Title: Bronze no Tenshi Genres: Drama, historical, josei, romance Author: Saito Chiho Artist: Saito Chiho Publication: Shogakukan (flowers magazine) Start Date: 2004 End Date: 2007 Number of chapters at review: 28 (16 were scanlated) Number of chapters read by reviewer: 28
General Overview: (please let me use the introduction by Storm in Heaven)
Russia, 1828. Natalia's family is fallen nobility, left poor by her father's chronic illness and mother's poor management. Her family's only chance at revival is her marriage to a wealthy noble. With her family's hopes riding on her future husband, what chance does a poor poet have at winning her heart...?
And the "poor poet" is no other than the famous Russian poet Aleksandr Pushkin.
Category Ratings: (1-10 scale)
Exquisite, it's full of elegance and delivered both distinct and hidden messages so well that I'm no longer bothered to check for correctness in anatomy of the characters, etc. Through the series, the art just flew spontaneously and correspondingly with the purposes and the tensions of the conversation. I was hardly interrupted by a panel of contradiction or awkwardness because of the failed art. Natalia's naked beauty was piercing. Saito Chiho's drawing style for bishounen males and graceful females also fit the Russian nobility setting in 19 century perfectly, if you don't expect everything being set on absolute reality.
Several works of Pushkin were brought up constantly along with the main story. The revolutionary scent was all around and the main roles were the regulars in the Russian court society. However, the manga focused on the thoughts and emotions of a few main characters mostly, so it could be less enjoyable if you're not into the drama and serious love stories.
That aside, the plot itself is what I love most about Bronze no Tenshi. It had such an intensity and the storytelling was breathtaking. Granted, the major twists of the plot are the same as the biography, but the mangaka did create the bridges connecting each piece of information and made up untold details so well. The story went confidently to a clear depth and affective tension. It developed intellectually and understandingly. The thrilling moments, the depressing, uneasy, sad moments, they felt real without any exaggerated force.
Pushkin is convincing as an enthusiastic, loving and worshipable poet. Though I didn't find the other characters to be as interesting and outstanding as the ones from the mangaka's older works (i.e. Kakan no Madonna and Kanon). There were times when I wished for something more in characters like the Tsar. Nonetheless, they're all generally entertaining and fulfilled the plot well (for example, Natalia's insensibility and ignorance truly put me in quite an irritated state at times). The character development was natural and rational, and the supporting roles were also nice enrichments.
Although, if you're going to match the roles with how they're supposed to be in reality, their personalities and attitudes can be more idealistic as the mangaka didn't follow what was described in the history fully, but she used mostly her own imagination and standard for them, and also seemed to try having them remained more or less likeable or honorable in order to create an impressive and memorable story.
I honestly have a difficult time figuring out a story's theme from Bronze no Tenshi, but if I have to dig out one, I think it's as simple and cliché as that "love is heavenly and hellishly powerful". In my view, while the series is like a fairytale version of Pushkin's biography, it focused on his devotion towards his love as well as on Natalia's developing emotions and her love story. And the three kinds of affection were all there: a crush, lust, and love expressed not only by Pushkin and Natalia but via several roles in this series.
A love story of existing people from history that based on what was written almost precisely – Chieko Hosokawa's "Daughter of the Nile" is the only manga I've ever read that comes as close to it. Yamato Waki created some romance in old periods setting, and there're just a few titles of the others that are related with the age of revolution. Though maybe the dramatic moments and the twists in Bronze no Tenshi aren't so original or unpredictable for the love plot, but even under the same situation the realism and the intensity can be quite different.
The series is just beautiful despite the scores on individual parts. The love matter was heavy, I was fully occupied reading it because the storytelling was quite intriguing. It's also a good escape from general shoujo/josei series with the modern setting and those that wander about the ordinary life.
However, it would be different to read the manga after having acknowledged about Pushkin's history, as even if you could still enjoy the beauty and intensity of the series, knowing the info firsthand is seeing through the whole plot, I think that could spoil it a lot.