By Aki. Released in Japan by Ichijinsha, serialized in the magazine Comic Zero-Sum. Released in North America by Yen Press.

Yen Press has occasionally taken a flyer on short series that they can release as omnibuses, things that are somewhat off the beaten path. Sometimes this works out well (Dragon Girl), sometimes not so well (Sasameke). Olympos, a josei series about a petulant god and his captive human, seems to fall somewhat between those two camps, though I am ultimately pleased to have read it.

After a very well-handled fakeout of an opening, where we get teased about who the actual protagonist is supposed to be, things settle down. Ganymede, who people may recall from mythology, has been taken from his life and brought to a beautiful yet empty ruin, where he lives in stasis and occasionally has cross words with the god who has orchestrated all this, Apollo. The rest of the omnibus features Ganymede’s interaction with these gods, and Apollo’s attempts to amuse himself, which ultimately end up telling us more about the latter than the former.

The art style used here is very pretty and shoujo-esque. Deliberately meant to evoke androgyny, I found myself throughout the series forgetting that I wasn’t dealing with two women here. Even Poseidon, who is supposed to be big, burly and the masculine ideal, has a face that is very female. Of course, gender doesn’t really matter here – there’s no actual romance, except for the false start with Heinz and his doomed love. Still, the feminine faces are another way of showing that we’re dealing mostly with gods rather than man.

Easily my favorite part of the story was one that did not involve Ganymede at all. Instead, we flashback to a time when Apollo saw a temple being built in his honor, and began to interact with the sacrifice that had been offered to him. He refused to accept her, so she essentially hung around until he did. Iris, the sacrifice, is portrayed as a bit of a bubblehead, but her sweet and earnest devotion is rather cute, and you enjoy seeing Apollo open up to her, even if this leads to an inevitable conclusion.

By contrast, the weak point in the volume is Ganymede, who at the time we meet him has mostly grown rather resigned and bitter about his fate. There’s nothing particularly wrong with his conversations with Apollo, which tend towards the philosophical in regarding the nature of man and gods, but he does not stand out the way that the other gods (and Iris) do. Ganymede may be the focus of the book, but the show is clearly Apollo’s to steal.

I always enjoy seeing Japan dealing with Western mythology, and this is pretty well done. There’s a lot to think about here, involving Apollo’s relationship with Artemis, Poseidon’s desperate attempts at social climbing, and Zeus hovering above all, as unknowable to the other gods as they are to mankind. I do wish that the author had found a better way to go about conveying these ideas besides having everyone sit around and blithely discuss it. Don’t get me wrong, the discussions can be fascinating, but the utter lack of forward movement – even in the end, the manga simply stops rather than reaching a climax – makes the whole thing rather dry and dull, a bit like a textbook of Ancient Greece.

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