The first main arc of Kubera which introduces us to the main characters and sets up the story. Honestly, not my favorite, but it’s not awful either.
Chapter 1 – Girl With a God’s Name (1)
Leez is woken up by her friend Kaz shouting “KUBERA!” and reminding her that she promised to make lunch. We are shown some personal belongings in her room, including photos of her father and mother. Finally a sleepy Leez wakes up and screams back to shut Kaz up. After reflecting briefly on how her character was badly designed (breaking the 4th wall?), she finds a box on her bed and opens it to find a happy birthday letter from her mother telling her she is now free to choose her own name, leave their village and explore the world. The box also contains her birthday gift, clothing made by a famous magician.
Note: I will be referencing names as notated in the Kubera Wiki. Specific scanlations may differ.
An elated Leez hops out and hugs her mom, and they share some cute lovey-dovey time together. Her mom tells her that her friend Kaz has been looking for her, and to pick some mushrooms on her way out. A happy Leez goes outside into the light, and the door closes, leaving her mother shrouded in darkness.
Outside, Leez pesters Kaz to give her her birthday present, and after much ado, he finally reveals it to be a math book for children ages 7-9. He tells her she’ll need it when she goes outside and goes to school, and promptly gets his lights punched out. Leez leaves, and Kaz’s older brother looks pityingly on him and suggests that they buy another present.
On the way out, Leez runs into the guard Roen and thanks her for helping her mother to get her birthday present. Roen and the other female guard compliment her, noticing the shirt is too tight for her boobs. Leez invites them both to her birthday party and Roen tells her that travelers may have picked all the mushrooms, but Leez says she’ll just take a look and come right back. As she leaves the guards reflect on how fast she is and how she may really become something in the future, despite initial worries of the villagers when her father Rao only had one daughter. One of the guards suggests they both attend her party, saying nothing will happen if they leave their posts for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, Leez is only able to find really tiny mushrooms and decides to venture into the woods despite Roen’s warnings. However, even in the woods she can only find tiny mushrooms. She sighs, and is about to head back when she comes across a green figure lying on the forest floor.
A decent intro to the only real glimpse of Leez’s village life that we ever get. Plenty of foreshadowing. In here, Leez seems like a bright, happy girl who has lived a carefree life all her life, which honestly raises questions for me on how she is portrayed further on. But I do enjoy the little references like her father’s autobiography (“How I Survived”)! I wonder if the calendar on her desk showing her mother’s birthday will mean anything later on.
Chapter 2 – Girl With a God’s Name (2)
Leez completely disregards the green figure and sees only the mass of rare curry mushrooms behind him. She actually steps on him and only then notices his presence, and worries that he is already collecting the mushrooms. She sees that he is in pain and asks if he’s OK, whereupon the figure grits out “Don’t touch me” and her arm begins to freeze where it’s touching him. Her arm unfreezes as she lets go, and she is sure that the man used magic although she heard no words. She then begins to lecture him on how attacking with magic is illegal, but the figure, annoyed, says he is not bound the law of humans and looks at her ominously. Leez begins to notice details such as the fact that his skin is blue, and, feeling nervous, apologizes and tries to explain that she needs to get to the mushrooms before they disappear.
However, the blue-skinned man seems confused, and comes towards her calling her Shakuntala and expressing his joy that she’s come back from the dead. After a moment, though, he realizes that she is more weird-looking than Shakuntala and he has made an embarrassing mistake. He wonders what a human is doing in the forest and whether she’s a magician, just as an angry Leez tries to hit him with a tree and awkwardly puts it back down. He concludes that she must be exercising and she agrees, trying not to be scared by the fact that he thinks uprooting a tree to work out is normal. She explains that she is collecting curry mushrooms, and that the mushrooms are rare (1 can feed 500 people) and can disappear anytime. The blue man asks her to eat one, and when she tries to explain that they are too big to fit in her mouth, her demonstration cracks him up.
He asks her name, but as Leez begins to say “Kubera” she remembers her mother’s warning never to tell her true name to anyone outside the village, and modifies it to garbled gibberish. The man announces that he will let her live because she is funny, and tells her to go deeper into the woods. When Leez objects, he tells her she can go or die here. Scared, Leez takes off, and the man laughs, reflecting on how good it feels to occasionally show mercy like a king.
Leez pops out of the forest at a random place and tries to see where she is, only to find herself atop a cliff. However, she is able to locate the village from her vantage point, and just as she’s about to try and climb down, the village goes up in an explosion of red and Leez looks on, stunned.
Honestly, I thought the comedy was laid on a bit heavy here. These are the first chapters, and it’s hard to get much of a feel for either Leez or Gandharva due to their exaggerated exchanges and Leez’s obsession over mushrooms. But the world is definitely interesting, we’re getting more peeks on how it works (e.g. curry mushrooms), and the plot is moving quite along as Leez’s village gets annihilated.
Chapter 3 – Girl With a God’s Name (3)
Stunned, Leez drops her bag of mushrooms and runs directly down the the vertical side of the cliff with what appears to be magical/godly powers. Once she’s down she can’t remember how she gets there, and rushes towards the village. Fond memories of the villagers run through her head, and when she arrives she stands in shock in front of a ruined village beneath the red sky, with no survivors in sight. Pulling herself together, she tells herself that everyone must be OK and turns to look for them when she sees a gray and white figure standing atop the rock (who kind of resembles Inu Yasha). Identifying him as the culprit that destroyed the village, she yells at him in anger. He points a single finger at her, and right before he explodes all of the ground she is standing on in a red dome, a figure in blue grabs her and teleports her nearby into some bushes with the spells “hoti vayu” and “hoti chandra”.
The red figure looks at the remnants of the explosion and turns away, possibly satisfied. Meanwhile, the person in blue chides Leez for acting brashly in the face of such a strong enemy and tells her they will be safe once they get to the city of Atera, although they first need to figure out how to lose the creature. However, an upset Leez slaps her hand away and shouting that she would rather die with her village, as everyone she knew was there. The shouting alerts the red figure, and he looks back.
I have to say, for three chapters in, this is an incredibly cliche plot. Girl whose village is destroyed by some sort of evil monster and vows to get revenge, and the cool guy that saves her. And lots of things about the protagonist hint that she will later on become overpowered (the sudden godly power to run down the cliff, the god’s name… etc). Of course, having read the series, I know that it actually gets much better than that, but so far nothing has given it any more credit than every other typical shounen manga out there.
Chapter 4 – Girl With a God’s Name (4)
Leez suddenly finds herself exposed between two bushes at the bottom of the cliff, and the red and gray figure looks straight at her. She sits, petrified, wondering why the creature is not attacking her. She wants to kill him but can’t bring herself to move. The person in blue identifies herself as Asha and speaks, insulting Leez for her weakness, brashness, and lack of manners. Internally, she reflects on the use of the spell “hoti chandra” which makes them invisible and unheard by observers as long as they are within a certain radius, although someone with keen perceptions may be able to detect something slightly off. She also worries about the dangers of Leez accidentally revealing their location, and warns Leez that she plans to get out with minimal use of magic.
An irritated and cranky Leez gives an unauthentic apology, tells Asha to remember the name Kubera Leez, and prepares to storm off. However, Asha hears “Kubera” and binds Leez with “hoti brahma.” Leez expresses that she doesn’t want to go to Atera, and Asha expresses that she doesn’t care. They teleport with “hoti vayu.” The red creature inspects the bushes they were in, and notices Leez’s profile imprinted into the dirt. His eyes shine an angry, dark red.
Leez and Asha walk through a purple forest, quibbling as they go. Asha says Leez has two conflicting emotions, the desire to live and the desire for revenge, and flashes back to a young girl of 10 holding a dead body and covered in blood, consumed by the desire of revenge. She tells Leez that she is not the only unfortunate person in the world, and Leez, feeling hurt, lets go of Asha’s cloak. Asha turns and sees a great bird bearing down on them, grabs Leez and runs for it. Leez sees the gray and white bird and recognizes it to be the same person from before, right before it shoots a bolt of light out of its mouth and annihilates the entire forest.
I had forgotten about Asha’s flashback in this scene. It’s clearly her, as she specifically states it’s been 10 years since the girl was 10, and later on reveals her age to be 20. So we know Asha is set on the path for revenge, perhaps for destruction of everything she ever knew as well, but no clear backstory.
I also feel that the author is exaggerating too many aspects of Leez for comedic effect. The stupidity and lack of awareness is good for slapstick humor, but it has a serious detrimental effect on Leez’s character, as the inconsistency makes it hard for readers to sympathize with her. At this point in the story, the first two major conflicts have occurred (#1 village destroyed #2 saved by a total douche) and we should be feeling the impact of both from her POV. But randomly, there are melodramatic stop-in-your-track moments where currygom obviously wants to make us laugh at Leez’s expense. Switching between that and being serious makes me at least end up feeling very little for the character at all.
Chapter 5 – Girl With a God’s Name (5)
Voices are calling Kubera to wake up. We are shown a birthday cake, and Roen, the other guard, and Leez’s mother chide her for falling asleep before her birthday party. They ask her what she plans to choose for her new name, and suggests Leez (her father’s last name) for her new first name, and Haias (her mother’s last name) for her new last name. Leez agrees, and asks where the brothers Kaz and Haas are. Her mother says she will meet them later, and tells Leez to return to reality. The three begin walking away (along with pedo bear) despite Leez’s protests.
Leez wakes up beneath a large tree and realizes grimly that it was all a dream. She then sees Asha with her arm crushed under a boulder and tries to figure out how to remove the boulder, not noticing a large gash on her own arm. Her blood drips on Asha’s nose, and Asha wakes up. Asha gives Leez a scare when she speaks, and then explodes the boulder with “hoti agni,” purposely letting a piece land on Leez’s head. Asha explains that she teleported as far as she could, and the stress of the spell caused a miscalculation and thus the injuries. She then insults Leez for thinking only of running away despite her brave words at the outset. She deems her not worthy of a god’s name, lacking manners, and nothing but a burden. She then suggests they get along, since she has no choice but to protect her. She introduces herself as Asha Rahiro, born in D996 year, 20 years old. Hearing this, Leez throws a punch into air and introduces herself as Leez Haias, year 0, 16 year old girl, declaring that she will not be a burden. Asha eases up a bit and smiles, pointing out her arm injury, and Leez realizes that she is injured for the first time.
Meanwhile, the red creature, Maruna, is back in human form and looking off to where Leez and Asha disappeared. The blue-skinned king appears and expresses surprise that Maruna can destroy all the trees but not a measly few humans. He then tries to show off a curry mushroom, but before he can Maruna stuffs it into his mouth and eats it easily, reminding the king that he is carnivorous. The king, very upset, sulks. Oblivious Maruna lets on that their target is heading to Atera, a city which they can’t attack because the oracle there has summoned the fire god Agni. The king muses that he may be able to do something if it’s Agni, though Maruna reminds him that it’s crazy to go against gods in the human realm. The king reflects that Agni was different from other gods, even in the god’s realm, and that he knows his weakness…
For the first time, we get to see a little more of Leez’s feelings. Unfortunately, it is followed up immediately by some dramatic cheesiness. Leez and Asha’s declaration to each other? Sorry, cheesy as hell. Also, I know currygom likes pedobear because his name basically means curry bear, but what’s up with pedobear showing up in the weirdest of places? I did sincerely enjoy the bit of humor with Gandharva and the curry mushrooms, and the introduction at the end of Agni, Atera, and the oracles is definitely exciting. Other that, I don’t know if there’s that much good that I can say about this chapter.
Overall, this was an incredibly disappointing introductory arc for me. Honestly, if I hadn’t been bored and the world hadn’t drawn me in, I probably would have given up continuing at this point.
- The plot is incredibly cliche. Like, incredibly so. Leez is a typical shounen hero with a heavier dose of stand-up comedy, the villains are clear, and if I hadn’t actually read the series it just looks like an average good vs evil story where Leez continues on, converts teammates to her cause, fights with bad guys, levels up, yadda yadda.
- We don’t know what drives anybody. In the first few chapters of Naruto we clearly understand where Naruto comes from, why he is the way he is, why the people who hate him hate him, and why the people who help him help him. 5 chapters into this series we have no real idea what Leez’s life was like growing up, no clue what Maruna and Gandharva are up to, and nothing about Asha other than that she has a tragic past. Weak.
- Leez for me is way too inconsistent characterization. I can laugh at currygom’s humor, like Yuta’s scarf scenes and Babo Kim’s faked idiocy. I can even laugh at ridiculous for ridiculous’ sake, like Dragon Kim in The Dragon Next Door. What I can’t do is laugh at the ridiculous one second, and then sympathize with that same character as a serious, tragic heroine the next. If Dragon Kim switched between being Dragon Kim one second and Baam from Tower of God the next second, he would be neither quite funny nor quite sympathetic. And that, to me, is Leez.
- On the other hand, the worldbuilding is interesting and already starting to show. There are no explanations. Rather, we are thrown directly into the existence of suras and magic and superhuman strength without any warning, and just have to pay careful attention and try to figure out the rules as we read. I absolutely love this.
For such a great series, I would have hoped that it had a great start to grab new readers in right from the beginning. Unfortunately it is not so, and all I can say is keep reading, because the next arc gets better.