By Isao Miura and Kotaro Yamada. Released in Japan as “Seiken no Katanakaji” by Media Factory, serialization ongoing in the magazine Comic Alive. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
In general, the review of Sacred Blacksmith is simple. This is a fantasy manga that takes place in a world recovering from a Demon war, which features girls with swords, bandits, elf-girl companions, etc. If you like fantasy like that, this is probably right up your alley. It doesn’t seem to have too much problematic content so far – the hero completely and utterly outclasses the heroine, but she also gets her share of badass things to do. If I have any complaints, it’s that I wasn’t really ‘wowed’ by anything in it – “a pretty good read” is not a bad thing, but doesn’t add up to 500 words very often.
There is the old standard “the anime changed things and made male fans hate the girl more” discussion, which I’ve used before in talking about Zero’s Familiar. Cecily as seen in the manga is an OK swordswoman who gets by on guts a lot, but doesn’t back away from an enemy and has a few badass moments towards the end of the volume. In the anime, I’m led to understand, she’s a lot less competent, because… well, no idea. She’s also a tsundere, and we know how much male Western fandom hates them. The manga at one point does the “it’s my fault I’m naked in front of you but I’m embarrassed so will hit you anyway” standard, and I was amused that Luke immediately called her on this.
As for Luke, he clearly has a tragic past, and does not suffer fools gladly, but at least isn’t outright horrible to Cecily, possibly as this isn’t a shoujo manga. His familiar Lisa is there to be adorable, and she is indeed cute as a button. The art is also very good at showing the awfulness of the demonic casting, and several scenes made me wince as people were basically possessed (and sometimes consumed) by monsters. There’s sort of a tense peace going on as the book begins, and the plot is no doubt going to be attempting to stop that peace.
There’s also a lot of discussion of katanas, which are unknown to this fantasy world that is no doubt supposed to be Western Europe. Lisa even has a long, mostly textual discussion at the end of the book on how they are made and why they are superior to straight Western swords. The katana is a nice weapon, but there’s just a touch of ‘and this is why Japan is better’ to the whole thing (not that this is exclusive to this series – off the top of my head, Attack on Titan is doing similar things as well). The action scenes are solid as well, which speaks well to the artist. I never had to go back and reread to figure out what was happening.
So while there’s nothing really wrong with Sacred Blacksmith after one volume, I’m not sure it has enough oomph to really excite me either. It seems like the authors are making tick boxes on a ‘fantasy anime franchise’ checklist. Hopefully a second volume will give me a bit more to chew on.