Title: Mao Vol. 2
Author: Rumiko Takahashi
Release Date: November 9, 2021
Publisher: Viz Media
When I reviewed the first volume of Mao a couple of months back, my thoughts were primarily focused on the simplicity in both its art and narrative. Mao Vol. 2 still has a fair amount of the previous volume’s simplistic nature, but with some more detailed art to make it stand out just a bit more. It’s another fun but fairly basic Mao volume, with a few minor improvements this time around.
Carrying on from the first volume, Nanoka, Mao, and Otoya are investigating a priestess who seems capable of predicting death. There are some twists and turns along the way, but the secret behind the priestess and her cult was surprisingly dark. This is also the first place where some more detailed and diverse drawings begin to appear, with demons and hostile spirits having a more classical, heavily-inked look that I quite like.
The story then progresses towards more significant threats involving a famous Kanto-area earthquake and how it may be the work of Byoki, the demon that cursed Mao. This leads to some incredibly bloody but cleanly-drawn fights that again focus on somewhat inventive ways of escaping trouble rather than straightforward brawling. Volume 2 actually ends on a cliffhanger involving the earthquake, which did make me feel more inclined to check out Volume 3 when it’s available.
So far, I still think Mao is the most interesting character of the bunch. Still, there are revelations about Nanoka and her family towards the end of this volume that have me thinking she’ll develop into a particularly intriguing character soon enough. The villains this time around don’t stand out too much, though the designs of the Flea Ayakashi and the various other demons are stronger than those of previous villains. We don’t see much of Byoki this time around, though his presence can be felt in both the arcs contained in Volume 2, so I imagine he’ll make quite a comeback soon enough.
To elaborate on what I said before, the art is primarily still the same straightforward and clean style that the mangaka, Rumiko Takahashi, is known for. This time around, though, the various demons and spirits look better than they did in Volume 1. There’s a weight to their lines that weren’t there before, making it feel like they really are on a different wavelength than the more human main characters. This also makes scenes where the demons attack or suddenly appear more chilling, as they no longer blend into the rest of the page. The designs themselves are also excellent, ranging from flaming skulls to scary flea nuns; it’s all rather creative.
All-in-all, Mao Vol. 2 is similar to what came before, with slight improvements in the art. However, the story is going in a unique direction that could be a lot of fun, and the characters are coming into their own as the story continues. I hope this evolution continues in future volumes, as Mao has a solid base that yields a lot of potential.
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