Erementar Gerade, Vols. 17 + 18By Mayumi AzumaDMPRating: Teen (13 +)
After a long, hard road the conclusion to Mayumi Azuma's Erementar Gerade is here. Cou and Rin have finally made it to Edel Garden, only to discover that it was far from the paradise it was rumored to be. Separated from the rest of their friends, Cou and Ren must do battle with some of the most powerful members of the mysterious Orga Night, while their friends… pretty much do the exact same thing. Surely all the questions will be answered in these final volumes!
Except they're not. Not at all. Orga Night and it's leader remain near ciphers whose ultimate goals and actual identity are about as clear as they were back in the first volume. Most of the two volumes are instead occupied on further battles which don't really further the plot or make anything clear. The closest thing to answers and explanations we get come during Cou and Ren's battle with Ren's old friend, Cia. It's during this battle that we get glimpses of Edel Garden's true goals and the horrific means they'll take in order to reach these nebulous ends. Cia herself is a victim of these ends, having been experimented upon and modified to the point where she's little more than an insane, tree creature rampaging through Edel Garden. It's these flashbacks, that provide tantalizing hints, that are probably the most engaging things about these final volumes. Unfortunately little is clearly stated and what is stated simply raises more questions than answers.
Mayumi Azuma's artwork continues to be perfectly acceptable, though not terribly amazing. There are moments within these two volumes were she shows some real hints at breaking through and becoming a more solid artist and visual story teller. There's a few two page spreads which are nice, particularly one involving Cisqua punching an Orga Night member right in the face, but overall the artwork is simply ok. None of the character designs in the series really stood out, and that generally holds true for these final volumes. The biggest exception to this rule is Cia, Ren's friend who was also the driving force behind her journey to Edel Garden. Unlike most of the characters who are wearing outfits you'd expect to find the extras of a Final Fantasy game to be wearing, Cia is instead a massive tentacled monstrosity, the likes of which haven't been seen in this series up until now. While it's often difficult to make out the details of her movement, she nonetheless cuts a rather striking visual no matter what she's doing.
Erementar Gerade, Vols. 17 + 18 wrap up the story, but fail to provide a satisfactory finale. It touches upon the gender issues themes which have peppered the series since day one, but the plot lines just never really come together and plenty of mysteries still linger even in the conclusion of the series. I understand there's a second series, but it apparently features an entirely new cast and that doesn't really bode well for it giving the much desired answers. In the end, Erementar Gerade was a middle of the road shonen series which would occasionally raise some interesting issues and concepts, only for them to fall by the wayside in the end.