December 31, 2012

From Far Away volumes 1-14

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 5:22 pm by starsamaria

There are many spoilers in this review, so please read with caution!

From Far Away - Izark and NorikoOne of my favorite types of shojo series tell stories about girls who get sucked into other worlds. From Fushigi Yugi to Red River, these stories combine action, drama, fantasy, and romance into multilayered epics that are hard to forget. One of the more popular series of this type is decidely less known here in the U.S: Kanata Kara, also known as From Far Away. Noriko Tachiki is a 14-year-old girl who is transported to another world after a terrorist bombing. She immediately is discovered by Izark, a handsome man who possesses extreme physical strength, which he uses to fight monsters that are about to attack Noriko. Inevitably, he becomes the young girl’s protector. Noriko, who can’t speak or understand the language of the world and stands out like a sore thumb because of her clothing, finds herself helpless, slowly becoming more competent over the course of the series. But as Noriko learns the language and makes new friends, she soon learns that her meeting with Izark may have been more than just a mere coincidence.

One thing I really like about From Far Away is that it’s very clear Kyoko Hikawa knew exactly where she wanted to go over the course of the 14-volume series. Very early on in the manga, it becomes known that Noriko is “The Awakening,” a being thought to be an ill-omen because it portends the arrival of the all-powerful sky demon. She learns that many of the highest political figures have gone missing or have been removed from office and replaced with corrupt officials, all who would love to capture Noriko so they can use the power of the sky demon to their benefit. But as it turns out, Izark is the sky demon, and the reason he was where Noriko was upon her arrival in his world is because he knew the Awakening would come on that fateful day. One of my favorite scenes in the series is when Izark recollects their first encounter - he had planned to kill the Awakening, but when he found a tiny, helpless girl he couldn’t help but want to save her.  Rather than in many of these types of series, where it feels as though the girl who gets sucked into a strange land could have been practically anyone, it’s almost as if Noriko had to be the Awakening in order for Izark’s destiny to change shape. While I’ve heard people dismiss Noriko because she is physically weak, I was actually quite impressed with her character. She’s not only kindhearted but extremely logical – realizing that she needs to improve her situation as quickly as possible so she can be less of a burden on Izark, she takes it upon herself to learn the language and culture, and she rarely whines or falls into bouts of self-pity. And she’s extremely adorable.

From Far Away Izark and NorikoInevitably, a romance develops between the two, and rather than being played for melodrama their relationship grows quite tenderly. At one point Izark leaves Noriko with Gaya, a trusted friend of his who is sort of a mother figure, as well as a warrior from a rebel clan known as the Grey Bird tribe. Both realize they miss one another, and Izark finds that he can’t part with Noriko as he’d planned to. Being with Noriko both reminds him and heals him of his wounds as an outsider;living on his own and ostracized by his family because he is the sky demon. Izark is afraid that the more he uses his powers the less he will be able to control them, until he finally turns into the sky demon for good. In volume five, Noriko sees his transformed self for the first time in battle, yet instead of being afraid she tells him she doesn’t care who he is and that she loves him. He’s touched by her acceptance of him, and although he is intially reluctant to admit his love for her he eventually becomes very affectionate, teasing her and hugging her when he once could barely even laugh or smile. It is Noriko’s positive spirit that eventually helps Izark discover that there is something else inside him alongside the sky demon – a source of hope and strength which he can use to defeat the sky demon within him.

The side characters in From Far Away are fun, too, even if they aren’t all that memorable. Gaya has a tough attitude yet is kind, while hot-hotheaded warrior Banadam has an unrequited crush on Noriko. Later in the series the couple encounter a mother and daughter, who along with the other townspeople try to figure out their true identities (the funnest guess is that Noriko is a princess who ran away to be with Izark, her knight). Izark and Noriko gain plenty of enemies as well, from Keimos, a warrior who is obsessed with defeating Izark because he is the first person to ever defeat him in battle, and Rachef, whose desire for anarchy stem from very human fears like wanting to be accepted. However, I had a bit of a difficult time keeping straight all of the characters, who weave in and out of the story, and I had a hard time getting attached to anyone besides Izark and Noriko. And because the author had clearly planned the ending of the manga from the beginning, the story can be a bit difficult to follow. Characters have cryptic conversations, mentioning chimos (creatures used for teleportation) and moonstones (which are used to keep evil spirits out and amplify one’s power) without describing what these things are – and it isn’t until much later that they are explained.

http://www.robertsetiadi.or.id/hobby/animanga/kanatakaraWhether From Far Away is the best ‘girl falls into another world’ story really depends on what the reader is looking for in such a story. From Far Away has many strengths, including great action sequences and a fantastical setting filled with exotic creatures. But for those looking for a grand drama or a sweeping love story, I would suggest Red River over this series because it’s so based on character interaction. Yet From Far Away is not without the human touch. The ideal of the series is encompassed wonderfully in one scene, when enemy Doros decides to help Noriko out simply because she says thank you to him. From Far Away sends such positive messages – such as how powerful kindness is or that even little actions can result in big changes – without ever feeling saccharine. So while From Far Away may not be my favorite series in the genre, I still enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it because it does so many things so right.

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12 Comments »

  1. simpleek said,

    That’s great to hear. I wanted to read Far and Away. I like the artwork as it kind of reminds me of Naoko Takeuchi’s style of art to a certain degree. The fact that simply being kind can be quite powerful on its own is a lovely message for sure. Looks like if I ever get around to reading this one, I’ll probably leave with a good feeling each time.

    • starsamaria said,

      I actually love the character designs in From Far Away, especially Izark’s. They look so 80s, even though the series started in 1992. And I really like when series have positive messages – it makes reading them feel more worthwhile.

  2. Cratex said,

    I’ve not read very much manga, and what I have read doesn’t fall into this genre, but your review above does remind me of an anime based on a manga that sounds very similar – Juuni Kokuki (The Twelve Kingdoms). Have you read that (or seen the anime) and if so how would it fit in with what you talk about above?

    • starsamaria said,

      I’ve watched half of the 12 Kingdoms anime (which is based on a novel, btw), and while it’s hard to describe because on paper the two seem pretty similiar (both have mystical creatures and quite a bit of action), but 12 Kingdoms is far more…cynical than From Far Away is. It feels darker, not to mention it’s much more politically-oriented. And From Far Away focuses a bit more on romance.

      • Cratex said,

        Interesting.
        I watched The Twelve Kingdoms two or three years ago. I recall it seems to drag some in the middle, but picks back up again about the 3/4 mark. And yes, it is rather dark, and now that you mention it somewhat cynical.

  3. Hinami said,

    I’m so glad you like this xD I adore the manga and it has been one of my favourites even since I read it, apart from Red River and a few more which I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I really love how the story carried out with direction and not once did it lose the plot. Also, Noriko is a really likeable heroine.

    • starsamaria said,

      Thanks for commenting! The most memorable thing about From Far Away is Noriko, who is adorable yet logical at the same time. She’s sweet, but far from helpless.

  4. Pearl's said,

    Hi starsamaria,

    Great job! I love your review of this series. I had read Red River before coming upon this gem. While RR is about the romance between Yuri and Kail with the political/military aspects on the side, FFA is more about the character development of Noriko and Izark.

    On the surface, Yuri is the stronger and more interesting than Noriko as a character. Kail has the charisma of a king to Izark’s skill of a warrior. I am not doing a comparison between the four characters because they are all great in their own; they have strengths and weaknesses like anybody else. What makes Yuri and Kail the stand-out pairing is because of their surrounding story and at the beginning of the series, there was a forbidden taste to their romance, which made the yearning and their journey of getting together so satisfying.

    Noriko and Izark, on the other hand, is a journey of change and growing. Not that RR wasn’t about changes and growth, but FFA wasn’t all about the romance. It was more about two people who help each other as they discover what the future holds for them. The prophecy goes as followed that Noriko is the Awakening who can bring out the Sky Demon in Izark; and bad people are after them for power. Izark views this Awakening as a bad thing for him, but his first meeting with Noriko changes that. He suspects the Awakening as someone to fear, someone who holds his life in their hands. But Noriko was simply a frightened girl who doesn’t know of her destiny.

    Their journey is interesting and I certainly was surprised to analyze that their roles as the Awakening and Sky Demon are not what they were made out to be. I saw that whenever Noriko was in trouble, Izark turned into the Sky Demon (his bad side if you want to call it that) because he knows she’s in danger. Noriko’s role as the Awakening wasn’t to bring out the Sky Demon; instead she was the light to Izark’s dark. Her yin to his yang. She comforted him when he’s in his dark times, which made the whole fate of them being the Awakening and Sky Demon a lot sense when taken into that context.

    Noriko and Izark weren’t the only ones to grow and change as characters. Doros is a good example of someone who was an enemy as first, but because of an act of kindness of Noriko, he realizes that there is more out there in the world than being bad. His example reminds me why I love FFA because it felt humane and real like these are people I would meet in the real world; there are good and bad sides to people – the path we follow depends on the decisions we make.

    Thank you.

    • starsamaria said,

      Thanks for commenting! I think that’s the best aspect of the series, actually – seeing Noriko and Izark learn more about their ‘roles’ as the Awakening and Sky Demon, respectively. Both seem to be ill omens, yet there is a much more positive purpose in their meeting. This actually reminds me a bit of Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden in a way – I love how both series deal with themes such as choice and destiny. Another thing I’ve realized now is that I really love the political scheming that goes on in Red River – and while that’s certainly present in From Far Away, it’s at the forefront of Red River. Still, I really do like both series.

      • Pearl's said,

        I actually stopped reading Fushigi Yugi Genbu Kaiden because the heroine just wasn’t doing it for me. In fact, the main couple didn’t interest me at all (not that Miaka and Tamahome from Fushigi Yugi were any better, but I stuck to their story longer). The secondary characters were more interesting, but even they didn’t have enough power to sway me to keep reading.

        Red River is the one series where I actually enjoyed the political scheming because it kept me on my toes to see how both sides are going to up the other one and how quick they react to the plans backfiring. Unfortunately I haven’t encountered another manga like it; RR is in its own league when it comes to balancing the romance and the political aspects of the story (in my opinion).

  5. Pearl's said,

    Reblogged this on Pearl's Inspirations and commented:
    At some point when I am feeling nostalgic, I will do a recap of each volume and weighs in my thoughts on it.

  6. dazzlika said,

    I absolutely love love love this manga. I cried when it ends because it is like….only one (probably?) manga I read that has such a perfect ending. I like how it is not full of romance but also adventures, actions, and all that. I couldn’t wait to read it once again when I have free time!


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