Manga Read Along: Red River Vol. 2 – Ancient Civilization 101

I complained a lot in the summary of the first volume that our hapless time-traveling heroine is rather grating in the first couple of volumes because of several very obvious too stupid to live moments. Luckily, volume two starts to see Yuri turning around and beginning to exhibit both bravery and sense. With Tito trapped with inside the palace with Queen Nakia’s knife-wielding goon, the consequence of Yuri’s ill-planned bid to recover her clothing, she sees that her actions have consequences for herself and the people around her.

Prince Kail demands to be let into the palace to search for Tito, using the excuse that the servant is known sleepwalker. Since she is Tawanna, the most powerful woman in the empire, second only to the king, Kail must be careful in what he says to her. Yuri, on the other hand, accuses her to face in a hysterical fashion, not understanding that the situation needs finesse. Nakia pretends ignorance and pulls rank to block anyone from searching the grounds. As she outranks him, Kail has to go around by appealing directly to his father.

Unfortunately, it is late at night and they won’t be able to do anything until the king wakes in the morning. Yuri is eaten with guilt and worry. Once so eager to get home, now she says that she can’t go back until she knows that Tito is safe. Ilbani, Kail’s steward and chief advisor, only makes her feel worse by noting that she has been nothing but trouble for the prince and she can’t be sent away fast enough to make him happy. He also tells her that Nakia’s goon, Zuwa, is even more brutal than she suspects, and it sends her into a blind panic when she hears what he does to his victims.

Before she can run off again and do something stupid, Kail halts her by forcing a kiss on her. With tongue. He tells Yuri that he will help Tito, but it is going to take some time and patience while he finesses the situation. Unfortunately, the consequence fairy arrives at dawn. Tito’s skinned body is discovered outside the city walls.

Yuri is inconsolable and sits around in a daze. Kail tries to offer comfort with a hug and this is the first time there is physical intimacy between them that Yuri welcomes. Ilbani, disturbed at the favor Kail shows the strange interloper, interrupts the moment to announce that the window of opportunity to send Yuri home is closing. Daybreak tomorrow is the last day of the year that the morning star will appear in the sky, marking it as the last day that conditions are right to send Yuri back to the future. If Kail can’t cast the spell, Yuri will end up trapped in Hattusa for another year.

Kail wants Yuri to stay but won’t break his promise to her. Yuri is starting to have second thoughts because of Tito. She can’t accept that Zuwa and Nakia will likely never be punished for killing him and that just makes her feelings of guilt worse. At the appointed hour, they head for the well that Yuri emerged from and Yuri climbs in. As soon as she steps into the water, Nakia uses her sorcery to make the water attack her. Kail uses his wind sorcery to break her spell and calm the water.

And this is pretty much the last time Kail’s sorcery powers are seen or even mentioned for about fifteen or sixteen volumes. I recall when I was first reading this that at one point I had completely forgotten that he could this. I think just so happened to be thumbing through one of the earlier volumes and recalled that it was established that he was a sorcerer and wondering if Shinohara had just forgotten that as well. When it does get mentioned somewhere in the late-teens, she has to come up with a rather weak explanation for why Kail doesn’t use it. I don’t think its mentioned again after that.

Kail begins the spell to cross through time as the sun rises. Nakia’s goon interrupt the ceremony. Zuwa is among them wearing a head wrap made from Tito’s skin. Enraged, Yuri leaps out of the well and tries to attack Zuwa. She dodges his sword and snatches the Tito-skin-bandanna right off his head, but in doing so, she ends up playing right into Nakia’s hands. Her moment of opportunity is gone and she is stuck in the past for the foreseeable future. Naturally, Nakia is delighted that her deadline to kill Yuri is extended out a year.

Things settle down. Yuri is just getting into the flow of life at the palace when Kail gets word that a barbarian tribes is attacking one of the Hittite’s cities. The king orders him to break the siege and drive away the barbarians. Kail is instantly suspicious that Nakia is behind the attack as the barbarian tribe is the one Zuwa comes from. It also occurs to Yuri that it might be a bid to separate her and Kail, making them easy to assassinate.

Ilbani, Yuri’s biggest critic, is none too pleased that she is still in Hattusa and Yuri asks him why he is so hostile towards her. As it turns out, Kail is one guy in ancient times who isn’t polygamist. He may play the field but he’s only going to have one wife. Since he stands a good chance of being the next king, he is needs a queen who is benevolent, politically astute and fearless. Ilbani is disturbed by how much the prince has taken to her, a meddlesome nobody, when he should be hunting for a suitable marriage partner.

Just before the army marches to aid the besieged city, Kail publically bids Yuri to come with him. He justifies the move by claiming Yuri is the mortal avatar of Ishtar, the war goddess associated with the morning star. As long as they have divine favor, they can’t be beaten and the Hittites march with morale through the roof.

I want to make a quick aside about the art. If you can overlook the 80’s-tastic character designs (Yuri has a big puffy helmet of 80’s hair), her attention to detail on clothing and jewelry is striking and she has a way of making dramatic moments really pop. Particularly pay attention to when she uses a series of three vertical or slightly angled panels across a page. This is when she uses her art to best effect, sweeping the eye across the page in the first and second panels to freeze on an intense moment in the third panel. In this particular volume there is a striking one where Yuri is on a balcony watching the Hittite troops when Kail tells her to come with them. She jumps down off the balcony and lands in Kail’s arms in the third panel. It looks really good here in this early volume and they get more gorgeous as the series goes on.

Nakia sends her cloaked advisor and chief henchmen, Urhi, ahead to the besieged city where Tito’s family just happens to live- his blacksmith father and his three warrior sisters. Urhi delivers the news of their brother’s death and lies that Yuri killed him. They are out for blood. The eldest sister is named Hadi. The other two are twins named Rui and Shala. They are so alike that it’s a fool’s game for me to even try to attempt to tell you which one is which and they might as well be the same character.

When they get to battlefield, Kail makes the mistake of entrusting Yuri’s protection to the sisters while he fights the barbarians. Yuri frets for his safety as the battle rages below and the sisters trick her into going out on a rise near the city wall so she better watch the prince fight. One of the twins lures Zuwa over to where Yuri waits like a sitting duck.

Zuwa’s chariot bears down on her and Yuri jumps onto the back of a nearby horse. It careens off the rise and she lands right behind enemy lines. The barbarians mistake her for a Hittite warrior attacking them from the rear and their formation falls apart. One of the twins is trapped on the battlefield, at risk of being trampled by the retreating barbarians. Yuri rides over to her and snatches her up to safety. With the enemy in retreat, the Hittites score a decisive victory.

This is one of the first cool things that Yuri does, even if it was a fluke. She will be doing more of this kind of thing as the series goes on.

The sisters are miffed that their plan failed. The twin Yuri saves has her doubts that Yuri is the fiend Urhi described, thinking that perhaps a creepy guy who won’t show his face is not a credible source. She falls in line when Urhi appears to give them a powerful poison to use against Yuri.

Yuri’s heroic rescue and her role in securing the victory lend credence to Kail’s claim that she is Ishtar in mortal guise. The grateful city folk make her a gift of the black stallion she rode into the fray. As the city wide celebration winds for the night, Kail and Yuri prepare for bed. They sense the sisters lurking in the shadows, poised to strike.

Kail pounces on Yuri. She’s surprised, realizes that he’s trying to give the assassin the false idea that they are both distracted but she is a little receptive to him and enjoys the kissing and petting. The sisters attack and Kail and Yuri fight them off. Kail unmasks Hadi. Knowing that they are caught and their lives already forfeit, they bumrush Yuri as she tried to explain the truth of Tito’s death. They force the poison down her throat and she died in moments.

Or does she?

Kail grieves, sitting vigil beside Yuri’s body as it awaits funeral rites in the temple. He only leaves her to question the sisters and find out who fed them the misinformation. He learns that Nakia was behind everything but has no solid evidence to use against her. While he is gone, Urhi emerges from a hidden passageway and steals the body. When Kail discovers her missing, he starts to suspect that she may not be dead.

A dazed Yuri wakes up beneath the temple to the sound of Urhi and Zuwa arguing if they should kill her now or deliver her to the queen alive. She escapes the temple with Zuwa hot on her heels only to run into a bearded man with an axe. He is Tito’s father Talos and he still believes that Yuri is his son’s killer.

Red River rarely gives its readers a break by ending on some tense cliff hangers and with its swift pacing it’s starting to resemble the story that I remember and love. Kail is even getting a little better about not being so grabby.

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