A Kingdom of Quartz Volume 1: Beautiful Dark Fantasy



A manga reader’s best friend, as well as worst enemy, is comparisons. A Kingdom of Quartz has been surrounded with a great deal of hype and excitement, and ultimately subject to countless comparisons as well. After having read this first volume, I can certainly say that quite a few of those comparisons miss their mark and misconstrue the experience that is this first volume. Witch Hat Atelier has undeniably been the top series used to contextualize A Kingdom of Quartz, but ultimately I believe sits much further away in terms of association when pitted against Madoka Magica and Made In Abyss (all three of which Kodansha provide on their website as comparative examples).

What I think might be the most peculiar piece in regards to that is how Kodansha is perfectly nails the description of A Kingdom of Quartz as an “exquisitely dawn dark fantasy manga”. It’s a great description that preps readers for some of the more unique facets of this first volume and not something attempting purely to wield the hype of another Kodansha series. A Kingdom of Quartz is plenty strong on its own, and the history behind its mangaka and this series is sure to get readers interested. For those that don’t know, A Kingdom of Quartz was originally written in English before being translated to Japanese, and then “technically” translated back into English. You might be confused, but the reasoning is that Bomhat is Canadian (the best kind of North American, if you ask me)! It’s quite surprising, but more so impressive and noteworthy.

Moving forward, our stage has been set, and atop it our characters dance to and fro atop it. Now, I specifically chose that example because of how Bomhat presents this story. I wouldn’t quite say that it’s “in your face”, but the ideas present in A Kingdom of Quartz are meant to be rather intense and explicit. Because of that you get a lot of interesting dialogue, narrative, and worldbuilding within what felt like an impressive quick read. Well, not so much felt, but was. For the surprising amount of information imparted by our characters, Bomhat squeezes an impressive amount out of panels and pages devoid of writing. For a first volume it’s a very bold strategy, but that confidence is exactly what I love to see in these fresh works.

Bomhat, and subsequently A Kingdom of Quartz, doesn’t feel like it’s necessary to hold hands or guide the reader towards a specific conclusion. They’re more than comfortable offering up key points and ideas in passing conversation or trivial interactions. Before I can really explain much more, I do feel it’s necessary to give a bit of an outline of the story. Blue, our main character, is an orphaned girl with black wings and lofty dreams- to become an angel, one of the Quartz Kingdom’s strongest protectors against the ever present threat of demons. However, the demons haven’t laid hands on the Quartz Kingdom in hundreds upon hundreds of years, until one night. Blue’s orphanage, curiously enough, ends up the target of several incredibly strong demons, so how can young girls and their surrogate mother survive until the archangels arrive? The answer lays in Blue’s black wings, and her irises that can change shape.

A great concept, perhaps a touch ambitious/convenient, but ultimately well delivered upon due to Bomhat’s confidence and dedication to their style. And that confidence and style trickles down into the smallest pieces, like an indirect interaction between Cassian, Prince of the Quartz Kingdom, and our orphan Blue.

There’s plenty of these types of interactions and comparisons within this first volume of A Kingdom of Quartz, but the most important is the idea of dichotomy. To that end, a bit of a two-for-one is how Cassian and Blue see each other. It’s not quite that they’re talking past each other, but that their worlds are slightly shifted from one another. Cassian almost explicitly views Blue as a tool, while Blue views Cassian as a hero. It’s really really interesting, because even though Cassian’s shown to be so innocent and pure, his words- against the backdrop of Blue’s which are shrouded in darkness- betray something in the Prince.

And that sort of work is what I think makes A Kingdom of Quartz such an interesting read. That confidence in the work really allows Bomhat to create far more nuanced and resolute characters through such little time. Similarly, those characters are then able to impart quite a bit of value to both Blue and reader alike.

Let’s take another look at Cassian and Blue to understand that a bit better. One of the first experiences that Blue has when faced with the threat of Demons is the vision of an impossibly large library. Cassian here explicit says “She could hold the answers I’ve been searching for…”. Some might not make the connection, even though the two pieces are only separated by a few pages, but Cassian’s understanding of the imagery that only Blue can see is very… interesting.

He specifically likens her to the key, not the one that holds the key, but the key itself. And what would you know? Blue sees the darkness within her as a locked door. Bomhat is leaning so heavily into the dichotomy of heaven and hell, light and darkness, good and bad, but almost resolutely refusing to purify either side.

That’s all to say, while Blue may exist in the dark yet shines brightly, Cassian is being hinted towards harboring some darkness within his overpoweringly bright existence.

It’s because of work like this, that A Kingdom of Quartz is so engaging and interesting. It’s like a book of secrets that loves to do nothing more than tease those that peer into it with partial answers to what they’re searching for. In that sense, it’s an incredibly playful first volume, despite its content. Yes, we do shed that layer of darkness pretty early on, but with the ending of this first volume, Bomhat proves to readers that you can’t quite erase every shadow of doubt. Anyways, we’re not quite at the end of this review, so I’ll save that discussion for later.

Pivoting to art, I don’t think there’s a lot to add. Kodansha themselves said it right the first time- A Kingdom of Quartz is really well drawn. I very much enjoy the character designs, and while Bomhat’s art style may have many readers making comparisons to Witch Hat Atelier, I think it’s perfectly confident in its own niche. If I were to highlight an area that is lacking in confidence however, it would be the dynamic nature of some panels. Bomhat is able to deliver truly wonderful static panels and spreads, but when push comes to shove and they have to convey motion to the reader, they ultimately find themselves struggling to integrate it well. Honestly, I’m not all that bothered by it personally. Plenty of series are able to thrive without the need of good choreography or motion, and Bomhat’s panelling and layouts perfectly lend themselves to that very painting-esque styling.

So, in the end, Bomhat and A Kingdom of Quartz aren’t the unstoppable force that they may have been made out to be. Oddly enough however, that realization leaves me more than satisfied. It’s quite a different experience from what I was expecting, and I think within that world performs far better than it could have hoped to within the expectations set by others. It’s not the kind of work that I can praise as the second coming of Christ with only one volume, but it is the kind of series that gets my blood flowing and has me wanting to share and chat about every last panel and page. It’s a work that inspires and excites, and is undeniably pretty- there’s not much more you can ask for in a first volume from a first-time mangaka.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.