(Quick note before we get to the review! I recently recorded an episode of The Speakeasy podcast with The Reverse Thieves, about American comics for Manga fans. The episode is now up, so I thought I'd engage in shameless plugging. You can check it out here! - Ken)
Erementar Gerade, Vol. 14By Mayumi AzumaDMP, 174ppRating: Teen (13 +)
Mayumi Azuma's Erementar Gerade enters into it's end game as Cou and Company crash just outside of their final destination, Edel Garden! Alas things are never easy for them, and they soon find themselves caught up in a battle with the mysterious sniper who's been following them around, and the forces of Orga Night!
This volume is almost wall to wall action to the point where there's not a whole lot else going on beyond that. The biggest development was the identity of the mysterious sniper who's been shadowing and aiding the group for the last few volumes, but even that feels a little tacked on and forced. Most of the volume is dominated by a battle between Orga Night and Cou's comrades, which on the surface is fine, but it raises some larger questions. It's been shown that Orga Night controls Edel Garden, so why try to stop your prey from running right into your waiting arms? Is this some kind of weird attempt to herd the group into a trap? If so, it seems needlessly elaborate and costly. In addition this kind of zeroes in on the fact that there's still a lot we don't know about Orga Night. We're 14 volumes in and the main antagonists are still very much a mystery and a cypher. Why they've taken over Edel Garden, what their goals are beyond that of "Take over the world!" While I suppose that's perfectly valid, it's pretty shallow and cliche and leaves them feeling a bit hollow and cypher-ish.
The artwork continues it's up and down nature. At times it's clear and easy to follow with some fairly interesting designs, but then the action kicks in and it often becomes a minor mess, with action being unclear, confusing and lacking in any real visual flow. A lot of the comedy depends on hilarious over reactions and the occasional slide into chibi-esque or goofier looking art styles, something that really stands out and breaks up the tension and momentum of the story at multiple times. I've never been a fan of that kind of thing and it's a constant nit I pick though.
After Erementar Gerade, Vol. 14, there are only four left in the series, but it doesn't really feel like we're heading into a climax. The tension doesn't feel particularly high, and the stakes remain the same as they have been all series. One can only hope that things will be picking up in the next few volumes.