In my previous post, I did a review and essay on Tamura Yumi's 7 Seeds. After I finished reading it, it was brought to my attention (via the internet) that she had another successful manga that I hadn't read before, Basara. While 7 Seeds is intended for an older audience, Basara was obviously intended for the shojou crowd. Basara consists of 27 tankoban written from 1990 - 1998 and with my current situation, it was not so easy to find it as a complete set, so I searched the internet for an online reader site that was able to deliver the goods for me.
Have to say, that this story played out like a huge mashing of Shakespearean plays. I'll call it a tragic romantic comedy. Now don't get me wrong, the story did flow and characters did progress from where they started off at, but I felt like they only had a superficial depth to them. Plot wise, Basara has a lot in common with Romeo and Juliet, only without the double suicide and a civil war instead of a war between 2 families. Such themes as revenge, emotional manipulation and the overused point of falling in love with ones enemy and how the lovers over come all to be together in the end are strongly represented. Government intrigue with a mixing of Japanese historical references and influences help the plot to be interesting and distinguish is from other shojou manga at the time and keeps readers reading, but the characters lacked depth. It's a cute read with the Middle Eastern influence, with some tedious areas and a lot of dramatic shojou thrown into the mix.
When comparing Basara to 7 Seeds, it is very obvious that this manga was written by a Tamura that was still in the maturing stage as a writer. While Sarasa and Shuri are fun characters and can be easily identified with by a younger audience, they are no where near as dynamic and realistic as her characters in 7 Seeds. Of course, this is a fantasy story, but the lack of depth in Sarasa and Shuri in Basara shows how much Tamura has matured as a character builder. Another area that shows her development is in how she uses the theme of the apocalypse in both mangas. In Basara Tamura turned part of Japan into a desert and imported a Middle Eastern culture and then sent Japan back to the feudal age within her post apocalyptic Japan, but in 7 Seeds she actually creates a realistic new world. Instead of reusing themes and ideas from other fantasy writers, Tamura was able to use the evolutionary theory to remake Earth. By remaking the world in this fashion, she is able to give her readers a setting that they can imagine without having to borrow a completely different culture to make its foundation.
The way that Tamura uses comedy between the two stories is also an interesting point. Throughout Basara Tamura uses the side characters, who I personally liked better than the main characters, to offset the rather overly dramatic Sarasa and Shuri with sheer randomness. It is very obvious that Nachi's only use in Basara was comic relief. He and other side characters pop in and out along the sides of panels in chibi form and then vanish again to break up the serious mood, in good old manga style. 7 Seeds has very different ways of breaking up the drama and seriousness that make up most of the plot. Younger characters such as Nobita are used to bring in a nostalgic and carefree atmosphere. Humor is used by certain characters, like Semimaru or Ban, to round him out as a character and not to only be the comedic timing for the whole manga which shows a maturity in character and plot building.
In the end, it is obvious which manga I think is better, but also how much Tamura has developed as a mangaka. Setting, plot, and character building are all areas where writers show their maturity as writers and Tamura show cases her maturity in flying colors in 7 Seeds.