Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Dragon Girl by Natsumi Matsumoto review

St. Dragon Girl vol. 1

Author/Artist: Natsumi Matsumoto

Publisher: VIZ Media

Rating: T – 13 and up

Genre: Shojo, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Action

Grade: A-

*** Review originally appeared at The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society at http://liheliso.org. Check it out! ***

Kenpo. Many know of this martial art but don't know much about it. Kenpo, literally translates to "Fist Law". Here in the United States we use the term Kung Fu to designate any form of Chinese martial art (just like Karate is often used to designate any form of Japanese martial art). In Japan the term Kenpo is used to describe Chinese systems. You're probably wondering why on earth I'm defining martial arts terms. I found that knowing the difference with terms helped in making St. Dragon Girl a much more enjoyable manga to read.

Momoka Sendou is the daughter of a martial artist and her family owns a Kenpo dojo. Because of that fact Momoka has been learning Kenpo from an early age and has earned that nickname "Dragon Girl." One of Momoka's closest and dearest friends is Ryuuga Kou. He's Chinese and is a descended from a long line of magic masters. The Kou family deity is a dragon (are you starting to see a pattern?) One afternoon Momoka finds out through Ryuuga that there is a demon that is after one of her best friends and Ryuuga's cousin Shunran. Shunran is a powerful psychic and because of that she's always being pestered and possessed by various spirits. Since the time they were children Momoka and Ryuuga have protected Shunran. But this time the Serpent King is too powerful for them and almost kidnaps Shunran. Feeling powerless Ryuuga decides to call upon the Kou family deity (yes, a dragon) to possess him but because of a strange twist of fate the dragon possess Momoka instead.

St. Dragon Girl is an eight volume series that is beautifully illustrated. It is a typical shojo manga in every sense of the word. Momoka has a crush on her childhood friend but can't admit those feelings aloud. Of course those around her all know that she's crushing on Ryuuga, and Ryuuga is pretty sure that she has feelings for him too. Even though he's not as obvious as Momoka, I'm pretty sure Ryuuga feels the same way.

I found myself really enjoying St. Dragon Girl. I'm pretty sure one of the reasons I liked it so much is because I've dabbled in Chinese martial arts myself and found the action beautifully drawn. Momoka is a very skilled martial artist and has earned her nickname. In the martial art style I studied (Shaolin Ch'uan Fa Kung Fu) the Dragon is the final animal that you tackle because you incorporate everything you learned and have internalized all of the other animal techniques to the point where you are able to act instinctually. That is definitely Momoka.

Another reason why I liked this manga is because of the costuming. Instead of using a gi Matsumoto-sensei uses a traditional Chinese yifu. Also there is use of Chinese dress that, in my opinion, rivals the kimono for beauty and grace. Even though the story takes place in Japan it definitely mixes these two ancient and fascinating cultures. Matsumoto-sensei richly illustrates an interesting story with extraordinary detail.

***Review Copy provided by VIZ Media***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

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