Reign of the Seven Spellblades Vol. 2 (2022) by Sakae Esuno, Bokuto Uno & Ruria Miyuki

Sakae Esuno gives a wonderfully lush adaptation of the popular light novel series.

“As night falls on Kimberly Magic Academy, the halls transform into a dark and deadly labyrinth…with Oliver and his friends still inside! Faced with a maze of evershifting passages and upperclassmen who hardly have their well-being in mind, the dark side of the school will test their mettle. However, even as they run from certain death, they have to stop Nanao from walking toward it. Just what mysteries does her fierce past hold…?” (Yen Press)

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Manga based on light novels tend to be a tricky thing to execute. Often the adaptation loses not only the context of the original story through missing internal monologue but also compensates with odd exposition dumps that can see the pages flooded with text that expects a fair amount of understanding on the source material. Consequently, when a manga work is based on a novel, it is almost always recommended to read the light novel first. This, unfortunately, has the effect of many not willing to explore certain titles because they prefer the former over the latter.

Of course, there are some exceptions to the above, with recent titles like “Bofuri I Don’t Want to Get Hurt…” a prime example of how the manga edition can make a mark despite having its root in the written word and an anime adaptation out before translation of the book/manga. This rarity extends to Sake Esuno’s adaptation of “Reign of the Seven Spellblades” which hits its stride after a memorable vol.1 to present an idyllic balance of handling a large cast with complex backstories and embellishing it with sharp visual storytelling.

Story-wise, the balance of power dynamics within the academy becomes a prominent issue, with elements of both a class system and civil rights. The book goes on to draw the comparison of conservation of other species as polarizing beliefs among the students based on their social/political background. Mind you, this is not heavy-handed commentary and the focus still lies in escapism to a realm of magic and adventure, but the complexities that give “Reign of the Seven Spellblades” depth beyond the surface level of ‘sword and sorcery’ is a welcome inclusion.

Arguably the most engaging character at the academy, Nanao, gets her history expanded upon further by exploring her past as a warrior in a feudal society. The clash of bushido ideals against a modernized/commercialized magic setting creates tension in a way that pushes the motley crew of cadets to understand how others’ differences are enriching their own journey into academia. Katie Aalto, from an aristocratic family known for their fight for ‘demi-god’ rights, also gets further development through the opposition with staff to save the life of a troll set for execution. If anything, volume two shows that the series will continue to develop its characters and not cut any corners in adapting the source material.

The art direction in the series is exemplary, from the character design to the backgrounds, the world Bokuto Uno & Ruria Miyuki created looks amazing. Furthermore, τηε elements of fantasy (magic and creature design) are perfectly executed and give readers a moment to pause. Without a doubt, Sakae Esuno was the correct choice to tackle this project in showing a command of adapting both the narrative and visuals of the source material.

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As mentioned, it is often hard to recommend a manga adapted from a light novel–it is a process that seems to flummox most manga artists and they tend to lose elements that made the original work. However, the mangα version of “Reign of the Seven Spellblades” is an easy title to recommend on its own, with a lush visual direction and competent adaption of the story. Fans of fantasy should certainly give this one a shot–though do still check out the acclaimed light-novel series if you can (also from Yen Press).