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The Sacred Blacksmith is a manga (Japanese comic book) based off the fantasy light novel series of the same name. Translated into English by Seven Seas Entertainment, this opening volume is presently available to buy digitally from Comixology or in printed form via all good online booksellers such as Amazon. This comic isn't the first time Isao Miura's novels have been adapted into a different media. I have previously enjoyed an animated version of The Sacred Blacksmith, which was my chief reason for tracking down this printed adaptation. If you wish, feel free to use this site's dandy search feature to find a more detailed review highlighting my thoughts on the aforementioned DVD.
Volume one takes place in a medieval world that is recovering from the effects of a brutal war, which saw human combatants get turned into monstrous living weapons via the use of now forbidden demon contracts. The book's protagonist is Cecily Cambell who is employed as a knight guard tasked with keeping the peace in the independent trade city of Housman. Cecily is in a bit of a bind as her trusty blade, a family heirloom that has been passed down the Cambell line for generations, has been damaged beyond repair. In order to continue her knightly duties our crimson haired heroine will have to find a replacement.
With this in mind Cecily tracks down Luke Ainsworth, an accomplished smithy who lives on the suburbs of town with his adorable elven assistant Lisa. Unfortunately for Cecily, Luke has given up on forging weapons and flat out refuses the knight's request to craft her a new sword. The trip to Luke's establishment isn't a total waste however as Cecily ends up having more luck in persuading Luke to aid the town guard, with his flashy Katana skills, in hunting down a group of bandits. The pair has no trouble tracking down the highway robbers in question, but they may have bitten more than they can chew when, in a moment of desperation, one of the thieves uses a demon contract to transform himself into a giant icy creature.
Prior to reading this comic I had heard, from various sources, that the manga version of The Sacred Blacksmith was far more serious than the animated series. Having read the book, from cover to cover, I am however left wondering what those reviewers were smoking when they formed that opinion. The three-part tale contained in this volume is just as lighthearted as the anime I am acquainted with. There's lots of playful bickering between the leads and funny situations, such as the blush inducing moment when Cecily stumbles upon the bandit group - who happen to be relieving themselves behind some bushes.
The book also includes some fan service, which the anime iteration was renowned for. I cannot recommend this title for younger readers as one of the panels treats us to exposed breasts, when Cecily selfishly protects Luke from icy projectiles that shred her clothing. I'm impressed that the shrapnel, which easily tore her breastplate, doesn't leave a single scratch on her bosom. What possible explanation can there be for this other than not tarnishing the eye candy? Um, this is a fantasy story so I suppose a wizard did it.
Overall I enjoyed this opening installment of The Sacred Blacksmith manga, although I was left wanting more as not much happens aside from a skirmish with bandits. The manga doesn't deviate far from the anime, although I suppose this version of Cecily is a little tougher than her animated counterpart. In the anime she initially has misgivings about harming others, but during the conflict with the bandits in this comic she doesn't have any qualms about slicing up her opponents once they piss her off.
The highlight of the book for me would have to be the gorgeous artwork. Artist Koutarou Yamada has previous experience in drawing fantasy/medieval adventures, having previously worked on the Fire Emblem mangas, and man does it show. He captures the character designs of the anime to a T and I was especially impressed by the level of detail on the glacial demon our heroes battle at the very end. He's also not bad at illustrating scratch resistant mammaries ;-)