By Thea Srinivasan
Whenever I learn about a new fictional species, I’m always worried whether they have anything against humanity. In most science fiction mediums, I’ve seen reptilian-humanoid species try to destroy humanity in some way and they end up either losing to humanity or leaving earth in a post-apocalyptic state. Sometimes these species want to eat humans, which is kind of disgusting in reality. Luckily, I did not have to deal with that in Juana and the Dragonewt's Seven Kingdoms.
About two or three generations after the extinction of humans, a new race of reptilian-humanoids have taken over the planet called Dragonewts. Nid, a Dragonewt, finds a human girl named Juana. Due to not finding any other human near Juana and thinking that she is another Dragonewt, Nid decides to take her into town to get some help from his boss. From there, Nid’s boss tells Nid that Juana is human and together take the next steps to find out how Juana came to be and to see if there are any humans left on the planet.
Although the plot seems tiny, there is so much more I cannot cover without spoiling the rest of the story. Within the first volume, I can say that the creator has blown my mind with the amount of history and cultural understanding regarding the world Nid lives in. The creator could have easily pinned Nid’s species as a bunch of human eaters who lost their food source, but they took a different direction luckily. The creator was smart enough to use influences from the real world and reflect that in the society with Dragonewts. But at the same time, Dragonewts don’t appear to be superior to humans in any intelligent manner. There are differences between the two species, yet so far I haven’t noticed anything that makes humans or Dragonewts any different besides their physical appearances. Both species have language capabilities, even though both Juana and Nid speak different languages. Although the development of the world is subtle, it is brilliantly designed to allow the characters revolve around it yet not get so absorbed by the intricacies of their environment. The world and plot are progressing at a fast rate that kept me hooked from one panel to the next.
The characters have the most developed personalities I’ve seen in a long time. Off the bat, I see Nid’s personality skyrocket in development within the first two chapters. He’s a bit of loner who just happened to find Juana while doing his job. Ironically enough, his position allows him to have access to knowledge about humanity and the history of his world and it effectively made him take Juana into his town. Juana, on the other hand, is not a typical shy girl or tomboy for the matter. She’s a normal girl with an outgoing personality and from the start, Nid and Juana work together to understand each other to make it easier for themselves and for the people around them. That is not to say Juana is magically a mature child, she does her have her moments of childishness which help to create small subplots that help readers understand the world Nid lives in. With that in mind, there are secondary characters who play pivotal roles in development and yet are memorable because of their eccentric, individual personalities. Without spoiling too much, Nid’s boss has a sharp eye when it comes to Nid but isn’t the brightest bulb when it comes to other types of knowledge.
The adventure the pair go on is unique as it doesn’t focus on purely action scenes or a need to rush finding other humans. Both of the main characters take their own time to explore and understand each other’s personalities and to understand the people they meet along their path. Each being gives and takes from the journey itself and that is something that is very rare to see in a manga. Along the journey, both characters don’t necessarily battle enemies, but they do have to be ready to face anything that comes their way. They make their own mistakes and either learn from them or try to understand how to face them. Finally, the art style is brilliant as it focuses its details on the characters and on the surroundings as well. The coloring and shadows are sublime. Although the art style is more contemporary, it’s best suited for a piece like this rather than the older, harsher styles from the 1990s or early 2000s.
This series has started off really well and is sure to be a commercial success amongst all ages. It’s cute enough to entice younger readers, has a lot of character development to entice older readers, a brilliant setting to entice fantasy readers and a great art style to appeal to creative readers. The first few pages contain a slightly clichéd beginning, but if readers get past it, the story is worth everything. This manga is for the person who wants to explore a new world without getting caught up in messy politics or a lack of fun.
Juana and the Dragonewt's Seven Kingdoms vol. 1
Seven Seas Entertainment