I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
The Angel of Elhamburg is about two friends, Madeth and Lalvan (or possibly Lalva – either someone at Yen Press screwed up, or "Lalva" is a nickname, because both versions are used in the text). When Madeth and Lalvan saw how the current lord was mistreating the people, they decided to do something about it. Lalvan was the one who fought the best and won all the battles, but Madeth was the one that everyone gathered around, leaving Lalvan secretly jealous of his childhood friend. A part of him couldn’t help but look down upon Madeth, who he saw as being less accomplished than himself. After all, Lalvan did everything for Madeth. He even wrote Madeth’s love letters for him, since Madeth couldn’t hardly read or write and cared nothing for poetry.
Lalvan is reminded of his jealousy every time he sees the Angel of Elhamburg. The angel kissed Madeth, blessing him the same way it had blessed the previous lord of the castle, but it kept its distance from Lalvan, even though Lalvan was the only one who could see it. Unfortunately, what Lalvan doesn’t realize is that he isn’t the only one hiding a secret, festering jealousy, and the next generation has to deal with the consequences.
My review, the short version: Well, that was kind of depressing.
The longer version: The Angel of Elhamburg was pretty, like all of Aki’s works. Also, like all of Aki’s works (or at least the two I’ve tried), it’s a bit of a downer. However, while I’d call both Olympos and Utahime: The Songstress bittersweet, I do think they had stronger bright notes than The Angel of Elhamburg. Either that, or time has softened my impression of them. At any rate, jealousy, fear, and an inability to properly talk things over tore Madeth and Lalvan apart and then put a wedge between Madeth and his son Perseus. I had hoped that Aki would allow the next generation to overcome the negative emotions that Lalvan and Madeth couldn’t get past, but instead I got a situation where the slate had to be wiped almost completely clean. Nearly everyone degenerated into something pitiful and pathetic. It was especially depressing seeing how Perseus turned out. He never really had a chance. Even his closest friend was using him.
This wasn’t bad, just kind of draining. Like the other works by Aki that I’ve read, it was very spare, character-focused to the point that world-building was vague at best. Even the artwork was that way. Aki drew beautifully detailed characters (although some of them had a tendency to look confusingly alike, like Madeth and his son Perseus - seriously, how could anyone ever think they weren't related?), but the backgrounds were often just empty white. I loved the way Aki drew Lalvan and Madeth, the way the years visibly wore them down.
I’m glad I read this, but I’m not clamoring to own my own copy. I adore Aki’s artwork, particularly the two color illustrations at the beginning, but the story is just a little too tragic for me to want to reread anytime soon. I want to shake Lalvan and Madeth for letting things get so bad, and I feel so bad for Perseus, who just wanted to be loved and to feel connected to someone.
If I had to round my rating up or down, I'd probably round it down to 3 stars. The world-building was almost too spare - for much of the beginning of the volume, I think until Prima appeared, Madeth and Lalvan felt so alone in the world that I found myself wondering if the rest of the world was just a dream or hallucination on their part, because readers weren't shown any of the work it took to turn Madeth into a High King. However, I had too much of an emotional response to their tragedy to give it a flat 3 stars, so I bumped it up to 3.5.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)