All that glitters may actually be bad for you.

t_x400Title: Ring of the Nibelung
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Creek & River Co., Ltd (JP, US)
Creators: Ryo Azumi (adaptation), Richard Wagner (original)
Release Date: July 3, 2015

Adapting classic stories into comic form is a popular idea on both sides of the Pacific, and I’ve come across some rather obscure adaptations from Japan. I almost didn’t realize this was one of them at first; Ring of the Nibelung is an adaptions of the 50 hour opera series Wagner’s The Ring Cycle (The Ring of the Nibelung) and, given the sheer length of the production, I’m largely unfamiliar with it. I know some of the basic story, and also that it was an influence on The Lord of the Rings and possibly Princess Tutu, but went in mostly blind. And so I was delighted to find that this is a very accessible story even if you know nothing going in!

The story starts with the dwarf Nibelung being teased by nymphs in the river Rhine and, after one joke too many, he steals the gold they have been guarding and swears off love. Instead, he will seek the power that the gold will bring him. He forges the gold into a ring and while it doesn’t have a specific power like invisibility, it seems to grant power and influence to whoever wears it. It doesn’t take long before knowledge of the ring reaches the gods; for anyone who is less familiar with Norse mythology, these are in fact the Norse gods just with odd spellings, a discrepancy apparently stems from the original operas. The gods themselves are in a bit of a pickle, making promises they can’t keep and then making even more promises to fulfill the original promise etc, and set off to plunder Nibelung’s new wealth and the ring begins to change hands, bringing trouble upon its bearer every time.

I was honestly surprised as how snappily paced the story was. There is much more going on than a simple summary can convey but it’s never hard to remember which characters have what interests, no one is ever off-screen for too long, and watching the characters make more and more poor choices is engrossing. The art style might put off some potential readers, as it looks rather old-school shoujo (the long faces, bigger noses, and semi-mullets reminded me a lot of some 90s series) but it belies its actual age — apparently the adaptation is from only last year.

As far as I can tell, this series is four volumes long and each one completely adapts one of the operas. It certainly made me much more interested in the source material — recommended!