Serialized in Afternoon (1998-2003)
Story & Art by Mohiro Kitoh
Published in the U.S. by Dark Horse Comics (2001-2005; Incomplete Run)
Summary: “From a dying planet shall come the children of light…”
While on vacation on a small island, young Shiina Tamai dives under the water near an old shrine and discovers an unearthly starfish-like creature. She nearly drowns but is rescued by the silent, wide-eyed little animal, who Shiina befriends and names Hoshimaru. To Shiina’s surprise and delight, the creature changes shape, lets Shiina stand on him, and the two fly off into the clouds. But what looks to be a young girl’s ultimate fantasy soon takes a darker turn as Shiina and Hoshimaru become entangled in a struggle between rival extraterrestrial factions who battle in the skies upon huge alien beasts called Shadow Dragons, with the fate of Earth hanging in the balance. [Dark Horse]
Review: Volume 2 continues off where volume 1 left off, with Shiina and Akira going up against a kid who claims to own a “Shadow Dragon” while trying to get answers of their own. The boy, Komori, makes it known to Akira that he plans to kill over 5 billion people on the planet in order to bring society into a new Stone Age and begin again. And he wants to make Akira his Queen. Komori is a sadistic guy fully capable of killing without discretion just like we saw in the previous volume, this is further shown when he kills Akira’s “Dragon Child” in an attempt to kill Shiina’s.
It’s something I very much wasn’t expecting to see this soon into the story. Especially as it then is followed up by Hoshimaru, Shiina’s “Dragon Child” easily offing Komori as revenge. I knew Shadow Star was going to be a dark and bloody book, I guess I just wasn’t expecting it to be so soon for our main leads. And what I appreciate about this is that Kitoh makes sure to show us the emotional aftermath with both Akira and Shiina, who are both coping with taking part in two murders in their own disturbing ways.
In fact, a lot happens in this volume. Much more than last volume. We get to meet a small group of kids who were part of a team with Komori. All of whom its easy to assume own their own “Shadow Dragons” as well. So far in this series we’ve seen “Dragons,” “Shadow Dragons,” and “Dragon Chilren.” What the differences between them or the similarities – besides their physiology – has yet to be seen and I’m very interested to see where this series goes with their lore.
Going back to the “Evil Kids” as I’m going to dub them for now, we see that they don’t exactly see eye to eye with one another and openly criticize each other. However there is definitely something mysterious keeping them together on whatever their mission is. They say it’s to make a new world, much like Komori, but their approach to it seems to be very different. I’m really curious to see where their story goes.
One of the other big events that takes place in this volume is two fold: We meet Shiina’s mom who is the head of a corporation and is very divorced from her father. Her mother is quite strict and talks down to her daughter, and chooses not to invest herself in Shiina’s life past what grades she’s making in school. It adds another level of drama to Shiina’s life and definitely shows why she’s so close to her father.
The other is that Shiina’s mom is made a part of a secret government task force that is researching these “Dragons” as they’ve become recently aware of them. We also learn that the U.S. has been researching them for the last 30 years which I found very intriguing. I’m looking forward to the international political scale this story takes on.
Finally, the last chapter gives us a breakneck cliffhanger as Shiina’s father is hit by a what I presume is a “Dragon” that looks differently than any other dragon-like creature to appear in the series so far: it looks like a girl with wings and no arms. He’s hit while flying a jet and is shot of the sky. By the end of the volume us the reader and Shiina have no idea if he’s dead or alive and really I fear the worst.
This was a truly solid second volume that pushed the story forward in great and emotional ways. I love that there is a great combination of quick paced action and slow moments in this series as they really add to the atmosphere and the drama. One thing Kitoh has does perfectly this whole series is making you feel the hopelessness in his slow moments, especially when they focus on Akira.
We also get a lot of really interesting additions in characters, I’m especially interesting in the evil kids and if they’re really the big bads or if there is a even bigger, looming threat waiting in the dragon’s wings. My only true problem with this volume and it’s something volume 1 suffered from as well is the inconsistency in chapter length. Some chapters are as few as 14 pages, some are as big as 48. Make up your mind Kitoh. I also hope Akira’s dragon child’s death isn’t in vein. I truly thought he was going to play a bigger part. Who knows… maybe he still will?
Final Score: 4.5 Machine Gun Wielding Dragons out of 5
Derrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net