In 16th century Italy, it takes hard work to become an artist!
If you look around the internet long enough, it’s possible to find legal, online sources for manga in very odd places. You have your big libraries like Crunchyroll and Comixology, and then you have small outfits like Comic Zenon (which is part of the Silent Manga Audition Community) who translate a short list of exclusive titles. Last summer they had a series of polls where people could vote on which series they wanted to keep seeing translated and I suppose this means that Kei Ohkubo’s Arte received enough interest to keep going.
The titular Arte is a young noblewoman in Renaissance-era Firenze, Italy, who wants to be an artist despite her family’s strenuous objections. It takes her some time but she’s finally able to find an artist who will even take a look at her drawings and, after completing a task that even Master Leo thought was impossible, she is finally apprenticed and ready to improve her art in a way she could never do on her own.
While the biggest objection everyone has to Arte becoming an artist is “You’re a girl!” this is thankfully not something the series beats the reader over the head with. It certainly does still come up, like another artist who won’t let Arte into his workshop to study since he thinks she’ll only distract the boys, or another time when she’s dressed up like a boy to attend an anatomical dissection, but usually her gender is only brought up to compare and contrast her with other women, not just to hinder her path. I prefer it when stories take this approach; seeing a character being told “You can’t do this because of X!” every chapter is more boring than a 50 chapter shounen fight. Frankly it’s just more interesting to see how another girl, a tailor and a commoner, views Arte from afar without realizing how similar the two of them are, or how Arte interacts with the courtesan Lady Veronica. The story has been rather episodic so far (as of writing there are 10 chapters online but five published volumes in Japan) but Arte’s relationship with Veronica has been the story’s strongest, underlying theme as Arte struggles with how differently Veronica lives her life and yet comes to understand Veronica’s balancing act and even sympathizes with her.
I’m honestly not quite sure where the story will continue to go. Initially I thought this would be a rather short manga but clearly there is a lot more of the manga out there, and I hope that the story isn’t reduced to reusing the same ideas and plots in each chapter. So far Arte’s enthusiasm and energy has really helped keep the story going; she’s a rather likable character with how she mixes a realistic determination with lofty dreams, and the art looks quite nice as well. It seems very unlikely but I would love to have a print release of this manga since I would love to see the art in more detail. It’s not as detailed as say A Bride’s Story but it’s clear that Ohkubo loves 16th century Italy quite a bit and enjoys working in as many realistic details as they can. It’s a charming series so far and, as long as it handles the budding romance carefully, I think it’ll be a fantastic manga that feels quite different from everything else I see currently being published.