August 20, 2011
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Title: Variante
Genre: Action, Drama, Horror, Psychological, Romance, Sci-fi
Rating: 7.0/10

Variante

Summary: Aiko should be dead, but when she awakes in a secret hospital, she has no recollection of what happened that night until a monster showed up and her memories flood back. Her arm changed into a powerful weapon similar to the monster, a chimera arm. The secret organization Atheos asked her to help them fight off the chimeras. An accident happened that led Aiko to understand how much she wants to live, and decided to join Atheos, in order to find her place.

Review: I actually read this manga quite a while ago and planned to review it. However, I never got around to it and since so much time had passed I decided to do a quick re-read. Thankfully the series is only a short four volumes so it didn’t take more than a couple hours. After re-reading Variante it brought back a lot of unpleasant memories. I’m not talking about my personal life; the series is just a heavy drama with blood curdling action. It is hard to say that the series was repetitive because it was so short, however, I did notice there was one pattern: don’t bother holding onto hope. From the get-go the series let’s you know that the life of Aiko isn’t one to be idolized, far from it in fact. I can’t say that I felt a sense of sympathy more than pity. I feel that coming into this tragic story will only set you up for heartache. These powerful four volumes had me hooked from the beginning and kept my heart pounding till the very end.

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The art for Variante is amazing. I absolutely loved the contrasts and well done character models. None of the characters were out of this world, and many followed common social trends when it came to clothing. Even though the series didn’t have much terms of unique looks, it got the job done. The action scenes were exciting to watch and the drama was powerful due to the beautiful artwork. I feel that the tears, scars and facial expressions played a large role in having the reader feel for the characters. During the action scenes the manga puts you up close and personal. At some points you may even fill sick because of the carnage. Even though I’m a fan of anime action compared to manga, Variante didn’t disappoint. It certainly met my expectations for entertainment. The manga did a great job using “blank” pages or solid black backgrounds to its advantage. By using the most simple of artwork it helped the reader focus more on the dialogue. A single line of dialogue that made my heart sink.

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The story for Variante isn’t for the faint of heart. It isn’t something that you can walk into expecting things like “hope” and “trust” to pull you to a picture perfect world. I didn’t find the general story of a monster arm all that intriguing. It played a small role in my enjoyment of the series because it doesn’t seem very unique. A secret organization attempting to utilize its enemy’s force as a counter isn’t something to focus on. Instead it was the mind games and character development that kept me reading. Variante dives deeper into the psychological workings of someone who’s world had come crashing down around them. The entire story is the definition of drama. It isn’t one that will have you flowing tears, but instead feel strongly for its characters. I find that dramas that only focus on making the audience cry lacks better taste. I consider Variante a good drama because it had me actually wanting to help the characters out personally. Aiko is probably one of the few characters that can have such a strong grip on my attention in such a short period of time. I didn’t realize how much of an impact a manga could have in only four volumes. The completion of this series was definitely a shock for me though. I really expected it to be longer, and I’m sure that the writers could have made it longer. My only reasoning for having it short and simple is to 1) prevent the reader from  killing themselves or 2) avoid repetition. Honestly it is hard to keep reading when the characters are taking one blow right after another. I find that the manga did have a small bit of repetition in the four volumes. However, this repetition was more from an overall idea than anything specific. Variante constantly created and destroyed hope. The faster something arrived that may save poor Aiko, the quicker it was taken away. They kept up the same pattern till the very last chapter. A chapter which left me rather confused actually. You could say that I was internally conflicted with the outcome. I don’t want to spoil anything because it would ruin the entire manga, however, it brought up a few questions and moral issues. It brings death into a new perspective.

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The dialogue of the series is one of the best I’ve read. They used a lot of short sentences to express a very big idea. They didn’t overplay anything to the point of annoyance and always got the message across. With a mix of twisted conversations and internal struggle Variante covered all its bases. The dialogue is what makes the series. A single sentence could easily plant a seed in the reader’s mind that would later come up in a big life decision. It brings up a lot of moral issues and attempts to keep the reader thinking.

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Final statements: With some great character development in a short period of time I can say this is a preferred read. It did a great job getting me attached to the characters and had a lot of powerful scenes. The background stories were well written out and played a good part in the general plot. My only wish is that the series were longer, even by a couple volumes. I find that they could have done a lot more and cut themselves short. Nevertheless this short series is worth reading.

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