3 out of 5
Pretty literally split down the middle, with four “Searching for A.W.” chapters and four “Saying Farewell to A.W.” chapters – A.W. being, of course, Allen Walker -I similarly found my appreciation for this collection split.
The former story bits are kind of traditional shonen dramatics, which aren’t to my tastes, and also bring Hoshino’s cluttered, wishy-washy narrative sins to the fore, as Allen struggles with his Nea / Fourteenth identity, and the whole Millenium Earl nonsense makes the Noah clan, in general, seem like less interesting foes, as it dilutes their intentions instead of adding, I’d guess, intended complexities. Hoshino gives us some amazing battle sequences, for sure, just the will he / won’t he stuff with Allen is the same kind of delaying tactic that’s stretched back through the destruction of the Black Order, and all the endless Noah battles, and etc.
However, after the split, Kanda reconnects with Johnny / Allen and we’re actually being told a story through the dramatics instead of just doing a tug-of-war standstill. I don’t think the emotional connection to Timcanpy really comes through – this again, is part of the shonen-ness, where every death (or “death”) is supposed to be meaningful, when whichever involved characters are just kinda one-beat inclusions, otherwise – but the interactions between Kanda and Allen are well-earned, and giving Allen a destination helps to give the plot a trajectory as well.
Hoshino’s art: blowing me away. Everything is fluid and readable; her balance between simplified linework and gorgeously detailed pages is not only, I’d imagine, smarter for how she applies her time, but also gives the book a nice sense of flow amongst the dynamic action, beautiful set dressing, and comedic moments.