The first series by manga superteam CLAMP, RG Veda is a sumptuous fantasy loosely based on Vedic (Hindu) mythology. In the first few pages Taishakuten, the thunder god, rebels and deposes the king of the gods. A prophecy tells that a child will be born who will challenge Taishakuten’s rule, so Taishakuten’s servant Lord Yasha goes to stop the child, but has a change of heart and saves it instead.
The child, Ashura, is a superpowered baby born out of a tree in the forest, who switches back and forth between split personalities of a plucky, innocent child and an evil demon (“Did I not say, if you awaken me, this world will become a hell?”) When Taishakuten’s other men slay Yasha’s tribe, Yasha swears vengeance and goes with Ashura on a quest to find the Six Stars who will dethrone the evil king. (“The six stars against Taishakuten…. Will they be the torch that incinerates all evil? Or the flame that turns this world into a burning hell…?”)
Fast-paced, full of action, and with beautiful artwork even though it’s CLAMP’s earliest work, it’s easy to see why this was a hit when it came out in 1989. Yasha and Ashura travel the world, meeting and fighting interesting characters both good and evil, like Souma the alchemist, Gigei the dancer, and Kujaku, the devil-may-care wanderer who keeps showing up to smirk knowingly and make jokes (“Whoa, dude. No need to pull your blade so quickly!”). Meanwhile, Ashura starts to grow up and vows, “I’ll become stronger to protect those I love!”
The names are from Hindu lore, but there are giant snake monsters, flying castles, magic swords, and bits of H.R. Giger-esque biotechnology, a fusion of science fiction and fantasy (mostly fantasy). Best of all, it moves quickly, avoiding the tendency to drag out the foreshadowing that afflicts many manga of this type (and even CLAMP’s own series X). The big-haired character designs and huge shoulder pads may show their age, but this series isn’t just an artifact of the 80s: it’s good stuff, nostalgia or no. Recommended.
publisher: Dark Horse
story and art: CLAMP
SEIDEN -RG VEDA- [AIZOUBAN] volume 1 © CLAMP/KADOKAWA © CLAMP • Shigatsu
Tsuitachi CO., LTD. 2011.