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Matt Kamen on different versions of Sacred Blacksmith

In Sacred Blacksmith, it’s been 40 years since the terrible Valbanill War ravaged the world. Mortal forces were left helpless as humans forged Demon Contracts, allowing their bodies to be possessed in order to gain power to use in battle. That was, until the contracts were banned, by those who realised that the dark magic was destroying the very land the factions were fighting over.

Fast forward to the present day, and we meet Cecily Cambell, heir to one of the founding families of the new trade cities that have developed since the war. A knight of the town of Housman, she acts as something between police officer and community worker, controlling rabble rousers within the city. When Cecily is rescued by the strange blacksmith Luke – who wields a katana in a land of broadswords – she strikes up a loose friendship, hoping the reclusive smith will forge her a weapon like his own. As the pair becomes closer, ever more dangerous threats assault the city and remnants of the Valbanill War threaten to rise again.

Sacred Blacksmith began as a series of short novels by Isao Miura in 2007. While the prose books continue to this day, with ten in print at present, Miura also launched a manga series in March 2009 as a precursor to the anime debuting in October of that year. Drawn by Kotaro Yamada, the manga Is still running in Comic Alive, with Miura splitting his time between writing both versions.

However, while differences between anime and manga are far from unusual, director Masamitsu Hidaka’s 12-part adaptation of Sacred Blacksmith really does become a very different beast, in tone if not in content. Both print and screen versions are full of high fantasy adventure and epic battles, but for the anime, Hidaka opts for a more comedic take, chiefly at Cecily’s expense.

Miura’s heroine is a competent, earnest young woman, striving to live up to her family’s reputation and her role as defender of Housman. She’s a skilled swordfighter, though not perfect, and a born leader. Hidaka paints her as more accident prone, and while both versions see Luke coming to her aid in their first meeting, it takes the animated Cecily far longer to become a proficient warrior in her own right. She also gets something of an augmentation in the chest area, which leads to more than a few cheap jokes. Luke himself is a far more stoic figure in the anime, blunt and taciturn with little interest in becoming close to anyone, largely due to the dark secrets of his past.

Hidaka accentuates each of the characters most defining character trait, be it Cecily’s desire to improve and evolve or Luke’s reluctance to make connections with people. It’s a different take to Miura’s original, but one that deserves equal consideration from viewers.

Sacred Blacksmith, the complete series, is out now on UK DVD from Manga Entertainment

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