It comes as a surprise that Tales of Berseria has only recently made it to American audiences as manga, since it already has a popular anime and PS4 video game. Likely American publishers were hesitant, but with so many fans already into the series why not dive into the original source material? Kodansha Comics has released the first volume this month and in it, you’ll find epic Dungeons and Dragons-style fantasy, clever twists on fantasy tropes, and a great introduction to the main characters.
This is my first interaction with the series and I can safely say it’s a great place to start. It opens with a young girl named Velvet who looks after a young boy named Laphi, who has a fever. She’s pretty good at hunting boar and uses her abilities to capture some to get Laphi’s medicine. Soon we meet a somewhat cold magic-wielding man named Arthur who is known as an exorcist. Soon we learn daemons are appearing nearby and Velvet rushes back home. It’s not until the end of the chapter that Velvet’s life is changed forever. She becomes a daemon herself and is dubbed Velvet Crowe, but a special kind that eats other daemons. Soon she’s teaming up with a witch and a war daemon and they head out on a quest.
This is everything you’d want in a DnD campaign and then some. The opening chapter serves as a quick origin for Velvet and soon after the campaign is underway. She’s quickly meeting exorcists, other daemons, and even pirates on the journey. More than once I contemplated stealing this plot for a DnD campaign of my own one day as it’s filled with great twists, battles with giant monsters, and a strong emotional core to its characters. I can see why it suits anime and video game content since each character has a clearly defined personality that riffs off Velvet well. Their powers are all fit for a JRPG as well.
Creator Nobu Aonago does a good job establishing Velvet’s desire for revenge. In that first chapter, Arthur does something unspeakable that will get your blood boiling. She’s a character who keeps a steady hand, never getting overly emotional, which makes her a strong leader. We get a glimpse at the supporting characters who are backing her up, each of which has a comedic tilt with a flair for the chaotic. By the end of the manga, Velvet meets a new character who is practically Laphi reincarnated, but something is quite strange about them. This serves as a good lead-in for the next volume since the character is discovering the world much like we are.
The art is wonderfully kinetic in fight scenes. The basic design of each character is quite good save for the over-emphasis on breasts here and there. It doesn’t ever come across as exploitive though, and thankfully there are really no strange bent over shots. Instead, these characters are strong and in charge and you see that in the body language of the characters.
There is quite a bit of content in this first volume with plenty of battles. One such battle left me a bit bored however, after Velvet realizes she needs a new ship. She must fight a guild and it’s all rather forced and thrown together. It seems like a fight scene that was mandated as things move along much smoother after this altercation.
If you like high fantasy, you’ll love this. It has all the makings of a Lord of the Rings-style epic with interesting twists on traditional magic-wielding characters.