聖伝 ‐RG VEDA‐ (Seiden -RG VEDA-)
Shoujo – Fantasy, adventure, action, war, tragedy, romance
10 Volumes (complete)
Tokyopop / Dark Horse
Although the Ashura clan fought hard, Taishakuten and the Ashura queen overthrew the God-King and now cruelly reign over Tenkai. Meanwhile, Yasha is told of a prophecy about Six Stars who “will become the schism that splits the heavens”. Then he finds the abandoned child of Ashura, once thought dead…
If you like CLAMP before they became obsessed with one-eyed characters and clones, then you won’t want to skip their original epic, especially since so many characters reappear in later series.
Since this is CLAMP’s first major work, you can see themes and elements from later works like Tokyo Babylon, X, and Magic Knight Rayearth. Many characters also appear in Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE, so you might want to read this series before that one. However, RG Veda is closer thematically to works like Tokyo Babylon or X rather than series like Cardcaptor Sakura or even Tsubasa RESERVoir CHRoNiCLE. (Whether this is good or bad solely depends on your preference.) Regardless, RG Veda is perhaps best left to those who are invested (emotionally and/or financially) into the groups’ other works.
But back to RG Veda itself.
Although the story is based on Hindu texts, the characters’ names are in Japanese. The cast is quite large, and with complicated names like “Koumokuten” and “Kisshouten”, it can be incredibly hard to keep everyone straight. I’m sure there are heavy references to the actual RG Veda (not this manga), but since I know nothing about it, they all went over my head. I was too busy trying to remember who everyone is. Fortunately, they all look different, but it’s still easy to forget each person’s role. This is made even more confusing because almost all the characters are leaders of their tribe from which they take their name. So there’s the Ashura we follow along with in the story, his father is also Ashura, and the latter was (and the current one is technically) the leader of the Ashura tribe. Plus, in Tenkai, there’s the gods, warriors, generals, guardian-warriors, and more, and they all have different ranks and positions. Yeah, it can be confusing.
One thing you’ll immediately notice about this manga is the chapters technically make up the entire volume. This keeps the story flowing since we the readers don’t have to stop to read “end of chapter 5” or view a title illustration. It’s like each volume is one long movie. That also means this is not the type of manga to pick up and read for a few minutes; it’s the type for when you want to curl up with a book. Each volume also ends with some comics about CLAMP themselves or alternate reality chapters about the cast. I had actually forgotten about these extras since CLAMP does not do these anymore. It makes the creators much more relatable.
Anyways, at its core, RG Veda is another one of those “find the destined ones, overthrow the evil leader” tales that has been done many times before and many times after. There are several major story twists, and depending on your experience with manga (CLAMP in particular), you may or may not be able to sniff these out in advance. Battles are prevalent, but the adventure overtakes the action here. The series opens with a prophecy, and the whole manga is centered on characters fighting for or against it coming true. Much of the “adventure” is also based on the leads, Yasha and Ashura, accepting their circumstances and handling what is going on around them. In fact, I felt like the story spent too much time one Ashura lamenting over the dead. Yes, their deaths were tragic, and Ashura is young, but it gets repetitive to spend so much time with Ashura in tears. However, I did enjoy Yasha’s strength — both physical and emotional — in the midst of adversity. He is my favorite part of the story.
Unfortunately, the manga tends to end on what would seem like to be a grand opening for the next volume but instead switches to another group’s storyline. “I’ll have my revenge!” one character declares with eyes of fury, but they are not in the next volume at all. And when we see that person again, they haven’t taken up the sword, so to speak. I guess it’s the downside when the story doesn’t have normal-sized manga chapters. But despite the switching of scenes, the series really has no arcs or “part 2″s. By the end of the first volume (or upcoming omnibus), you should decide either to continue or quit, as there isn’t any good jumping-off points.
I won’t go too deep into the character analysis for spoiler reasons. I will say while some manga focuses more on the characters, I feel RG Veda concentrates more on the overall story. Taishakuten is presented as the stereotypical villain, but readers may find his wife even more cruel. Yasha is a strong, likeable lead, and the mysteries sounding Ashura will last into the final volume. Although Yasha and Ashura get the most attention, this is an ensemble cast. Both enemies and allies get several scenes explaining their motivations. Some characters like Nahga don’t develop much or have as many key scenes, and certain villains are wiped out quickly. Again, RG Veda is less about one person’s — or even one group’s — journey and more about the overall war and how the prophecy comes into play.
The art is done in the older CLAMP style, but it takes quite a while before they reach that level. The early volumes are much rougher, but eventually they settle on the visual style that they would use for many years. The visual tone of the manga is quite dark. Pages are heavily inked and screentoned, and the art is very detailed. Since this series was started in the late 80s, the characters have angled features, long hair, and thick eyebrows. Characters’ faces are very expressive and showcase why I love their older style. Many scenes of gore and violence are included, some appropriately disgusting. Very few SD characters or comedic visual quirks are included outside of the side chapters. It’s not CLAMP’s best work, but the art does improve over the course of the series and is quite nice by the end.
I read the Tokyopop version for this review. Anybody who wants to get into this series will probably invest in Dark Horse’s omnibuses, and these will likely feature altered translations. From what I’ve seen of the other CLAMP omnibuses, the translations are mostly the same, but I have no idea what changes Dark Horse will make.
I will say this series is well above average for Tokyopop. I did not notice any swapped panels or bad lettering or editing. The same team worked on the entire 10 volumes which helps make the dialogue consistent. The only honorifics included are some “chan”, and the “ou” honorific is replaced by “lord” (or “lady”). I’m sure different people will have different opinions on this, as the lords and ladies are all actually kings and queens of their respective clans. Ashura is genderless, but Tokyopop refers to him as “he”. The text makes it clear Ashura doesn’t have a gender and this is just for convenience, but I’m sure some people were upset. Otherwise, there are a couple of references that might be missed since all the publishers of CLAMP works handle things differently. Most of the characters are easily recognizable in subsequent appearances, but I do feel I should mention Tenkai, the land in this story, literally means “heaven”. The word “tenkai” has been used in subsequent works, although it’s been called “Heaven” or (the) “Heavenly Realm” in different translations. CLAMP readers may be interested in this connection.
RG Veda is good if you like dark shoujo with less-than-typical romances. However, CLAMP’s later works are less confusing, and some are arguably better. CLAMP fans will probably want to pick up RG Veda just to round out their collection.
RG Veda was made into an OVA. It was released in the US by Central Park Media.
CLAMP (then 12-members) made a one-shot called Shining Star before this series. It stars a couple of characters from RG Veda and feature appearances from the main three of CLAMP School Detectives. Whether the people there are reincarnations, “same spirit, different worlds”, or just prototypes is open to interpretation.
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