Split-second-first-impressions of Olympos: holy crap what is this and why is it so gorgeous. I’ve never read anything by Aki before but after this I ran off to find the rest of her works, if only to enjoy more of her art. It helps that you don’t see a lot of Greek gods in manga form these days, and the 400 page series managed to quickly establish a variety of characters, make me care about them, and let them go through growth and change in such a short (but well-spent) amount of time.
Status: North America: 2 volumes collected in one omnibus (Complete)
Publisher: Yen Press (US), Ichijinsha (JP)
Premise: From on high, the gods make sport of the mortals who toil below them. None know the cruelty of these beings better than Ganymede, a beautiful prince who was torn away from his family by the gods’ divine hands. Granted immortality, Ganymede now whiles away his days in an inescapable miniature garden for the amusement of the gods, particularly Apollo. But the gods themselves are no strangers to the boredom of eternal life, and as Ganymede quickly discovers, they will do anything to keep themselves entertained, both at his expense and at one another’s…
I enjoy reading about ancient myths as much as the next person, but I’m only familiar with the main stories; Apollo, Artemis, Hades, Poseidon & co. all play a part in Olympos, but the main character this time is Ganymede. His moment in the spotlight of Greek mythology involves being abducted by Zeus. Aki mentions that although she read a lot about the myths before writing the story, she doesn’t stick too closely to the main interpretations—it has enough similarities that it isn’t just about Ganymede in name only, but yeah, it’s a pretty liberal spin on the tale. (Of all the characters, I just wish that Artemis had any traits that remotely resembled the ones that she’s known for.)
In this story, Ganymede is abducted by Apollo, who acts more like a trickster than the god associated… too many (other) things to name. I was 120% sure that he was a girl when he first appeared in the manga. This goes universes beyond androgyny, but I got used to it. Ganymede also happens to be the most beautiful mortal on the planet, but being next to Apollo makes him look like bearded lumberjack in comparison. But who cares? The artwork is just plain gorgeous. The panels are detailed and creatively designed, and although it doesn’t take things too seriously (and there are some charming, comedic moments here and there) there’s more to this series than just a bunch of pretty faces.
The themes are mainly about the downsides of immortality—the loneliness, the inability to really care about anything or anyone (especially lowly humans) because there’s no point in being concerned about something that’ll be dead and gone in a blink of an eye. Apollo has way too much time on his hands, too, and he spends most of it messing with Ganymede. (No, I wouldn’t label it as yaoi—after finishing it I’d say it’d be good for anyone who enjoys josei titles and gorgeous people.) There are some truly beautiful scenes in this volume; not just in an aesthetic sense, but there’s emotion and longing and sadness that stuck in my mind even after turning the last page. Hmm, it’s probably not a coincidence that I found myself really liking this series, since it was first published in Zero-Sum, home of one of my all-time favorites. The pages where Ganymede’s brother is killed, what happened to Iris (no, not the goddess of rainbows, just a regular sacrifice), it somehow managed to make me feel something, which is much more than I can say for the mountain of series that never manage to elicit any emotion from me. It even got a little philosophical at the end, and most of all, it made me wish there was more. But ah, such is life. Nothing lasts forever, and perhaps it’s better that way.