I previously reviewed the first volume of CLAMP’s universe-jumping series Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle. As the series is going to be putting out a lot of references to other CLAMP works, I’ve decided to get caught up on some of CLAMP’s old stuff. Yes, a lot of the references will be accounted for in the translator’s notes, but sometimes it’s good to not have to rely on the translator’s notes. So, what better place to begin than at the beginning – CLAMP’s first original work, R.G. Veda. For the first volume of a first series, how does it hold up?

General Information:

Title: RG Veda Vol. 1
Written and Illustrated by CLAMP (Story by Nanase Ohkawa, Art by Mokona Apapa)
Translated by Haruko Furukawa & Christine Schilling
Lettering by Abelardo Bigting
Originally serialized in Japan in Wings.
Available from Amazon.com

The Premise

After the God-King (who is otherwise unnamed) is overthrown by his traitorous general, Taishakuten, Lord Yasha takes it upon himself to protect the last survivor of the tribe of Ashura, and gather the Six Stars of prophecy (which would be people – not magic items) so that Taishakuten can be overthrown.

The High Point

One thing that hasn’t changed over the years of CLAMPs work is that they’re able to depect pretty impressive environments in their work. The book has several very impressive looking 2-page spreads.

The Low Points

Their action scenes aren’t very good here at all. They just don’t flow well. Now, this isn’t a shonen series – actually, it was originally published in a Josei (women’s) magazine – so I’m not expecting major fight scenes. That said, I do expect a certain degree of flow to the fights, so I don’t have to read them twice to figure out what’s going on. Additionally, while the story may be plotted well, some of the nitty gritty of the writing could do with more work. Characters drop in and drop out with little notice, though it isn’t totally without continuity.

Content Notes

There’s a little bit of blood, with one dismemberment, and no nudity. It does have some misuse of various religious symbols and references. The storyline makes references to beings out Vedic Mythology. Also, Taishakuten’s throne is sitting in the middle of a giant Star of David. However, I suspect that’s done more as a reference to Kabbalah. In all seriousness, half the time I encounter Stars of David in anime or manga, it’s as part of a magic circle because someone working on the art for the manga, or the series thought that symbols from Kabbalah and pentagrams/pentacles were interchangeable. However, that’s a matter for another time.

The Scores

Originality: The story looks pretty original. If it pays attention to anything out of the Rigveda more closely than name-checks, I wouldn’t know, since I haven’t read the Rigveda. 5 out of 6.

Artwork: When the characters aren’t fighting, the art looks pretty good. The backgrounds are pretty well drawn, and while the characters have the “CLAMP Look”, where even the men lean on the side of bishounen, I’ve come to expect that from CLAMP and I’m not too concerned about it. The fighting, on the other hand, isn’t very good, but there isn’t a lot of it. Hopefully this will improve in later installments. 4 out of 6.

Story: The story thus far is okay. I’m understanding it pretty well, though the prophecy in the story that sets the events in motion, is either unclear (par for the course for prophecies), or I’m understanding it just fine, and the characters in the story aren’t. The volume doesn’t stop at a great stopping place, but the pacing is otherwise okay as well. Then again, RG Veda was supposed to be a shorter series than Tsubasa and XXXHolic were. But, anyway, as of this point, the story has kept me guessing about where it will go, but everywhere it’s gone thus far has made sense. 5 out of 6.

Emotional Response: The emotional response of the story has been more middle of the road. Nothing has tugged on my heartstrings. Nothing as of this point has shocked me totally. There are moments that I didn’t see coming, but as I mentioned under the story, they made logical sense in context so they didn’t leave me scratching my head. The only thing actually hurting the emotional response of the story is the use of Super Deformed (or Chibi) characters at certain points for comedic effect, and that’s because it’s such a total shift. It wouldn’t be on par with SD characters appearing in, say, Berserk, but it’s close. 3 out of 6

Characterization: The characters at this point aren’t too deep, but we’ve generally got their motivations figured out. 3 out of 6.

Flow: The dialog scenes flow very well, and to tie in with the artwork, the art gets the characters emotions across as well. The only major problem I’ve had with the flow, though, is with the fight scenes. I’ve had to go over them a couple times to figure out precisely what was going on. 4 out of 6.

Overall: RG Veda isn’t a great series, but it’s decent, and starts off well. 3 out of 6.

In Total, RG Veda gets 27 out of 42.