Digging through the bookcase: Shining Force manga edition

Or to give it its proper title: Shining Force –Descent of Great Intention-, which fans of Sega’s classic SRPG series might recognise as a riff on the Japanese subtitle of the original Shining Force: “The Legacy of Great Intention”. Unfortunately that’s about as clever as this 1992/93 spinoff manga gets, but let’s not dwell on that for the time being.

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The story planning for this tale is credited to Masahiro Mutoh, someone who according to my brief Googling appears to not exist, and all art was handled by Yuichiro Tanuma, creator of manga series “Princess of Darkness” which is plastered with “Adults only” and explicit content warnings whenever I try to do some careful Googling for further information as well as (amongst other things) “Fat Boy Fairytale”, which I’ll admit I’m not even brave enough to try searching for.

But in any case, this non-canonical story is set a few years after the events of the original Shining Force and takes lead chap Verge along with his friends Shaun and Meg as a mini-Shining Force (apparently the qualifier for being a “Shining Force” is all in the mind, man) against a group of people who think kidnapping princesses and bringing back Dark Dragon are really ace ideas. On the way this Shining Force-lite naturally bump into a few familiar faces from the game, the most notable being Max, Anri and Musashi.

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The story doesn’t throw up any real surprises – love and friendship conquer all, bad guys lose, brave heroic sacrifices are made (that are of course reversed later on) – all the usual stuff. But in fairness it does actually does a decent job of mixing fantasy with sci-fi, just as Shining Force did. So all in all while it’s very much a manga story that just happens to have Shining Force things in it, it’s close enough that the references to the game generally feel welcome, while distant enough that you don’t feel as if it’s trying to force (ha!) itself into the series or that it’s stomping all over the regular characters.

However there’s no getting away from the fact that in some places this manga is plain NSFW. Now that isn’t a problem in and of itself, but when the source material generally gets as “risqué” as this…

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…and series fans (because really, who else is going to want to read a Shining Force tie-in manga?) are faced with (at least) this…2015-04-13 10.54.50

…it can’t really feel like anything less than massively out of place.

Oddly enough the NSFW-ness does come out feeling pretty “balanced” in the end – sure, there are far more gratuitous boobs in the book than there are bare manly butts, but at least there are some manly butts in there, and leading shonen Verge does spend an awful lot of the story mostly naked. But apart from Verge losing his clothes when plunged into molten lava (which does make quite a pleasant change from the usual indestructible-clothes-so-we-don’t-see-naked-people rule of all media ever) these NSFW scenes are neither relevant or, due to the need to show some restraint due to the use of Sega’s all-ages fantasy/sci-fi RPG IP, aren’t exactly erotic either. So you’re left with images like the above that show Princess Anri wearing a skin-tight leather “battle suit” sporting love puppies like warheads while in other scenes the lead baddie gets her post-bath boobs polished by a handmaiden and the whole thing ends up looking faintly ridiculous and unnecessary.

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I’ve been rather negative about this manga but overall it’s really not bad, it’s just not a particularly great use of the source material. Looking at it in a vacuum it’s a neat little story that gets on with things and has some decent enough action scenes even if the illustrations occasionally make it look as though characters are currently undergoing hip reconstruction surgery. So while this may not be some long-lost treasure of the 16-bit era that fans should feel aggrieved for missing out on if you can pick it up and have the means to read it Descent of Great Intention is an interesting enough window into the world of 90’s merchandise to make it worth an idle weekend’s read.