Title: Dawn of the Arcana
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, Fantasy
Artist: Rei Toma
Publisher: Shogakukan (JP), Viz (U.S.)
Serialized in: Monthly Cheese!
Translation: Alexander O. Smith
Nakaba has yet to be swept off of her feet by her new husband in the second volume of this series, and offers of fancy gifts and dresses certainly aren’t helping matters. Just as Caesar begins to show a softer side, things get prickly when someone attempts to poison the prince’s dinner. All the while, Nakaba continues to struggle with disturbing visions – both of her past, and of a violent future. When a vision shows the prince in imminent danger, Loki reveals the true nature of Nakaba’s visions, as well as his own plans for Belquat.
So far Dawn of The Arcana is set very firmly in the “decent” pile. Nothing has been particularly out of the ordinary, but the series isn’t bad either. There’s nothing too terribly complex: two warring countries, a political marriage, some magical people, and a girl with a mysterious past that she just can’t remember. In this volume though, the character relationships are the main focus. Caesar wants to please Nakaba, but his frivolous gifts and outings to the city just leave Nakaba exhausted. Still, a show of kindness from Caesar is enough to start swaying his begrudging wife’s heart. As a reader though, Caesar suddenly showing a softer side was a bit jarringly predictable, especially given how much contempt he had for Nakaba initially. I don’t think it’d be a stretch to say he was downright violent towards Nakaba at times. Thankfully, soon after Loki makes it crystal clear he has every intention of taking down the kingdom from the inside. Loki is what keeps the series interesting; it’s obvious he cares for Nakaba, but whether he loves her enough to give up his goal of taking down Belquat has yet to be seen.
The issue of Nakaba’s powers isn’t completely forgotten in this volume. The visions seem to come randomly – Nakaba witnesses the murder of her mother, Loki, war…but what does it all mean? After a particularly jarring vision, Loki begins to reveal the true nature of Nakaba’s powers: Nakaba has the gift of the Arcana of Time, or the ability to see the past, present, and the future. I thought the reveal itself wouldn’t come for another volume or so, but that’s really all it is. We don’t know the true gravity of the gift, but we can probably reasonably assume that not everyone is too happy about it. There are murmurings of the true origins of Nakaba, none of which the king seems too thrilled to consider.
The thing about this series is that if you stripped away the setting and the hinted at power, this would be your run of the mill shoujo love triangle. I think to elevate this series above “decent” the later volumes would have to focus more on Nakaba’s past, her powers, and more in-depth world-building to give context to said powers. I’m not so much curious about which guy she’ll end up with as much as I want to know what her power means, who it’ll affect, and why she has them. I’m already itching for a showdown between Loki and Nakaba, as it’s beyond obvious that Nakaba will have to choose between saving her husband or allowing Loki his revenge. Still, all of the elements of a more than decent story are there. It just needs a good push, a good melting together of everything to really make it compelling. While no Basara or From Far Away, Dawn of Arcana has potential to become something a bit different than the shoujo norm.