When I was attending Kumoricon this year, attended a Q&A panel held by Svetlana Chmakova, one the new wave of Western artists following in the footsteps of Adam Warren and Fred Perry by putting out OEL (or Original English Language) manga. At the panel I learned about Chmakova’s latest work, an Urban Fantasy series being published through Yen Press, with chapters being serialized through their magazine. I’ve liked her not quite genre (but fandom related) series DramaCon, so I’ve picked up the first installment.
Title: Nightschool – The Weirn Books (Vol. 1)
Written and Illustrated by Svetlana Chmakova
Lettered by JuYoun Lee
Originally serialized by Yen Press in their magazine Yen Plus.
Available through Amazon.com.
Alex Treveney is a witch, being home schooled by her older sister, Sarah, who is the Night Guardian (who has duties sort of similar to an Assistant Principal or Vice Principal) at Nightschool, a magical school for supernatural beings which operates covertly at (wait for it) night-time, at regular high school in a sort of magical enviroment.
The High Points
Lots of writers, when they’re writing young people, of various stripes (from the teen years to their early 20s), try to come up with witty slangy-ish dialog, rather than trying to chase current slang trends. Some, like Joss Whedon, succeed. Others, like Diablo Cody, don’t necessarily do as well. Svetlana falls on the Joss side of things. The slang doesn’t come too fast, or too thick, and what they use fits (such as a vampire referring to Hunters as “Buffys” as a derogatory term.
Also, as I’ve mentioned in my review of RG Veda, the use of Super Deformed or “Chibi” characters is a bit of an art. RG Veda has problems with the characters being out of place (though, to be fair, that was CLAMP’s first major series). That said, by comparison, Nightschool is Svetlana’s second series, and her first series outside of the Romantic Dramady catagory, and it handles the use of Chibi better than RG Veda did.
Very little blood, and no nudity.
Originality: There have been various series about supernatural beings having special schools before, both as novels and as comics. This is the first time I’ve seen this take on the concept though. To elaborate, this version feels more like a public school than the Harry Potter & X-Men takes, which are more along the lines of private schools. 5 out of 6.
Artwork: The artwork here is much more elaborate than the artwork from Dramacon, with not only more elaborate character designs, but more elaborate backgrounds as well. 5 out of 6.
Story: Most of what we have in this volume is setting up the rules of the setting. We get some teases about where the plot is going later, but we don’t get much more than that. However, what we do get is very enjoyable to read. 4 out of 6.
Characterization: Svetlana’s characters are all generally very distinct, and feel very real. Stephenie Meyer could learn a lot from Svetlana Chmakova about how to write characters. 5 out of 6
Emotional Response: There isn’t a lot of tension that is provoked by this volume, but we do get some deliberately funny moments, and I did worry about our heroine at some points. 4 out of 6.
Flow: 5 out of 6.
Overall: This is the best OEL manga series I’ve read in a while. Considering that a lot of the non-supers series we’re getting in western comics (though not all by any means – IDW has a lot of good noir, horror, and other works, among other publishers – DC’s Vertigo label along with Oni Press), are coming in OEL manga form – I encourage readers to who might otherwise be turned off by the art style to pick this up. 5 out of 6.
In total, Nightschool Volume 1 gets 33 out of 42.