Finally! After almost 30 years since it was released, I have finally managed to grab hold of a copy of Crystal Dragon by ASHIBE Yuho (クリスタル・ドラゴン by あしべゆうほ).
And guess what?
… The series is still NOT COMPLETED!
Crystal Dragon has been ongoing since its first release in 1981 on a more or less stop-go basis. It is currently put on hiatus at vol 25 for its author to focus on her other work, Akuma no Hanayome, which is also ongoing over the last 3 decades! More in-depth descriptions about the story can be found here.
I have purposely postponed reading Crystal Dragon for as long as I could since I was put off by the fact that it is an uncompleted series – You know that horrible feeling of being left “cliffhanged”, uncertain of when this is ever going to be picked up again…. this is exactly the kind of feeling that I’d dread with respect to Crystal Dragon!
BUT after reading the first few volumes, I was already blown away by its absolutely stunning artwork. Indeed the artwork is very “old-school”, but it is exactly that kind of 70’s drawing techniques which made the depictions even more convincing and enticing in an epic manga like this.
You know how there were sometimes readers complaining about characters looking confusingly similar in any (shoujo) manga series? It is certainly not the case in Crystal Dragon, in that each character was given a distinctive personality and appearance, for instance Arian’s (the heroine) dark hair that led to her becoming an apprentice druides, the mysterious Legion and his silky silver hair and et al….
Characters (descriptions from Wikipedia):
Alian – The heroine of the story was a little girl of Grian Conor tribe in Erin island. She was often teased for her dark hair and being the green-eye “changeling child” (Celts were light haired people, so if a child was born with a really dark hair, they believed that elves/fairies came and exchanged the baby with their own.) After she met the mysterious Legion, who named her “Alian” which means “The Silver Wheel”, she became a pupil of the druid Driscoll and later became a powerful magic wielder.
Legion – The silver warrior from the Crystal Palace who acts alongside the elves and other magical beings. In the earlier chapters, Legion appears as a mysterious traveller and then mostly as Legion’s Spirit instead in later chapters.
Heinruda – Childhood friend of Alian and also Alian’s tribal chieftain’s daughter. Later become a wife to Soril. She accompanies Alian through her journey. After being captured by Balor, she was later cursed with Balor’s black blood on her forehead and became under his control since.
Balor of the evil eye – The chief of Goth tribe. He wants to conquer all the tribes of Europe and almost attacks the Roman Empire. His right eye is often covered to control the fearful and immortal power that was casted upon him by Elata, his druides sister.
Since he felt his unusual attraction towards Alian who seeks to avenge him for destroying her tribe, Balor ordered Glivis to recapture Alian for him.
Glivis – Balor’s red hair servant and perhaps the only person who dares to unveil the cover on Balor’s immortal evil eye. In spite of Glivis’ loyalty to Balor, Alian gradually developed a partnership/friendship with him as she found his integrity and trustworthy personality throughout their adventures.
Soril the Barbarian – A mighty warrior, and the potential chieftain of a Viking tribe, was also a Roman galley slave until Alian sets him free. Later became Heinruda’s husband.
Elata, Balor’s druidess sister.
Adley Mirhar – Chieftain of the Hening tribe which was soon eradicated by Balor’s forces. Mirhar was killed but later resurrected as Razmor.
Bori – The boy Alian met in the ghost valley, he help her flee from Balor.
Paralda (left), queen of wind spirits and Aegir (right) the sea giant.
Some readers have commented on the similarities between Crystal Dragon and NAKAYAMA Seika’s Alfheim no Kishi in terms of their genre, i.e. both being epic fantasy adventure shoujo manga, featuring celtic/ nordic folk tales and faries. However, whilst Alfheim no Kishi displays many romantic elements in its story (i.e. adhering to its shoujo roots), Crystal Dragon, based on a combination of Irish mythology, Celtic and Nordic folk tales as well as the history of Roman empire, looks set to remain as a narrative of adventure and friendship (which often reminds me of Lord of the Rings!)
Apart from it being an uncompleted series, there was also a noticeable change in ASHIBE Yuho’s drawing styles towards the later volumes – not that it was a real bother to me (at least compared to the significant change in her artwork between Akuma no Hanayome and its sequel!).
But I really could not help but feeling that direction of the storyline also seems to have changed, if not lost. The story plots (since around vol 20) are becoming more and more confusing, for instance the illusive Legion would now often appear in between the dreams of somebody else’s dreams?
In the previous chapters, Balor gave me the impression of somewhat a “symapthetic villain”; he was forced to accept the evil power that was casted upon him by his sister in order to advance his power in the tribe when he was younger. But as Balor grew older and became more powerful as the chieftain, he demonstrated his confidence and control by all means. Natually, I’d imagine Balor would show some kinds of resistance towards the power of evil eye as it became stronger inside him? But on contrary, by vol 25, it seems as if Balor has gladly welcomed the effects of evil eye on the “transformation” on his tribe as well as himself.
Moreover, the significance (if there was) of Balor being unusually attracted to Alion in their first encounter was still being left unanswered – was there supposed to be a meaning to it actually, besides being a tiny trace of romantic trait of a shoujo manga!????
By vol 25, Crystal Dragon seems to be heading to an endless end at which stage I felt I have been left with even more confusions and questions. Nonetheless, for those who are interested in a relatively fast-paced epic fantasy adventure (shoujo) manga, or wanting merely to adore some beautiful manga artwork of the 70’s, Crystal Dragon is highly recommended! 🙂
*Edit: According to the Irish mythology, Balor was covinced of the prophecy that he was to be killed by his grandson. To avoid his fate, he locked his daughter, Ethlinn, in a tower made of crystal to keep her from becoming pregnant. However, Ethlinn was rescured and later bore triplets for her rescure; one of them eventually blinded and killed Balor in the end…
… and that makes me wonder if there is a “hint” on Crystal Dragon about the new born baby girl who everyone thought was the child of Balor but in fact of his wife’s lover…. hmmm.