When Ewan was young he was told a story about the Castle of the Thousand-Year Labyrinth and the tragedy that occurred there. Now he’s woken up to find himself and seven other candidates to be the next emperor trapped inside.
From page one this story is kind of gripping. After we get the initial prologue we jump straight to Ewan waking up in the bottom of a well, not really sure how he got there (only remembering drinking tea with his brother which kind of made me think maybe the brother had drugged him, though that seemed less likely as the story went on). If I had to compare this opening to anything it would be the Canadian film Cube where a bunch of strangers wake up scattered throughout different rooms of a giant cube, meet and then try to escape.
The difference here is that most of the guys Ewan encounters are pretty clued in on what is going on and they figure out very quickly that they are candidates to become the next Emperor. Turns out everyone except Ewan is someone important (thief, detective, martial arts, etc). Which means I guess that Ewan is going to end up being the chosen one given they seemed to go out of their way to tie his waking up with the story of the Prince trapped in the labyrinth, two of the guys have now pledge to protect him, and he basically wouldn’t have any other purpose in the story if that isn’t how it goes.
However, predictability isn’t really a problem here because things just keep moving along in a very compelling manner. The characters and settings are well illustrated making this one of the few manga where I’ve actually appreciated taking the time to look carefully at each panel before moving on and while the cast of pretty boys are all the standard types we know from thousands of anime, their interactions have so far been pretty interesting.
It is clear each of them is bringing something to the party and that some of them are holding a few cards in reserve for a later play. Yet, none of them have come across as needlessly malicious so far. Even the thief, acting in his own self-interest, hasn’t directly gotten in the other’s way at this point. So while at this stage there is cooperation (kind of) in the group, it is clear that sooner or later some of these characters are going to strike out for their own ambition.
What is less clear is whether or not someone else has interfered with the process given the castle seems to be genuinely trying to kill them off and we’re told that the caretakers were killed prior to the candidates being locked in the castle. That could add some genuine intrigue to the story as we go forward.
However, I basically got to the end of this volume and immediately wanted to buy the next one (add yes, there is a heavy sequel bait ending but that wasn’t the only reason). From start to finish I enjoyed reading this and was absorbed by it. The traps are all your standard fare for this kind of story with rising flood waters, pressure sensitive tiles and the like but they’ve managed to provide enough variety and kept the pace moving along so there is no time to really feel bored.
While it was a short read, this volume was very satisfying and I do look forward to when I can get the next volume as I very much want to continue this story.
Thanks for reading.
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