Sora wa Akai Kawa no Hotori
by Kamelot on May 18th, 2015, 6:08am
Rating - 8.8 / 10.0
User rating of this review - N/A out of 5
Story/Plot - 4 out of 5
Characters - 5 out of 5
Drawing Style - 4 out of 5
Enjoyment - 4.5 out of 5
Overall - 4.6 out of 5
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Red River or Anatolia Story, pretty much the same like Kanata Kara, which I reviewed a while back, takes place in the distant past. But unlike Kanata Kara which presented a fictional location, this one makes usage of historicaly correct locations, such as ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia or the Hittite Empire. It is a compeling story about a person from the future being entangled into the schemes of an evil empress that seeks power and control over the Empire.
Muck like Kanata Kara, there isn't much going around in regards to story telling. Yuri gets whisked away from her family and hometown to the ancient Hittite Empire. The one that summoned her is the Queen of the Empire and she wanted to use her as a sacrifice for her plans. Unfortunately for her, Yuri encounters the crowned prince, Kail who takes her under his protection, gives her shelter and promised her that he will send her back to her back. However, things would not go as planned as the Queen remained relentless in her pursuit of power, the crowned prince was entangled in a series of conspirations perpetrated by the Queen and furthermore, the feelings Yuri develops for Kail disables her from seeking her homeland. Even more, the position Kail has within the social stratification, makes Yuri believe that she could never be more than a mere concubine to Kail, as he will eventually become King and the practice of the time was that a King should marry a person from the royal family of another Kingdom. However, Yuri is not the frail girl many believed she would be. She has the ability to capture the hearts of the people, she has the ability to command an army and she has what it takes to rule a country, things that gave her the godly name Ishtar, which is a Babylonian goddess of love, fertility and war.
All seems well, but there is one little thing that makes the story not on par with the one from Kanata Kara (I'm apologizing from making this comparison so many times, but for me, Kanata Kara is like the standard for this kind of series), and that is the overall length of the story. It spans for 28 volumes and while the mangaka does a good job in capturing your attention from start to finish, I can only feel that some parts were dragged or introduced needlessly. Also, there is a sort of Game of Thrones vibe to this work as the tragedy tag involves the sacrifice of several loyal subjects (maids, retainers) to assure the survival of the main female character. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it may alienate some readers.
Same like in Kanata Kara, the real strength of the manga stands with the characters and character development. Shinohara Chie has not been succesful in portraying believable and memorable characters up until this manga. Yuri is the kind of character that changes as time and events pass by. She is 15 when she arrives in Hattusa and the first image of her is that of a boyish girl with above average physical condition, capable of pulling a fight but never failing to be independent. On one hand, this is a great feature, as she is not portrayed as some kind of OP character or a badass one, and her charisma and reliability do take time until they develop. Nevertheless, in front of Kail she is always a frail, emotional girl. She does not end up like a perpetual damsel in distress (even though she is rescued from time to time by Kail) as later in the series she is perfectly capable of assisting, supporting and protecting Kail both on the battlefield and in political matters, especially when Kail was caught off guard by the Queen. Her character and deeds are based on a real historical personality, Puduhepa, the wife and queen of Hattusili III.
Kail on the other hand is a more complex character. He is caught between his duties as a crowned prince and later, his duties as the king, and his love for Yuri. Yuri is not of noble birth, she is not the princess of some royal house, but, in the perception of the nobles and later, the harem, she is just a commoner of low social class, someone not befiting of being the King's aid. However, Kail does not seek a wife from a noble house specificaly, he seeks a wife that can really be of help in regards to military and political matters. He is impressed by Yuri and her ability to turn a foe into a friend, her kind spirit and her way of winning a battle without bloodshed, thus becoming more and more convinced that she is perfectly capable of being a candidate of the Queen. At first, he avoided her because he thought that it would be a waste for him to cling to a person that wishes to go back to her time, but when this option becomes obsolete he could not make the first step because of the restrictions imposed on him by traditions. As a leader, he was also caught between the will of the Kingdom's political institutions that wanted a wife of noble birth while the commoners wanted Yuri to be his wife.
Queen Nakia is the main antagonist of the series, and a very evil, scheming witch that would sacrifice anything, including her own son, just to see her bloodline lead the Kingdom. She wants to use Yuri as a sacrfice for her plans and conspires against prince Kail using her allies and manipulating her foes to do her bidding. However, she is both a victim and a villain. She has been litteraly sold by her country, Babylonia, to the Hittite Empire for improving relations between the Kingdom, leaving her to fend for herself within the harem. Seeing that her country sold her and her current country isolates her, she took her life into her own hands and seeked power. By using her magic, she slowly got ridh of her rivals and eventually became the Queen of Suppiluliuma I, Kail's father. But that was not enough, as she wanted her son to be the crowned prince. She shares the same fate with the Queen of Egypt, Nefertiti, who was also sold by her country, Mittani. Later in the series both will conspire against the Hittite Empire.
In regards to other characters, we are also introduced to the future king of Egypt, Ramses I, her maids, Hadi, Ryui and Shala, Kikkuri, Ilbani (his strategic adviser and foster brother), Prince Zannanza (the fourth son of King Suppiluliuma with a palace maid - thus, not eligible for the throne), Prince Juda (Queen Nakia's son and the 6th heir to the crown) and many others. In regards to all characters, there is much to read and be amazed off. Their devotion, passion, goals, cunningness and bravery will surely keep you addicted. The author placed a lot of effort and passion to thoroughly research the hittie civilization and not only so that this story and characters should have a link to the real life, real people and real events.
Though older and sometimes a little bit weird, the drawing style fits the time the manga has been drawn. It is the trademark of the author, and she manages to capture the essence of the hitite civilization. Wheher we speak about the clothing, the landscapes and architecture, all bear resemblence to how the world was back then (historically, the Middle East was considered 'the world', as the most developed civilizations were located there, with very few exceptions; i.e. Chinese, Indian). Unlike other people, the drawing style, at least in my opinion, is not an impediment in getting into this series. It has its share of more cartoonish characters and the typical bishounen and bishoujo characters, so we can say it has a bit of everything. It is not the kind of manga that really tries to dig deep into the details of that time (not something like Otoyomegatari for example, where the cloths and architecture are drawn to the smallest details) but it does not neglect them either.
Despite the length that might put off some readers, Red River does possess enough entertainment to make you stick like glue until the very end. The characters are likeable, the story, though not complex and impredictable, it is compelling and worth following and for those are in it for the sake of gaining knowledge, then this manga can serve for educational purpose as well. Same like her more recent work portraying Roxalena of the Ottoman Empire, this manga tries very hard to be historicaly accurate and it almost nails it. The differences stand in small details that can be solved by proper historical research. I was more accustomed with the kind of manga that would introduce a character with no historical value within historical settings that influence history more or less. Not the case here. I'll let readers decided what is worth about this series, if they consider anything worthy in it.
Giving a proper 10 for a manga series is a tough deal. Though the hype in me does persuade me to give it, when we judge things objectively, Red River is not perfect. It does kinda set the bar for this kind of series, it does a good job in being as serious as it can and as historically accurate as it can, but it could not avoid falling short. The length is a little bit too big, Queen Nakia overstayed her presence as she should've disposed of way sooner and the self-sacrifice theme ever so present has been bugging me for the entire span. Ursula's tragic death and later, Rusafa's self-sacrifice surely brought some bitter taste into my mouth as these characters somehow managed to become likeable and worthy of admiration, even though one of them was a villain in the beginning. Still, this is part of political intrigues but it could've been avoided. I'm all for 'and they lived happily ever-after' endings, the shounen way of endings where barely no one dies. I highly recommend this manga for those willing to read compelling stories about cool, memorable characters.
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