result (it might be dull for other reasons though).
Not entirely unlike previous volumes, this one is initiated by an interplay of various strands of the story, particular emphasis being given to the domestic environment of the hotel, Rihoko and Masane’s relationship, and, in the first episode, the tensions within the NWSF and the Douji Industry Group. As is customary, we’re reminded just how content Masane and Rihoko really are when they’re left to their own devices, free from the external threats of Neogenes or holding down a job, which set in later.
This period is unusually long in this volume though, and it seems to be the case that throughout the series there has been progressively less action as time has gone on. In these episodes, for example, there are only really two action scenes, and both are very short, meaning we also get to see very little of Masane in her post-transformation form. Disappointing to some, I wouldn’t doubt, but it’s a testimony to the emphasis on the characters and their relationships, that a series which is often dismissed as titillation can go an almost the course of four episodes without it, and still manage to be entertaining.
That is, relatively entertaining, anyway. It might be more accurate to say that it holds your interest, but those concerned with character and story development won’t be disappointed, with a number of well-paced revelations and upheavals. Maria, the powerful third-generation neogene psychopath of the last few volumes, has become more considered since killing her own biological mother, in the last volume, and seizes control of the NWSF, as Wadou of the bio-division makes a failed attempt to upstage Takayama, before finally succeeding.
Possibilities hinted at throughout the series are also brought to fruition, where others are allowed to be dragged on a little longer, for our enjoyment of course. If you’re trying to keep up with the story, this volume shouldn’t be missed, but those looking or waiting for the story to develop ought to be satisfied, if they’re not looking for a masterpiece story (there hardly seems to be any hint of themes anymore).
The little cast of friends at the hotel don’t get too much screen time here, with the emphasis on Takayama, Masane, Rihoko and on the other side of the fence, Wadou and Maria, which does make it slightly less comedic than previous volumes, but I’m sure that won’t be an irredeemable fault in too many eyes.
What will really be tried here is whether you think the story and the characters are interesting or not, since they’re substantially what’s being dealt with in this volume. Again, however, it seems to be the case that those who enjoyed the series up to this point will have little reason for a sudden change in their estimation of it, and I’d like to think most people watching the series are watching at least partly for the story.
Reviewing Witchblade has been worthwhile, but it has become apparent to me that the series is what it is, and probably won’t be cast in a new light by the ending. This being the second to last volume, I’m surprised that there isn’t much sense of anything being built up, or still remaining in the closet. If you like the series though, I don’t see too much to complain about here.
A crucial volume in the wider narrative, and more considered than previous volumes; it would be unfair to call it filler, but there’s certainly a lot less action than before. The story and character developments should tide fans over though, and serve as a statement that the series doesn’t subsist only on gratuitous indulgence.