Belca Noctircus is the son of a commoner and the King of Noctircus. He is the third prince in the royal Noctircus family and is third in line for the throne. Soon after coming back from abroad, his brother and the crown prince of Noctircus, Hector, reveals his amibition to create peace with the Amonel, a race considered to be monsters but mysteriously dies from a chronic disease. Belca and his other older brother, Orcelito discovers the conspiracy behind Hector's death and Belca is nearly killed because of it. However, he is saved by a wandering bard/scholar named Eco. Meanwhile Orcelito is taken by Lagen, whose son, a young nobleman, locks him up and manipulates him to do things by Lagen's bidding and wishes.
Fans of many series claim that their favorite manga demands special reader skills, but I say +C: Sword and Cornett makes you a real vet – it’s like a Stalingrad of straggling narratives. The plot is constantly growing, the cast is huge, the narrative freely shifts time and jumps between the many plotlines, and in the latter stages a bad translation descends in its unholy glory (in a story with politics, no less), making chances for survival of even the most battle-hardened scarce. (I am pained to say this, since fan translators are like gods to me, but in the later chapters of +C you
have to guess the initial meanings of the lines.) Though this catastrophe is not the usual kind, where parts are poorly stacked together, but rather like a natural process of a plant growing out of itself, leaving the center dead.
So why is it getting a 6 from me? It’s because it has a huge strength where it matters: cast. It’s josei, and it has what female writers can excel in – an interconnected, dramatic, dynamic cast with chemistry recognized and moving the story.
Also this is a real, wholesome epic political fantasy adventure, one with no self-insert characters, gaming jokes or random stripping (we’ll come back to the fanservice later), which is, if you think about it rather rare.
Even though this praise is relevant only for a part of its length.
You see, this manga’s plot develops in concentric circles. At first it’s a rather simple story about an illegitimate child prince making a stand involuntarily and about a case of racial oppression. Then the author starts to add new details, secrets of the past and motivations, using the expansionist logic, we see in fictional universes, developed commercially – new things are written around the old structure and new views are brought in as secret truths. It brings the story to its peak, when it becomes a complicated system of different people acting out their agendas, with unlikely alliances forming and your favorites clashing deliciously, a sort of a thing the Song of Ice and Fire could be at the start. And then it brings the story to its downfall, when it becomes too bloated for the initial momentum to bear, and you start to feel like all the new events are the ending postponed, even though it technically could go on forever. The author mercifully delivers the coup de grace.
You stay till the end because of the characters. There’re two main plotlines and two main princes – an illegitimate child, Belca (btw, it reads like “squirrel” in Russian, now you’ll suffer too!), one with a golden heart and a story about finding his footing and righting wrongs, and Orcelito, stuck in a shades of grey political hell. I like the story of the second more. I don’t want to spoil, but here this manga does a truly amazing thing. There is this frequent mistake in fiction. Let’s say, you read a first book in a series, and it introduces an antagonist – a well-thought out interesting character. He teams up with the heroes for a bit, and their chemistry is off the charts. You start to like him and want him to stick around. But the writer for some reason is hell-bent of turning the guy into a moustache-twirling final evil, which is incredibly disappointing. This thing doesn’t happen here.
A honorary mention goes to the kindergarten-aged princess Muska (btw, it reads like “little fly” or a “beauty spot” in Russian, now suffer with me doubly!), who is amazingly racist, classist (because upbringing), innocent and kind simultaneously.
The supporting cast is diverse, almost everyone has his or her own story. You’ll find a couple of your personal pet peeves, as did I, of course, but it’s almost unavoidable in a cast this big.
Oh, and to avoid misunderstanding – this is an entertaining adventure, so there are a lot of comedic moments, mostly successful, which includes a bit of crossdressing.
Talking about fanservice, as I promised above: there is an open shounen-ai relationship and plenty of shipping bait. Personally I didn’t find this problematic. The one thing I can’t stand is the hidden unmotivated tension, but here you are not coerced to ship anything – there’s one open master-servant crush (not too annoying, just happens) and the rest is up to you to fill with romance or it can easily be read as friendships.
I know it’s not good for a review, but I can’t briefly sum up the art. I don’t exactly like it, but I believe that it carries the story well. I find it memorable. It’s a bit cartoonish, but this is typical for fantasy manga. It’s very narrative as in it doesn’t go for purely pretty frames as often as many mangas I know. It is rich in detail, offers plenty of beautiful uniforms and clothes, the designs of the important royal jewelry are very nice.
Sometimes it’s not easy to tell people apart though, and the environments do feel generic at times, which makes it hard to follow the non-linear episodes. On the other hand, I respect how well the author handles group scenes. We’re often shown top-down views of the events, so it’s easy to understand who is where, and the positioning and poses of people are well-thought out and informative. But I can’t nail the style in it’s entirety, so in the end I can only recommend to check it out for yourself. I don't think it will suit everybody.
It’s up to you too whether you want to fight the entropy that ate this manga and the warp demons of translation to get to the good part. After all, this good part is also a sort of a quantum state of different possibilities coexisting for a while. On the other hand, this is a bona-fide plot-driven historical fantasy josei with politics, which is rarer than unicorns, and it’s perfectly readable and enjoyable at times. Also in all honesty, the peak state of the intrigue here has few contenders among manga.
So: +C: Sword and Cornett can be recommended to the readers who value characters above everything else and to the fans of the political intrigue fantasy. But I’d advise patience at the beginning and being accepting of the fact that the narrative is visibly evolving (and ultimately falling apart) in the process.
1. Too many characters are introduced in the latter half of the story through connections with the side characters as opposed to the main protags/Antags, which leads me to not care as much for what’s going on as these characters then have little to no gravity to the plot/story and I really fell out of love with this manga consequently around the late 30s early 40s chapters (there are 51 chapters in this manga)
2. Every so often throughout the manga, at the introduction of a new scene (a scene change) there would be this rectangle in one of the top corners of
the page (Ex. NEU FAUVRILLE, EAST SIDE OF TOWN). This had text in it to signify the setting of where the scene was, but this rectangle was inconsistently used, unfortunately. Now, I don’t need a rectangle to tell me of a scene change, I can tell by other cues, but then just get rid of the rectangle if that’s the case. I would’ve liked it to be consistent- used for every scene change. Instead, it did a lazy/lousy job, only coming in every few scenes.
Scenes would change without this rectangle and I’d have to tell by the other cues that we weren’t in Kansas anymore, Todo…
3. The story wasn’t anything original. This isn’t to say that unoriginal stories are particularly bad per say, but when the thoughts that a reader has when opening up the pages are “I’ve been here before”, then that isn’t very compelling. It’s why so many people I know have fallen out of love with a lot of the marvel/DC movies as of late- it’s the same shlock. This story starts off with an illegitimate son of some royal king being caught up in political upheaval and taking his own reigns in the story. There is also another race of people who are dehumanized and thought of to be evil that the royal families and royal citizens of the main town of the story despise. The main character has long black hair and has a younger sister who is a bit naive and too optimistic as she is then more connected to the royal family as opposed to her half-brother. Sound familiar?Yeah. Code Geass… and possibly many other stories.
I give this manga a 5 (or if we going by the average of the scores I've given uptop, then it is a 6.8) and I’m as disappointed as anyone else is who probably liked this work. Seeing how it only got 1,000+ ratings from people on here, I was interested in its underrated and/or underdogged reception. However, I can sadly see why it hasn’t broken its barriers of being unheard of and that it is in fact not a hidden gem.
The first few chapters of this manga really pulled me in - I loved the main cast of characters and the premise of the story. Belca, Orcelito, and Kiliko in particular were fun to read about as they developed over time. Eco, on the other hand, was a character with a very interesting background who intrigued me a lot initially, but over time he seemed to be reduced to a characature of himself. I did enjoy that the story wasn't overtaken by romantic interactions.
The final third portion of the manga became increasingly difficult to follow (as the manga began to jump around in location
and the time line more often, and as more supporting characters were added). I also felt like the ending was a little anticlimactic. If the manga had ended with the same strength that it had begun with., I would have rated it a 9. Overall, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a story with politics and world-building.
We have a crown prince born out of wedlock, a mysterious bard, a shunned tribe of people, and power-hungry government officials pulling the strings from the shadows. Put it all together, and what do we get? One amazing manga!
The story takes you back to a time and place where corrupt nobles take advantage of the fact that the king of the country is sick and unable to rule well. Enter Belca, (the crown prince born out of wedlock) an outcast who wants nothing to do with royalty. With his brother, Orcelito (legitimiate crown prince), Belca accidentally uncovers one of the nobles' well kept secrets.
When the brothers try to escape, Belca and Orcelito get separated; Orcelito is left at the mercy of the nobles while Belca is rescued by a stranger. Thus begin Belca's adventures!
This manga has a little bit of everything: theres a dash of cross-dressing, a hint of shounen-ai, a pinch of romance, a dark and twisted plot and LOTS of comical scenes.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE this art. It looks so clean and simple, yet when you look closely, there are all these amazing details. . .
Additionally, its not so easy to draw. My friend and I have both attempted to draw Eco, one of the characters, and it took us forever to come up with a (barely) decent imitation. Mind you, we both got over 90's in art class.
The characters are really amazing too. Everyone has a distinct personality. There's Prince Orcelot, who's adorable and optimistic, but has no idea of how evil people can be. There's prince Belca who doesnt realize his own value, feels like an outsider in his own home, yet does everything he can for those who are loyal to him. He is open to new ideas and has shown considerable growth in just 2 volumes. And there's Eco (my personal favorite) who's funny and quirky, but extremly devious and clever.
You feel like you know these characters as you read the manga (well, at least I did).
I enjoyed this. A lot. You will too. Definitely. As long as you give it a try. Its not some boring history textbook. It focuses on characters and their relations to history. As you read, you wonder "how will this character react?" or "what will happen to this person?" and the characters never fail to surprise you.
+C: Sword and Cornett is (according to MyAnimeList's definition of a "10") outstanding. If you're looking for something to read, or even if you're not, I suggest you give it a try. See for yourself, you wont be disappointed~