Here at Anime UK News, we’re big fans of Hiromu Arakawa’s work. Whether it be the beloved Fullmetal Alchemist, the engrossing slice-of-life series Silver Spoon or the historical action series The Heroic Legend of Arslan, the mangaka is known for creating manga that readers quickly grow to love. Now her latest series Daemons of the Shadow Realm has made it to the West, so let’s find out if it’s another must-read!
The story begins in a remote mountain village where protagonist Yuru and his twin sister Asa were born and raised. Born as “the children who sunder day and night”, Yuru and Asa have an essential duty to fulfil, which has led Asa to be locked up within the village with few people being allowed to see her. But in this idyllic village, the biggest problem the residents face is a poor yield of crops, so despite Asa being locked up, it’s not as though she or Yuru are mistreated in any way.
The two’s birthright is to rule over Daemons, supernatural beings that can wreak havoc on the world if used for evil purposes. However, neither of them is aware of this and they’ve been kept in the dark their whole lives, thinking nothing of how strange their life is. That is up until the village is suddenly attacked and it becomes clear that the twins are the target!
Once Yuru’s home is under attack, this story moves at a quick pace. Our protagonist is forced to leave his home and everything he’s ever known behind when he’s taken to the outside world where things are very different. Now he’s got two Daemons of his own to wield and he has to come to terms with his birthright quickly since he’s separated from Asa. Pursued by enemies with Daemons of their own, he discovers they’re all too happy to kill anyone who stands between them and their goals.
Despite being only four chapters in length, Volume 1 of Daemons of the Shadow Realm feels jam-packed with content. Where we begin the narrative and where we find ourselves by the end of the book, are completely different from one another but it’s to Arakawa’s credit that the story is easy to follow all the same. There are plenty of twists and turns that you don’t see coming (which I won’t spoil), but at the same time, they don’t feel like they’re being pulled out of nowhere. Flipping through the earlier chapters later on, you can see the signposting for what’s to come and feel reassured that this was planned all along.
In some ways, it feels like Arakawa is trying to recapture the magic of Fullmetal Alchemist. Being a supernatural series following a pair of siblings, it’s not hard to make the comparison – particularly when Yuru looks quite a bit like Edward Elric in design. After leaving the village, Yuru has the Daemons and some familiar faces to guide him, which doesn’t feel too dissimilar to Colonel Roy Mustang and his team in FMA either. But while there are several similarities between the two series, Daemons of the Shadow Realm still feels like something new rather than a rehash of what’s come before it. If you’re an existing fan of the creator’s work then you’ll have fun spotting the familiar quirks of her storytelling, but you won’t be left feeling like you’ve seen this all before.
What does feel a bit out of place in this series is the comedy elements. Arakawa often likes to make jokes or draw the characters in a chibi form to land a gag and long-time readers of her work will be familiar with this, but given how dramatic and fast-paced Daemons of the Shadow Realm is, this comedic timing sometimes feels intrusive or in the way of the flow of the story. I don’t think this will be as much of a problem going forward though, it just doesn’t quite work for the opening act.
Otherwise, the artwork for this first outing is stellar, with plenty of well-paced action scenes and captivating backgrounds alike. In particular, the idyllic feel of the village compared to where Yuru ends up later in the book is something I think a lot of creators would struggle to depict, but Arakawa pulls this off splendidly. I commented earlier that Yuru’s design reminded me of Edward Elric, but the rest of the cast is quite unique and different to those we’ve seen from Arakawa before. So again, there are similarities here for long-term readers but nothing that will prevent you from enjoying this new work for what it is.
Daemons of the Shadow Realm Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Square Enix Manga and has been translated by Amanda Haley with lettering by Bianca Pistillo. The translation reads well and at the back of the release, there are a few pages of translation notes, which explain some of the mythology behind the story, terms and characters. Disappointingly for this publisher, there are no colour pages included, despite English colour pages existing since they’re included in the MANGA UP! release of Chapter 1.
The series is ongoing in Japan with 3 volumes. Volume 2 is scheduled for an English release in September, with #3 following in December. Simulpub releases of the series can be read on MANGA UP! if you find yourself eager to read more before the paperback releases. it shares the same localisation team as these releases, so should be consistent in terminology etc.
Overall, Daemons of the Shadow Realm proves a welcome return for Hiromu Arakawa. Newcomers and returning fans of her work will have great fun following the story of this new work which is reminiscent of her best work, but still very fresh. Certainly, this is a series I am very eager to see more of.