Moon Shadow Chapters 1-12 review
Moon Shadow :
Synopsis: Himeko regains consciousness after the 1st Herrscher clone’s threat against St. Freya has subsided. When everyone is celebrating the recovery of Himeko, Fu Hua receives a mysterious mission with a strange instruction… (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Moon Shadow is a curious little thing in that even though labeled as chapter 1, the first page declares this as Chapter 40. But don’t let that fool you as Moon Shadow’s story does indeed seem to start with said chapter, though the synopsis and later chapters make it clear that what we are reading takes place after some major event in the overall Honkai Impact narrative. While I would say the story is, for the most part, approachable for those at least partially familiar with Honkai Impact, it is definitely not something that should be someone’s first foray into the franchise. The manhua does explain the greater elements of its self contained story, but it also casually refers to and spoils bigger overarching characters and plot points that are best experienced through some of the other Honkai Impact titles for true impact and full understanding. That said, let’s dive into the meat of the review.
Moon Shadow opening is dark. We meet an elderly man, Dr Magi, who is being chased down by three women only to then be ‘rescued’ by someone who makes mincemeat of his pursuers. This upfront brutality sets the tone, previewing readers as to how twisty the story can get, with betrayals and unexpected turns galore. Even when we shift over to a more slice of life like, playful scene where we have a group of the main Honkai series leads hanging out, that more whimsical tone doesn’t last. By the next chapter we jump back into a world of action and mystery, firmly establishing that this series is going to be high on those elements. If you’ve found yourself drawn to the more action oriented, high octane side of Honkai Impact, then this is a promising start. And if you’re concerned about the violence and related gore, Moon Shadow continues to keep things chaste with most bloodier action depicted in a restrained manner that should be palatable for more squeamish readers.
Moon Shadow isn’t just espionage and battles though. There is an emotional, moral dilemma revolving around the elderly man, Dr Magi. Props to the manga for making him a gray character in that he had to undergo an extremely personal loss to truly realize the weight of his past, horrific actions. He isn’t a completely noble character and some might even still condemn him for taking so long to repent. Even the manhua itself calls him out on it, asking why he was completely fine with performing horrendous immoral experiments until it finally hit close to home. It isn’t the most original backstory but Moon Shadow makes it work by not lingering on it for too long and also including other plot points and twists to share the spotlight and help distract from the more generic aspects of this reveal. Most of the Honkai Impact titles tend to rely heavily on tropes and cliches but Moon Shadow pulls it off better than most.
That said, Moon Shadow’s handling of its cliche ridden villains is another story. Welt is his name and he is the classic perverted and blood thirsty villain who likes to refer to himself as Papa and repeatedly engage in attempts to defile our heroines anytime he has one in captivity. He likes to lick things and his dialogue and actions are almost cringe inducing thanks to just how trope ridden they are. He ends up as an uncomfortable and clear reminder of how easily and completely Honkai Impact and its related manga slip into tired, predictable content. There is one solid and fleeting comedic moment thanks to Welt though, where he destroys his own robotic minions in a show of power and one of our heroines rightfully calls out how idiotic said move is. But that’s the only positive thing I could say about his entire character and existence.
The other problem with the many Honkai Impact series in regards to its villains is that it becomes easy to tell who is the flavor of the month, aka who’s here to ultimately be killed off to showcase the power of whichever Valkyrie warrior is being focused on at the moment. This makes the sense of danger and threat plummet, hampering the engagement factor for those who are hoping for high risks tales. In the case of Moon Shadow, Welt loses his threat as he quickly and repeatedly gets defeated by the Valkyries warriors, Fa Hua and Kiana. Despite a grandiose introduction where he made short and quick work of 3 unnamed Valkyrie girls, bragging about how many A rank Valkyries he has taken down, Welt is unable to ever truly pose a true threat to the named heroines even when they’re injured.
If you’re like me and are only vaguely familiar with the Honkai Impact world, Moon Shadow introduces two ‘new’ characters who play quick but significant roles in the plot and are somewhat crucial to Fa Hua and Kiana saving the day. They exist mainly for that very role, one to act as a master of disguise and help Fa Hua enter enemy territory with ease while the other gives her a containment device necessary to safely control the item she has been sent to retrieve. While we get some comedy and jokes through the master of disguise character, neither of them add much to the story otherwise or establish themselves as deep characters. This speaks to the tendency of the Honkai Impact series to often inject new characters solely to be used as plot devices and the very narrow characterization even its main cast gets.
Overall, Moon Shadow is another okay addition to the Honkai Impact 3rd line up of world building content. It isn’t revolutionary or redefining but it manages to inject and juggle enough plot points and twists to keep most readers somewhat engaged, even if they aren’t ardent fans of the original material. However, I have to reiterate that the series is definitely one of the less approachable entries as it is so clearly set in the midst of the main timeline and seems to assume the reader’s familiarity with quite a few of the cast members, including the top featured leads Fa Hua and Kiana. Also, my research shows me that at the time of this review, Crunchyroll does not have the complete series. It is missing the final chapter of the story so you may want to wait until Chapter 13 pops up in the library so you can read through this short story in one sitting.
Moon Shadow is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.