Summary (from back cover)
Once per generation, the Valkyrie-turned-angel Arela embodies herself in a worthy sister of the Warrior Nun order. Warrior Nuns are an elite class of warrior for the Vatican. Areala’s purpose is to battle the forces that would seek to destroy her church and Mankind.
Join Arela as she’s sent to New York City, where she must confront a mad Roman magician/emperor who wants to sacrifice the entire city to his Lord, Lucifer.
And time is running out.
In my Junior year of college, I took a survey class in Japanese history. One tidbit that stuck out to me was the existence of warrior monks, which struck me as quite amusing. But even those rugged men would find their hands full with Ben Dunn’s warrior nuns.
The Warrior Nun Areala series, created by Dunn and published by Antarctic Press, began in 1994, though the character first appeared in a 1987 volume of Ninja High School. I’d never heard of it, but the series and its continuations have quite a following.
The first volume of the original series introduces us to Sister Shannon Masters, a highly trained warrior nun who is thrown into battle against more than one group of demons after taking a post in New York City. She becomes the title character, a kind a “reborn” version of a great warrior nun.
Much of the tone is somewhat campy in the first story in volume one. After all, you have to take the manga with a grain of salt when it’s heroine is a warrior nun with a cybernetic arm and one of her enemies is a neo-Nazi. The second story in the volume, though, is really where the meat is at. It introduces interesting villains, hints at a vast backstory, deals with the idea of non-Christians in Areala’s Japanese family, and moves along at a nice pace.
Perhaps the most interesting concept about Warrior Nun Areala is that, unlike manga, this manga-style series uses Catholic imagery in an affectionate way. The nuns are heroes; the church cares; and Bible verses are used throughout. It’s quite different from what a typical anime or manga fan is used to. But that doesn’t mean the series is a perfect representation of Christianity. The theology is sometimes questionable – no more than when former warrior nuns make the decision to send a dead sister back to earth, stating that “heaven is only for the worthy.” There are issues galore with that last sentence.
Conservative Christians may also take offense at the material, which is certainly not G-rated and Serenity-like. After all, these are warrior nuns. Violence (including a number of pierced eyeballs) occurs on most every page and cursing is frequent, including the use of God’s name in vain. Also, our heroine shows a lot of skin, but that’s only part of the abundant fanservice (though Dunn responded to complaints with a more modest costume in a later volume), which includes a partial look at some of the sisters’ bare necessities. -_-‘
Thus, this volume doesn’t simply walk a fine line – it crosses back and forth completely over and over again. As such, I think that particularly conservative Christians may find issue with the series. However, as I mentioned above, the Catholic church is painted with affection, though also as an institution with problems (after all, humans are imperfect). Besides physical representations of Christianity, the volume is infused with other Christian themes. For instance, one character says to “never underestimate the enemy” in talking about Lucifer. Another lesson is to place more trust in God than in man. The volume also stresses the power of the meek in an important scene involving Sister Masters. Because of this emphasis on Christianity, those who have a disdain toward the faith may also want to avoid the series. Others, however, may enjoy the religious focus of the story.
The volume is in full color, which is obviously more in American comic book style than in manga style. And the meshing of these styles goes beyond color – the characters are sometime drawn more like typical comic book characters and at other times resemble manga characters; this movement back and forth can become distracting. The lush colors of the illustrations, however, are a feast for the eyes.
Warrior Nun Areala is quite a ride. It brings us into a world that is unique in manga-style publications, and beginning with the second story in volume one, also delivers on presenting an interesting tale. If you read it, I guarantee you this – you’re in for a most interesting experience.