One of the few and not so popular works based on real events throughout human history. This is the story of how a 12 year old shepherd accepts God’s message to reach Jerusalem and thus, reclaim it as many hoped back in 1212. This children’s crusade starts with only a handful of kids who most of them did not realize the gravity of their situation.
While this is not historically accurate, as the creator himself says in the last chapter, it tries to convey properly the workings of those days and the difficulties people, even more so our young main characters, had to endure. The starting
“fellowship” of Etienne, the shepherd, includes a variety of characters who exist to showcase different points of view, how they clash with one another and how that fellowship is a microcosm of the actual society then. There is the strong, adventurous one ready to slay some infidels; the intelligent one that prefers science over religions; the aristocratic brat; the wimp; the leper; the twins (twins were considered in a very bad light in general); the pure, naïve one that wants everyone’s happiness, etc. Each and every one of them represents a different part of society and together with their personal problems and traveling difficulties, everything spirals out of control. Because of that, there are various themes that are not so irrelevant to our present such as social and religious equality being considered bad, homosexual relationships, corrupted justice, betrayals over power, etc.
The pacing is pretty decent, even though it is a fairly short manga and it manages to capture the main problems of their journey and how idealistic it had been at the start. Faith, ideals, reality, intentions, logic, desire, fanaticism, power collide with each other while the characters mature through their obstacles. But as the actual crusade in 1212, this is not a happy story and it does not have a happy ending, but it is the journey that matters and how can still innocent children protect themselves from the adults’ arrogance and injustice and it perfectly shows how simple thoughts can destroy everything around them. However, the ending is satisfactory for a dark tale like this.
The characters, even though they do not have a stable development, there are evident changes on how they perceive things and how far are they willing to go to get what they want as the story progresses. As children during that time were considered as incomplete adults, there was barely any special treatment towards them and they had to grow up fast to be able to discern the truth and stand up for themselves. Not only that, but their personalities flourish even more when some of their past and their intentions are better explained and connect the dots to the story, though unfortunately that does not make them meet a better ending. Not all of them have that luck, but all of them are relatable to a point and even the unlikeable ones are understandable given their position and it is a fairly realistic approach.
The art is very detailed, catching the vibe of atmosphere at hand and each character is easily distinguishable. It is definitely memorable as it is not that common, it has a knack for dramatic or “visionary” scenes and it does not deteriorate throughout the work and although it is not 100% realistic, it has a good grasp on reality. Expressions are delivered well and it catches the eye as the story gets darker and the art complements those changes. While some of the characters designs can be called cute, it does not take away from the story as the art adjusted accordingly with the background and the occasion.
To be honest, this can be a hard read at times, because situations and social behaviors we now consider unacceptable, at the time they were considered perfectly normal and it is just sad to see kids facing the harsh reality without being prepared at all. Nonetheless, it is a work worth someone’s time and it can make them interested to know more about this event (at least, I was).