Nina The Starry Bride Volume 3: Silver World



Nina The Starry Bride is a manga that’s really taken a while to get going. It’s setup was surprisingly lazy, and its characters and narrative initially shallow and challenging to get behind. However, with each page turned, my perception of the manga has changed. At this point, it hardly resembles what my original opinions were of the manga. Of course, the art remains truly beautiful and light, but I’d argue that Rikachi’s panelling and visual work specifically have grown. I think one of the strongest aspects to that end is their use of extremes in this volume. Having set the tone of the story through the rocky initial volume, and working to smooth things over in the second, this third volume is able to maximize the two extremes that Nina The Starry Bride has worked hard to establish.

Though, Rikachi’s visuals were always strong with Nina The Starry Bride, what’s more interesting and commendable is how far the story and its characters have come. Sett has been an incredible boon to that end- no offense to the now-king of Fortna, Azure. It’s just that Sett’s perspective is so wildly different from Azure’s that we get to learn and understand much more. Much like when Alisha was still Nina, the young priestess-princess’ grit and charm is on full display when her back is against the wall. Intelligently enough, Rikachi displayed that in the previous volume with Azure’s adoptive grandfather. When you look at the pair of relationships that Nina has made with royalty, it provides a very interesting picture. In both palaces, she’s forged ahead of her own accord, but specifically with Sett the experience has been far more likened to her time as an orphan. She can’t rely on the assistance of others and each move remains a calculated gamble to ensure she sees another day. With Azure, I wouldn’t quite say that it was carefree, but Nina was allowed to be much more free to be a girl.

Because of that, this third volume really shows to readers that this is the “Queen Training Arc”, the josei equivalent of the master-student training arc in shounen manga. Truthfully, when you look at it that way, it’s almost comical. It’s effectively set in stone that Sett carries no particular romantic interest towards Nina, but with some of the hints in this volume, his role still remains critical, and centered around Nina. Allow me to explain.

First of all, we have Nina compared to what looks to be an umbrella cockatoo. This is particularly funny for several reasons. First of all, umbrella cockatoos mate for life (cough cough Azure), so there’s that idea, but I think the symbolism within Asia is more important. Though to completely get sidetracked, did you know that there’s a national (parrot and) cockatoo day in Japan? Anyways, the point is that Cockatoos were a hugely popular subject for art during the Tang Dynasty in China and were consistently painted alongside the Goddess Kuan Yin (also written as Guan Yin or Quan Yin). Kuan Yin, for those that don’t know, is a goddess revered for their kindness, mercy, and compassion.

To make a long story short, the point is that the gods and goddesses spoken of in the last two volumes really do exist, and are personified by certain animals within this world. Further within that sacred connection are what you might call vessels– like our little Nina here. But, you can go even further! Sett specifically mentions the god of the underworld, and he himself possesses incredibly red eyes… just a touch suspicious when you consider Azure’s incredibly yellow eyes. However, the icing on the cake for said theory is twofold. First of all, Nina directly likens Azure to the tiger that she has the misfortune of stumbling upon in the wild. Secondly however, is the fact that Sett himself is likened to a god in two separate ways- both in his namesake but also how people refer to him as a god when he appears on the battlefield.

Now, I could launch into an entire essay about the ideas of religion and theism with Nina The Starry Bride, and how Nina’s comparison of Azure to a tiger isn’t correct as it injects herself into the understanding, but I think that’s more suited to being an open discussion so I’ll table it for later.

Getting back to the topic at hand, the development of the characters and world in this third volume border on sublime compared to where the first volume began. The depth and scope despite how limited our cast remains is impressive, and in spite of the deeply challenging personalities within Nina and Sett, the pair provide a lot of enjoyable chemistry for readers. Their abrasiveness really comes close to being siblings, which really helps alleviate any perceived romantic or sexual tension that might arise from their butting of heads. In addition, that sibling-like nature really helps sell Nina’s breakdown at the end of the volume. It really creates that natural buildup and breakdown with her efforts to become a queen. Though personally, I really appreciate the breakdown for just proving the limits of Nina.

I’d love to say more, and maybe I will in the form of various cryptic tweets in relation to this post, but I don’t want to spoil all the fun, or spill every little detail of this volume to would-be readers. The point is that if you were to graph my reception of the various volumes for Nina The Starry Bride, it wouldn’t be a linear increase. In reality, it would be much closer to a logarithmic graph (something like this). So really, the mathematically nerdy question to pose with this latest volume is as follow. Will Nina The Starry Bride stick to its current fitted curve, or will it continue to defy expectations, and improve with its fourth volume? All the same, I’m incredibly curious to find out as I’m certain it will at the minimum remain at this quality- which for those that haven’t caught on, is very good.

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