Monday, October 26, 2009

Utahime - The Songstress by Aki review

Utahime – The Songstress

Author/Artist: Aki

Publisher: Digital Manga Publishing

Rating: YA – 16 and above

Genre: Shojo, Drama, Fantasy

Grade: A+

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

There is an uncertain future for a far off land. You see for centuries the land has been protected by the nightly singing of the songstresses. The songstress sings a song of protection toward the capital where the ruler resides. The ruler has always been male while songstresses are always born female. But there is a wind of change. In one of the villages that sprung up around the songstress' tower the unthinkable has happened. A male songstress has been born. Not only that but when the ruler of the land's wife gives birth to a daughter, are they doomed?

In Utahime – The Songtress we are introduced to a heartbreaking yet hopeful tale that honestly moved me to tears. I realize the above paragraph is lacking in information but I'll try to take the complicated story and explain it a little more here. In the land the ruler is only able to produce a male heir so when a daughter is born things get a little hairy. In the case of the Utahime (the songstresses) they are able to give birth to both male and female children but the songstresses abilities are only passed on to one daughter. So it is important for the songstress to give birth to make sure the gift is passed on to the next generation. By having a songstress in the village it gives those who live there a boost in their economy, but protection from enemies as well.

Utahime – The Songtress focuses on a small songstress village and the main cast involves the village chief's son, Thomas, and the son and daughter of the songstress, Kain and Maria. Kain and Maria have been raised up in the mountains because they are the children of the songstress. It is assumed that Maria is the songstress and Kain is put in charge of protecting Maria from the greedy villagers. Thomas, the son of the chief, feels in necessary to meet the songstress and her children. He then becomes quite close to Maria and somewhat close to Kain and sees the difference in treatment the villagers show towards the twins. They shower Maria with gifts and attention and ignore Kain. As he sees the relationship between Thomas and Maria grow, he feels like he's no longer needed and decides to run away, not knowing that he's the songstress. Thomas truly shows concern as he searches for years to try and locate Kain. Maria finds out the true nature of the villagers as her mothers health is on the decline and wonders if Thomas' gestures are just to get with her, Kain is out having the time of his life, Maria discovers she's not a true songstress and Kain finds out that he is.

DMP has made a genius choice in publishing Utahime – The Songstress as the title to kick off their new look. Not only is the cover design a much-needed improvement (I wasn't a huge fan of the purple band across the bottom) but the amazing job that Aki-sensei has done with this title has moved me beyond words. I often come across titles that are really very good and are emotionally moving but I think that Utahime – The Songstress blows them all out of the water. Not only is the art truly stunning, but the story is told using the whole spectrum of emotions. One minute I was laughing and the next I was on the verge of tears. There were so many aspects of this story that I could relate to on a personal level that made this a truly amazing read. I hope that we'll be able to get more from Aki-sensei because I am truly impressed.

Another reason why this was a great title for DMP to publish is because with their larger trim size you are able to truly appreciate everything. Plus with their new look and no dust jacket does make it look very snappy. Keep up the good work!

***Review Copy provided by Digital Manga Publishing***
***Reposted with permission from The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society***

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