Dawn of the Arcana Volume 5 by Rei Toma

Every volume of Dawn of the Arcana usually has a few quirky moments that keep me hooked on the series. In volume 5 we see the continuation of the trip that Nakaba and her group of friends embarked on in order to warn the Ajin of the upcoming attack from Prince Caesar’s unscrupulous relatives. Before the Ajin that we’ve seen have looked mostly human with some slight animal characteristics, but the ones who live in the Ajin village are much more like beasts walking upright. The feline Leo and Gadi great the humans with suspicion, but the group of adventurers gets taken to the cute and fluffy village leader to deliver their warning. Seeing the different forms of the Ajin was intriguing, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of their culture revealed in future volumes. The other aspect of this volume that I was amused by was that so far Nakaba has been dealing with having an Arcana, or magical power, all on her own, but suddenly we see more people with Arcana popping out of the woodwork. Lemiria reveals that she has a power that might explain why her older brother Bellinus has managed to survive so well in a hostile court environment. Although Nakaba and her companions came to warn the Ajin about the destructive power of new weapons of war, the suspicious Leo thinks he can defend the village all on his own with the Arcana of Fire.

The other thing I enjoy about Dawn of the Arcana is that it is so character-driven. With so many people having magical powers, it would be easy to fall into the trap of featuring a bunch of magic-centered action, without much character development. Nakaba’s journey to meet the Ajin causes her and Loki to reaffirm their friendship. Caesar’s support furthers his relationship with Nakaba as well. Knowing that Lemiria has a magical power as well makes her almost the perfect girlfriend for Nakaba, someone who hasn’t had many friends in her life before. Much of the volume focuses on Nakaba’s attempt to save the Ajin, and when she is thrown into the company of Caesar’s older brother Cain, at first she sees an opportunity to bond with him because they’ve both been judged harshly for their appearance in the past. Nakaba’s growing powers of observation combined with Lemiria’s advice cause her to navigate the situation with greater insight. I just wish that the artwork had slightly more detailed backgrounds that would contribute more to giving the world the characters navigate through more depth. Five volumes in, and there are still too many panels of characters talking to each other with just white or minimal backgrounds, and fewer illustrations that really serve to show how the Ajin village is all that different from the other places that Nakaba has visited. Overall, this volume was another solid entry for this fun fantasy series and I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next as Nakaba becomes a more self-assured princess.

Review copy provided by the publisher.

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