Last year I took a step outside of my comfort zone to review John Carpenter’s The Thing, which proved to be a fun experiment. I don’t have any plans to review other movies quite yet, but one other medium that I’ve been wanting to explore a bit are traditional comics. After running into Brindille in a manga store in Utrecht, I figured now was as good a time as any.
My main concern when it comes to comics is that they bring to mind (superhero) stories that have run for decades now. Years upon years of releases, with older books often being extremely rare and costly to collect. I wanted something compact as my first experience with the medium, but even newer comics often seem to run for dozens of volumes. That is what attracted me to Brindille, as it’s a traditional fantasy comic that promises to tell a complete story in just 2 books.
This story starts off with a young girl escaping from a massive fire, after which she is found by a clan of fantasy creatures who bring her to their village. Upon waking up the girl discovers that she has no memories whatsoever; she doesn’t know who she is, where she came from, or even what she is. A mystery that only thickens when she begins to meet people who seem to know her, but either refuse to tell her anything or flee at the sight of her.
Unraveling the girl’s identity remains the core focus of the story, but it does get woven into a greater narrative. A monstrous horde from a faraway land approaches, hellbent on waging war and destroying everything in its path. Few dare to oppose them, choosing to either live on the run or flee at the first hint of the horde’s approach. Worryingly, they seem to have particular interest in our amnesiac protagonist.
The art is exactly what I hoped for in a comic book. It nails that classic fantasy vibe that I see so rarely in the world of anime, and presents it in a gorgeous full-color artstyle. From the lush forests to the firey hellscapes of later chapters, these giant panels full of color do a great job at sucking you into world of Brindille. I especially love how the forest sometimes penetrates through the panels themselves, becoming a page-wide decoration instead of a mere background.
Brindille is usually a character-driven story revolving around a healthy balance of comedy and drama, but it’s also remarkably good at action scenes. Fights are exciting and full of cool moments, as warriors and beasts charge into one another, chopping and slashing away. There’s some blood & gore in there, though not an amount that is unsettling enough to take away from the plot.
However, this quality does come at a cost. Though Brindille makes for a fascinating story, it moves too quickly at times, to the point where entire story beats feel rushed. There is one bit where Brindille is told that a hero is coming who will fight for her, but this hero’s entire arc is then immediately resolved there and then. Brindille doesn’t even meet this hero, so this entire plot thread just becomes an unrelated fight scene that has no bearing on the actual protagonists. It looks cool, but I wish moments like these were as fleshed out as the chapters in the village or Brindille’s friendship with her animal compatriot.
The ending is also going to be divisive. I personally felt that the last few action scenes were great and that the finale hit the right emotional strings. On the other hand, you need to read deeper into the story and make symbolic associations in order to have the final answer make sense. I re-read the book a second time and spotted a lot of foreshadowing, but some of it was way too easy to overlook. Even then, some other events in the story still feel like unrelated asides rather than puzzle pieces, which is at least a little unsatisfying.
Has Brindille made me a comic enthusiast? Kinda. I did pick one other comic book series from the same store and I am open to the idea of getting more. It’s just that I am currently very selective and not-at-all sure what series are out there, which would be a good fit for me, and how I’d even get to read them. If anybody knows a reasonstocomics.com or the likes, I’d appreciate the help.