Sunday, August 14, 2016

Final Fantasy Type-0 Side Story Vol. #4 Manga Review

Some things are more important than the champions' mission

Creative Staff:
Art: Takatoshi Shiozawa
Supervision/Character Design: Tetsuya Nomura
Translation: Alethea and Athena Nibley
Lettering: Katie Blakeslee and Lys Blakeslee

What They Say:
From the ashes of tragedy rises unbridled strength. Those four, wrought by suffering and burdened with despair, will overcome insurmountable odds to become known as the Four Champions of Rubrum.

The Review:
Content: (Please note that the content portion of the review may contain spoilers)
Phew. Following a relatively underwhelming and confused third volume, this fourth installment of the Final Fantasy Type-0 Side Story picks back up and brings us the same enjoyable, character-driven story we grew accustomed to in the first two volumes. Picking up right where volume three left off, we remain locked in the intense battle between Kurasame and the Milites army. After chopping off the opposing commander's arm (Evil glove and all), Kurasame proceeds to shut down the entire enemy force and get back to Takatsugu. However, things aren't faring well for him. Kurasame winds up throwing his commanding officer over his shoulder only to have him pass away on the way back to the rendezvous point. Though, that isn't until after Takatsugu has a brief, albeit touching monologue about the future for Kurasame.

This scene is extremely impactful and once again brutally forces the overwhelming despair and the meaning of death in the Type-0 universe.

When Kurasame returns to Akademia, he meets up with Aoi and the two terminate their relationship because "their paths are too different." Jeez, you don't say? Like I said in my last review, this romance served literally no purpose whatsoever and shouldn't have even been incorporated into the series. Aoi's entire character was nothing but a momentary distraction from the underlying meaning of Type-0 altogether. Now that she's finally out of the way, we can get back to the task at hand -- the extermination of Milites and Cid Ausltyne.

On their next mission, the four champions of Rubrum once again branch off in different directions. Kurasame, being the newly-proclaimed "Ice Reaper" goes off by himself while the other three champions remain elsewhere, fighting the bulk of the army. In the midst of Kurasame's defense mission, he comes across a brand new [Effing awesome] enemy, Morse (Or, the 'Wonder Boy' of Milites). Obsessed with the idea of being a hero, Morse puts up a hell of a mental fight with Kurasame before claiming that he will serve as his new mentor because the two are essentially the same person. Morse then vanishes and leaves Kurasame on his own.

Meanwhile, things aren't going all that well for the remaining champions. Somehow or another, a Milites soldier managed to trap Kotetsu's leg in ice, prompting Guren to divert his attention to protecting his comrade. Being a hero and understanding what will happen should Guren continue to focus on him, Kotetsu literally casts firaga on his own damn leg in a totally unprecedented act of manliness suitable only to how badass his character is. Unable to walk, Kotetsu gives up on life. Just as he is about to be executed, Kurasame shows back up and saves the day once again. Everyone goes home happy.

In the middle of the night, while Kotetsu is still locked away in the infirmary, Guren wanders off to bring his ally some food (Considering Miwa ate his lunch earlier on). However, before he can reach him, he stumbles across a mysterious, open door.

The next day, we receive news that Guren has 'betrayed the dominion'. But...something still seems amiss. We never saw what was behind that door but, according to the cadet master, Guren stole classified documents and just straight up vanished. Of course, this mission (At least for the champions) becomes searching for Guren to figure out exactly what the hell is going on.

After receiving a cryptic message from Emina about 'catching the Cactuar should he ever lose his cape,' Kurasame sets out in search of his friend while, at the same time, conducting an assassination attempt on the leader of the Milites Empire. When Guren is eventually uncovered, it isn't all rainbows and butterflies for the three champions. Apparently, Guren has no intentions on going back to Akademia because he 'has something more important to do'. Of course, this shocks us just as much as it shocks his comrades. Just what exactly did Guren find in that room?

As if this wasn't enough, Guren vanishes once again and...oh, here comes Morse. Just as it always has to be with him, Kurasame verbally bashes Morse and his obsession with heroism before bringing him to his knees and defeating him. However, Kurasame never finishes Morse off. Instead, he just walks away like the badass ice reaper he is, leaving the antagonist in tears and questioning his ideals as a whole. This type of verbal defeat is actually even more powerful than a physical one, considering the type of person Morse is. The only thing is, this leaves him room to come back once more, should he find the moral resolve to do so.

In Summary:
This extremely eventful installment of the Final Fantasy Type-0 Side Story is the most impressive one since the debut volume -- which is exactly what was needed to repair the marks left from the previous one. Aoi is finally gone and, in her place, we have received the most interesting antagonist yet - Morse. Being somewhat of an anti-Kurasame, Morse allows for a rapid increase in development for our protagonist while remaining terrifying and pure evil all throughout the book. In addition to these two, Miwa has a few character-defining moments that go on to reshape our opinion of her as well. Guren's disappearance and 'betrayal of the dominion' creates an entirely new conflict that is both internal and external for everyone involved. In just several chapters, Type-0 has completely turned around and become significantly more enjoyable and interesting than ever before. With just one volume left to go, I'm incredibly excited to see how this all ties up.

Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: B+
Packaging Grade: B-
Text/Translation Grade: B+

Age Rating: 16+
Released By: Yen Press
Release Date: April 26, 2016
MSRP: $12.99

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