Wednesday, 12 August 2009 17:44

Heaven Sent (Manga, 2005)

Written by 

Overview

What happens when your guardian angel falls in love with you? Kyle Taylor is about to find out this and more, or at least he would if this story were to actually concentrate on that at all instead of this quasi religious war between Heaven and Hell that his involvement in is, at best, completely worthless and unnecessary. Indeed, with the way this story goes, scenes like this are nonexistent, but then so is any coherent story telling, as I'll elaborate below.


Review

Anyone here ever watched the movie "Made in Heaven"? Yeah. Uh huh. Got it. Right then. Looks like a lot have. Now that I've gotten that song "We Never Danced" stuck in your heads again, I'd like to direct your attention to a rather obscure little manga by Antarctic Press known as "Heaven Sent."

Given the cover art and general one line description, "What do you do if your guardian angel falls in love with you?" you'd think it'd wind up being something on the order of "Made in Heaven". This is what I thought by reading the description in the back, which also talked of a war in heaven, which I figured had the potential to go into the philosophical war of 'heaven' and 'hell' within us all given the love story vibe coming off this book.

Before we begin the main review, it's important to note a few things, such as the similarities "Made in Heaven" had with the surreal and very touching aspects of the love story in "Oh! My Goddess!" dealing very much with the divine, how it relates to the imperfect and often conflicting, if not outright contradictory, nature of humanity...and how the two can truly love each other. It is well known at this juncture how "Oh! My Goddess!" has gotten a bit sidetracked from this plot point for the past...twenty years or more (JESUS CHRIST! MORE THAN TWENTY FUCKING YEARS!) opting instead to concentrate more on the things happening all around the couple which has practically stalled their relationship ad infinitum. Which is fine, because always there was this undercurrent in all the writing that related back to this very surreal love story...it was the reason everything else was happening. It helps that "Oh! My Goddess!" is extremely well drawn and an extremely well told and coherent story...even with this constant meandering, it's easy to keep up with everything that's going on and see how everything is relating to everything else. I'm guessing this would be how the story of the movie "Made in Heaven" would have been told if the movie had practically an unlimited amount of time to be told. Instead, the love story of and between heaven and mortality became the only story told, everything happening serving to further this one simple thing, rather than it becoming the subtle undercurrent driving everything like in "Oh! My Goddess!"

The basic gist of what I'm getting at is that what looked liked what was being sold in "Heaven Sent" was the fusion of the two stories of "Oh! My Goddess!" and "Made in Heaven". Basically an author having grown tired of the entire "Well get there when we get there," mentality of "Oh! My Goddess!" (not that there's anything wrong with this in and of itself) but wanting to meander around a little more than "Made in Heaven" and so taking this opportunity to craft a story just like that. It's actually a good idea; one I'd like to explore myself sometime...and it looks like any attempt I make at it will be more valid now than it was before.

The reason for that is simple. "Heaven Sent" is one of the most chaotically written, badly thought out, pieces of shit fuck that has ever been put to ink and paper. It's as badly penned as "Rosario + Vampire" or "Tenjo Tenge", though not with nearly the quality of artwork. This is not to say the artwork is bad, it's not. It is, however; done in far more simplistic retro style that one sees in the likes of late 80's or early 90's works like the early volumes of "Oh! My Goddess!" and "Urusei Yatsura." This style has generally been abandoned for a more detailed presentation due to the higher tech tools and techniques now available to a manga-ka. Sadly, the artwork is really all this story has going for it; everything else is as stated before.

One of the largest problems the author had was that he really didn't know what sort of story he wanted to tell: a metaphysical love story or a DC Superhero comic. More importantly he obviously lacks the skill to properly fuse said concepts into a non jarring, well paced, coherent whole. I assume he does better in more pure books, such as Ninja High School (given its incredibly long run) and where he probably drew quite a bit of his inspiration from, Warrior Nun Areala (also a pretty long running book). Trying to put a metaphysical love story into the middle of human catholic oriented warrior priests versus the armies of Hell is something that caused the writing to just fall flat.

The lion's share of problems had to do with the shear amount of logical inconsistencies dealing with the application of such a story to Judaeo–Christian religious mythology. Most of what went on had no point at all. Other actions, such as Sarah's vendetta against a Roman Emperor already doomed to eternal suffering in Hell, make absolutely no sense...you'd think there would be rules against that sort of thing, being that GOD already passed judgment, if they just couldn't convince her he's, you know, IN HELL! The entire Anti-God story-line was the result of someone who had absolutely no idea what in the living shit he was writing or any application of logical thought at all. Rather than being an actual 'Anti-God' this creature was simply channeling the powers of the Adversary using a ritual and devices based super mathematical equations, which were all bullshit since Lucifer pops up left and right going, "'sup, hommies?" To further add to the pointlessness, this is the very same Diablo who was already chucked out of Heaven by an irate God like one would stomp on an insect, and who, in the course of the story, was already noted he was going to loose the final battle. Yeah, let that one sink in for a moment. Personally, I don't deal with individuals playing a rigged game, but the above sounds like utter lunacy.

On the subject of Satan in this story, the guys from DC Comics really need to rip these jerks a new one. Their Akuma here was ripped straight out of his portrayal in DC Comics; his character design practically copied and pasted right down to his hair style. While honestly a rather kick ass presentation of the guy, this story turned him into...well, to be honest, he was kinda just there. Then there was the near end, when Sarah begs him for forgiveness due to the temerity of Kyle Taylor actually challenging him. Shit, after what I just read, I'd be looking at The Lord of the Flies in pity for being such a goddamn loser in this situation. Given Sarah's utter contempt for Beelzebub's rules, power, and authority, her asking for clemency makes about as much sense as me kicking Darkseid in the nuts and expecting to live.

These are some of the more glaring problems, and certainly not all of them, but if the author couldn't even get this worked out in some coherent fashion, you can imagine how the entire 'love story' between Sarah and Kyle was handled. Hell, I'm not even sure there WAS a love story of any sort past some minor infatuation about a pretty girl...with wings. This right here represents a travesty in and of itself, since nomming on cute wing-girls, elf girl cuddling, and animorph girl tail petting is practically mandatory and should be the primary focus of all such stories.

Sorry, still kinda warm and fuzzy after watching Clannad ep 9.

To explain this total cop-out of a story, the author actually places in his second volume a disclaimer. It states something to the effect that he was not trying to write a religious piece, but a decent story with certain elements based on Judaeo–Christian religious mythology. This is fine...if that's what was actually done. The point of this whole review was to show that what this author thinks he succeeded at, was in fact, an epic fail of biblical proportions; pardon the pun.

The biggest piss-me-off is the shear amount of potential this whole premise had. Like 'Rosario + Vampire', there were enough good ideas floating around to keep one writing and an audience entertained for awhile, as that seemed to be the end goal. Instead, it's as if author has been penning stuff for so long, that he doesn't feel the need to submit it to an editor who would take malicious glee in pointing out logical inconsistencies, lack of story focus, and plot fallacies in order to put out the best story he could...or even took the time to reality check himself. It's either lazy or incompetent, and I can't tell which or how much of either went into this.

To give some small measure of praise to this story; at the very end there's a rather touching little fable, completely unrelated to the main story, about a boy who finds an injured bird, and takes care of it...find out that it's really more than meets the eye. The beauty of this bed time story leads credence to the idea that the author can, in fact, write a good story, if his focus is kept on a singular story type. This was simple, direct, and quite lovely...nearly a work of art even. Which leads one to really wonder what the author was thinking when he wrote that other drivel.

In short, this one is a waste of ink. Don't even bother with it, even for the retro pretty pictures or the final extra chapter. Since it doesn't seem like the author is capable of sending his shit to an editor worth their salt, it falls to the rest of us to remind him of when he fucks up by hitting him in the pocket book...and not buying his stories when he writes shit.

Additional Info

  • Title: Heaven Sent
  • Genre: Magical Girlfriend, Fantasy, Quasi-romance
  • Writer: Ben Dunn
  • Artist: Ben Dunn
  • Publisher: Antarctic Press
  • Volumes: 2
  • Writing: Nuke it from Orbit!! (-5)
  • Pacing: Kill it with Fire! (-4)
  • Artwork: Above Average (+1)
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