Art and Story: Amy Kim Ganter
Sorcerers & Secretaries tells the story of Nicole Hayes, a daydreamer and would-be writer who attends business college by day and works as a receptionist for a fashion company by night. She keeps a detailed dream journal, that is primarily the adventures of a sorcerer named Ellon, whose soul has been stolen and is being used to further the evil schemes of a would-be god. To complicate the story even more, Nicole has an admirer, Josh Kim, whose good looks make him quite the ladies’ man, but whose slick ways just annoy Nicole and distract her from her dreamworld and Ellon.
The characters are quite interesting. The interweaving of Nicole’s dreamworld fantasy with her real world make for an interesting chiasmus. Ellon could be identified with either Nicole, as the sorcerer of words, or Josh, as the lonely quester, depending upon which aspects of him seem most important at a given time, but the real quest for Ellon seems to be that of Nicole finding herself. Unfortunately, most of the other characters are exceptionally annoying. Nicole’s “friend” Susan seems not only bitchy and selfish, but oblivious to Nicole’s needs and personality. I can’t wait until someone publishes a manga where the best friend doesn’t stab the heroine in the back to get her paws on the hero. Her mother treats Nicole like she’s twelve, and her boss is a real bitchâ€”not unlike those who actually do show up in the workaday world and richly deserve strangling. Josh’s roommate/best friend Riley is shallow and just plain unwise, and Josh’s father is apparently a bit of a handful, as well.
[ad#longpost]The art is a bit more angular and less detailed than manga fans may be used to, but given that the author of this title is herself American, it is appropriate. The art is certainly attractive enough, and the fact that it’s different and not derivative adds to its appeal. Readers who hate chibi frames will be pleased to know there’s none of that here; embarrassment is signified by the usual sweat drop, and rarely is anyone distorted. It’s interesting in that the art Nicole imagines to go with her story is complementary, but not identical, to the art Ganter uses to draw her manga. The fantasy setting comes alive as Nicole daydreams and shows everyone that “that fantasy stuff” that the other characters see as pointless and even “babyish” can be as real and important as business school or anything else.
It all just goes to show that Americans can write good, interesting, creative comics; companies just have to be willing to publish them and trust that they’ll sell. The second volume seems as if it will be the last, so it will be interesting to see how Ellon’s quest to the moon to recover the lost half of his soul parallels Nicole’s quest to become a writer, or Josh’s quest to win Nicole’s heart. If you’re looking for something between coming-of-age and fantasy or a way to show parents/spouses/friends that manga isn’t just underage girls in their underpants or mecha stomping on Tokyo, then Sorcerers & Secretaries may be just what you’re looking for.