For my 30th birthday this year, I received the complete manga series of Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire written and illustrated by Naoki Serizawa, with the original concept produced by Capcom. When I first learned of the series back in April, I was ecstatic, and it ended up becoming one of my most-anticipated manga serials for the year. However, after reading it in its entirety, I must confess that I am severely disappointed by it, which is probably an understatement itself. Read on for some detailed thoughts (and ranting) on how it fell short.
**Please note: Brief and minor serial spoilers shall be explored; however NO MAJOR SPOILERS shall be shared. **
In the middle of the Asian subcontinent, lies a prestigious private school known as The Marhawa Academy. When an outbreak occurs within school grounds, the headmistress contacts one of her old friends to help her in solving the mystery, as well as keeping the incident as discreet as possible. The series is advertised as being a prequel series to the video game Resident Evil 6, and features franchise familiar Chris Redfield. The manga is a Seinen, science-fiction horror serial with five total volumes.
The manga could have been a fantastic way to incorporate fresh information pertaining to the viruses within the Resident Evil universe, or at the very least a means to expand on pre-existing ones. Yet, nothing within the five volumes amounted to much of anything at all.
With the first volume, we get introduced to a couple of new people that are quickly shanghaied away into a remote access through an Asian jungle towards a wealthy private school. They arrive and shortly afterwards we get our first zombie attack. Everything felt excruciatingly basic as all of this is occurring. It’s the beginning of every single Resident Evil story ever. To be honest, this didn’t really bother me so much as every tale has to start somewhere. But nothing else of import really happens in volume one. We learn miniscule information about the strain, and even those were vague hints rather than anything concrete. It took approximately one hundred seventy-five pages to present the audience with a sequence of events that only should have taken about seventy-five to a hundred, tops. As someone who reads manga quite frequently, I was unimpressed with how stretched out it was. Moving on towards the second volume, I tried to remain hopeful that it would improve.
My biggest gripe with The Marhawa Desire was the significant lack of a plot that is pertinent to this franchise. Without the occasional glimmer of Chris Redfield’s face, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you that this was part of Resident Evil. It legitimately could have been some random zombie narrative; easily forgettable in every way possible. Every single detail about what was going on–the motives, the fallout, the clean-up–was all painfully one-dimensional, filled to the brim with cheesy and outdated genre tropes.
Let’s look at the virus leak. **MINOR SPOILERS: There were two reasons behind the leak: one of them was a bland and uninspiring need for vengeance, while the other is wrapped in a mystery that’s never revealed. This “mystery” is the only thread that ties this manga to the Resident Evil 6 video game. Putting the motives aside, the virus itself is depicted as giving the infected some unique traits, yet it is never discussed or explored as to what these traits are specifically, or even what they could have been. The mere mentioning of whether it will be revealed in RE6 doesn’t occur either, which augmented how terribly underdeveloped the story was. **END MINOR SPOILERS.
There is one major aspect within The Marhawa Desire involving a few people (MAJOR SPOILER) [being immune to the virus] that I felt was the most compelling part of the whole damn thing. While it surprises a couple of the characters, it ends up taking a backseat to all the chaos that’s ensuing. I did not understand why it was even brought up if it wasn’t going to be examined! Something like this has also never happened in any portions of the franchise, so it was a huge fucking deal, nevertheless, to have it swept aside like an insect royally frustrated me to no end. The coffin of bad writing was metaphorically nailed shut after I read this scene.
In addition to horrid execution of the plot, the progression for the title in its entirety was contradictory. Due to how callously the story was fleshed out, the pacing of plot events felt like it dragged on for the sake of doing so. From Point A to Point B all the events could have been wrapped up within a terse three volumes, though we ended up with five. As unnecessary as it was, it assisted in further weakening the plot, which at times I had a difficult believing even existed. Upon reaching the last page of the series, I was convinced that it wasn’t really a plot at all, just a convenient excuse to write something that inevitably amounted to fan fiction level discrepancies. However, once we get to the last two volumes, the action gets heavy, and as people are struggling to escape safely, the pacing becomes fast as all hell. You start to blow through page after page, which is quite marvellous considering that NOTHING OF CONSEQUENCE HAPPENS!
Okay, okay… I know that I have ranted about how agonisingly saddened I was with the story, but The Marhawa Desire does have a couple of redeeming qualities. Since the setting is a wealthy academy in Asia, I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of the Asian students that attended. We had students of Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and Malaysian descent. Although all the characters were as one-dimensional as the story, and the incompetent White boy saved the day, I did appreciate the effort that went into this specific facet. One of those characters, as I mentioned earlier, does include series familiar Chris Redfield (Resident Evil 1, 5, 6), but he’s only in a handful of scenes. I’d consider it more of a “Special Appearance.”
I also found the artwork to be great. The panels are perpendicular for the most part, which makes it aesthetically pleasant and easier to read. Most of the environments were meticulously detailed and lush with excellent use of shading to bring these scenes to life. The graphic portrayal of violence and gore was also splendidly done. On occasion, the shading would cause minute details to get lost in the fray, especially when combined with the awkward placement of sound effect texts, but it mostly occurred during intense action scenarios.
Unfortunately, those are pretty much the only good qualities.
All in all, Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire is a terrible series that doesn’t do any realm of justice to this magnificent franchise. As someone who is a humongous fan of Resident Evil, I felt completely heart-broken by this manga. But I’m not completely heartless! The Marhawa Desire is a symbol of potential. Yes, the story sucked, but it felt fantastic to see a Resident Evil manga series. There really are so many ways that this franchise can be expanded upon, more so when you consider using mediums outside of the gaming mechanic. While this may not have been the greatest artistic addition, I hope that more chances are taken to bring us such content, because in all honesty, it fucking deserves it.
2 brainsplosions outta 5!