Here we are, my Hermiones, to the fourth and final installment of this series of blog posts, my review of the final volume of "Return to Labyrinth".
Of all the volumes, this was my favorite. This had the most scenes between Jareth and Sarah, the most canon occurrences, and the best artwork. However. There were major, major, MAJOR problems with this volume.
First, let me direct your attention to the cover art. Isn't it beautiful? I would love to have this hanging on my wall. I want Sarah's dress desperately.
Okay, done with the positives. Let's get to it.
We start off with our prologue, which is Toby commenting on how he loves the choose-your-own-adventure stories and his goblin computer game, because he could just lose himself in the world and play by his rules.
We cut to Hana (tiny fairy that no one cares about, remember?) who is wandering around the deserted city. She is dragged off by the Ludo-lookalike to the tower where Moulin is being held hostage. Moulin is reading the most depressing book ever, which is called "A History of Missed Opportunities" which basically tells you what would have happened in your life if you hadn't screwed up so much. Moulin angsts about what the book says of her life, the various ways she defeats Esker. Because she has read all the possible ways she defeats Esker in the book, it means that he's unbeatable in the real world.
Hana disagrees, saying that life isn't a choose-your-own-adventure story, and that maybe there's no way Moulin can defeat Esker on her own, but perhaps they could do it together.
I'm sorry, the actually decent dialogue is surprising me, so I can't make any wry comments.
Hana manages to free Moulin and her little cloud familiar thing, Nimbus. Hana announces that to defeat Esker, they have to think like someone else, which basically means they need to cheat. Awesome, we're finally beginning to sound like canon Labyrinth characters! Yeah!
Cut to Toby, who is stuck in an oubliette. Toby angsts. He then meets a weird looking critter and a few other goblins, known as the 'forgotten ones'. The critter points out one who used to be a famous singer, who Jareth threw in the oubliette cuz he couldn't stand the competition. Admittedly, this made me laugh. This volume is being weirdly canon. What is going on?! How can I mock it if the writing is actually good?!
Wait a sec, if they're the forgotten ones, how is this critter remembering them? Toby points this out in a surprising moment of clarity for his character and the critter blinks and then POOF they all disappear. A weird disembodied voice basically calls him a dumbass for not asking her to set him free and allowing her to explain herself alway. I'm not annoyed at Toby for this, because that whole forgotten bit is totally something I would point out too.
Toby starts to go through an interesting bout of insanity whilst in the oubliette and begs to be let out. He hysterically agrees to tell Mizumi where the pathmaker is and Candlewic lets him out, commenting that he made it three hours, when most people could only make one.
Cut to Moppet. Or...Sarah? I'm confused. Moppet-Sarah thing is having a dream involving her father and mother...her mom comes in and they start playing dress-up. Okay, since Moppet is an aspect of Sarah's dreams...Sarah is dreaming? Or is Moppet dreaming? I'm a little relieved, the volume is going back to its nonsensical weirdness. Moppet-Sarah is having a happy time with her mommy, and it's a lovely dream.
Okay, MOPPET wakes up to find a water-beast-thing Mizumi sent after her. It tries to kill her. But suddenly, Moulin blasts it with a bazooka.
Wait, what?!?! I'm sorry, when did Moulin become FREAKING AMAZING?!?!
We then have a pretty well-paced action sequence. Esker is defeated and right when everyone seems to be all right, the ground begins shaking. End chapter 1.
Chapter 2, Mizumi and Toby have a conversation. Sigh. We're getting back to Narrative Exposition, aren't we? Mizumi reveals that she is the Queen of Cups, something that's been hinted at, but it's nice to have things precisely labeled, especially since this is the final volume. Toby pretty much says, screw this, you can have Jareth's heart, just let me outta here, and Mizumi decides that it's a good idea to give Toby a blow by blow of why she and Jareth broke up.
Oh for the love of...look Miss Bitter Ex, I don't CARE. You're like Angie Bowie, publishing a memoir detailing your ex's various exploits and affairs. You need to realize that I only care about the metaphorical David Bowie and Iman. (Jareth and Sarah. Really, you have to admit, that was a pretty epic analogy.)
Okay, so when Angie Bowie, I mean Mizumi first met Jareth, she fell head over heels. She knew her power was as great as his, but she declared that Jareth's very being demanded obedience. Basically, the whole 'fear me, love me, do as I say' bit? Mizumi did ALL of that. Jareth and Mizumi traveled from world to world together. Mizumi begins to whine about them staying too long in the world of goblins (precursor to the Goblin City). Jareth comments that they amuse him. As I've mentioned before, this ignores David Bowie's interpretation of Jareth, which still aggravates me. Jareth coolly asks what Mizumi wants and Mizumi says that she wants to see his heart. Jareth laughs and says he's hidden his heart in a Labyrinth, and if she finds it, it's hers. If she fails, Jareth wants her word that she will never allow his Labyrinth to fall to harm. Mizumi agrees.
Mizumi also fails to solve his Labyrinth. She says she doesn't care, and tells him that she'll still follow him wherever he goes. Jareth informs her that he intends on staying there. Then Jareth says, "I would rather rule alone over nonsense than share the greatest empire with you. This dance is over, Mizumi."
Well, it beats, 'it's not you, it's me.'
Jareth comments that Mizumi has absolutely no depth to her character (every time this volume addresses a complaint of mine, I have to take a walk to clear the confusion in my head. It's like they know) and Mizumi gets pissed. But Jareth still has her word that she won't destroy the Labyrinth so instead she stalks off.
We end the flashback, and Mizumi tells Toby that she'd love to destroy the Labyrinth, but she can't, and she needs his help to save it.
So...what, she's no longer our antagonist? *bangs head against keyboard* Would you stick with ONE interpretation of a character, manga?!
Toby agrees to try and help. Mizumi tells him to open his mouth. He does so. Then she...WHOA.
Really? Does Labyrinth REALLY need anymore pedophiliac implications? Geez.
Okay, so whatever THAT bit of disturbing-ness was, it made Toby suddenly badass, and he saves Moppet and co. Moulin accuses him of kissing her mother which Toby carefully ignores. Moppet is apparently caught in a 'dreamtrap', a dream of your deepest desire that plays over and over again.
Toby says that he has to protect Sarah, so he creates a little hut thing out of junk and locks Moppet and co. inside. Then we go to...
SARAH! Boring Sarah, but that means JARETH is coming up!
Sarah takes a seat in the theatre that is obviously a trap. It's a puppet show! Sarah blinks and thinks, "That Jareth guy didn't seem like the type to hang out with puppets..."
Okay, THAT made me laugh again. Geez, manga, you're on a roll today!
The puppet show is basically a caricature of Sarah's life. We see Sarah's mom puppet walk out on the Sarah puppet, leaving the family for a David Bowie puppet. (I'm serious, mom's boyfriend looks like David Bowie.) Sarah's dad puppet marries Karen puppet. Karen puppet and Dad puppet dump baby on Sarah puppet. Sarah puppet wishes baby puppet away, goes to the Labyrinth, meets Hoggle puppet, Ludo puppet, Sir Didymus puppet.
Real Sarah looks thoughtful and says, "Where do I know this story from?"
Sarah puppet defeats Jareth puppet. Then the puppet show ends with her growing up into a 'perfectly ordinary woman who spiraled into anonymity.' Real Sarah, entranced, begins to cry.
Enter Jareth, in full Goblin King attire. Bamf.
Sarah: You're him, aren't you? The Goblin King...
Oh hell to the yes, we're FINALLY getting somewhere!
Jareth: I was once.
Sarah demands to know what he's doing here. He touches her face and says he wanted to save her the pain of knowing failure. Sarah demands to know why he's tormenting her. Jareth gets mad and says that SHE has been tormenting him! He then summons a crystal and says their fates are bound, and he is offering her a second chance. A final wish, all that remains of his power. He says, "It isn't too late to live up to your potential, Sarah! Use this wish." Sarah says she doesn't know what to wish for.
Jareth: Then let me be your guide.
Sarah: You want me to surrender my will?
Jareth: I want you to THRIVE.
Sarah takes his hand, and they walk hand in hand into the crystal.
Cut to Moppet--now hang on a minute! Things were getting interesting! You can't just leave it there! Go back to Sarah and Jareth!
Ugh. Fine. Moppet's stupid dream. She's dreaming that she's running lines with her mom. Moppet realizes something's not right and that her dreams died when Julliard rejected her. The dream falls apart and Moppet wakes up. Moppet says that they have to find Sarah, they have to go back, otherwise JARETH WILL WIN. OH NO...
Somehow, Jareth winning is a problem. Whatever. I'm just hoping this leads us back to Sarah and Jareth.
Chapter 3 starts, goblins are gossiping about 'King Toby'. Spittledrum...wait, Spittledrum's alive? Weren't you stabbed? Sigh. Fine. Spittledrum and Skub have a bonding moment that I don't care about.
Toby and Mizumi have a conversation and I'm creeped out cuz Mizumi is being a little too familiar with Toby.
Moppet is still stuck in the junk prison thing and HEY! Ludo lets her out! Ludo! Ludo AND Hoggle! ZOMG! Moppet announces that they have to go, the real Sarah needs them! Hoggle leads them off into a secret passageway.
Toby walks off, angsting. He looks into a fountain and wonders if he's still himself at all. Jareth's face appears and questions if there was any part of Toby worth keeping. Jareth's...reflection? Yeah. Jareth's reflection and Toby have an argument, where Jareth basically tells Toby to grow up and stop acting like a child. Toby screams that he hates Jareth and he wishes Jareth would just get out of his life and Jareth smirks and says, "Bad choice."
Something weird happens to Toby. He...becomes evil? I don't know. We cut to Jareth and Sarah walking and Sarah commenting that something's wrong. Jareth assures her that it's just a door closing, far away.
Start chapter 4. Moppet and co. are discussing what to do. Moppet asks Hoggle to lead them, and Hoggle tells her that the Labyrinth doesn't have a set path
they can follow.
Suddenly, a set path they can follow appears. Seriously. With a little sign with Jareth's face on it and everything. That's... convenient. Moppet declares that they have to follow this path, and Hoggle and Ludo are all, "Ok sweet, let's go!" and Moppet says they have to stay and protect the Labyrinth.
What?! Oh don't tell me that Hoggle and Ludo are just a brief cameo! Come on!
So they split up. Ugh.
Evil Toby shows up and has a weirdly tender moment with Mizumi that continues to creep me out. Manga! Quit being creepy! Underage romance with slight pedophiliac implications is only okay when it's Sarah and Jareth!
Speaking of...we have another Sarah/Jareth moment! Sarah says weakly for him to take her back, but he tells her that there's nothing to return to. He tells her that the place they're in is just a small world in a gossamer shell, but together they can make it grow. She can have everything she wants, all she has to do is forsake everyone but him.
This is a lot more reasonable than the whole 'fear me, love me, do as I say' bit. Don't date anyone but me and together we'll create an entirely new kingdom. Is this supposed to be villainous of Jareth? Cuz all I can hear are the Jareth/Sarah fangirls squealing in ecstasy.
Sarah sees people coming in the crystal. Jareth tells her that they mean her harm, but not to worry, he's set up defenses.
I know this is a whole, 'let's rescue Sarah' plot going down, but honestly, I'm not seeing what they're rescuing her FROM. Oh no, save me from the really hot magic guy who is sweeping me away from a world of grading papers to be his queen. Help...?
Moppet, Moulin, and Hana reach a riddle wall thing, and Moppet solves the riddle.
Sarah, who's watching, tells Jareth that they've passed the first door. Jareth mutters that it should've taken them longer and suddenly Sarah's outfit goes from dowdy to really really beautiful. She's wearing a really pretty queen dress. Jareth tells her that she'll have her crown soon enough.
Are we still really saving Sarah? I still don't understand what we're saving her FROM! The terrible terrible fate of being Jareth's queen as opposed to a mousy schoolteacher? I know I'm repeating myself, but WHY?!
We have a Mizumi angsting moment and she disappears into a puddle.
Moppet and co. are now in a hallway of mirrors. Moulin warns Moppet that mirrors are dangerous. They find a giant bowl thing with a dagger in it, that says 'to pass a sacrifice of blood must be made.' Moppet says that there must be another way. They look into the mirrors, and Moppet sees all of Sarah's dreams. Moppet nearly destroys one of the mirrors to pass through, but Moulin stops her, and tells her that she'll destroy one of her mirrors, as she has nothing valuable within them. She's about to, when suddenly Mizumi pops out of one and locks Moppet in a bubble. Mizumi declares that she's going to reabsorb Moulin and then offer her as the sacrifice and Moulin announces that if the ablation dies, the original dies with it, and then stabs herself. Or tries to. She then holds up a mirror, revealing what Mizumi regrets. Mizumi looks sad and then stabs Moulin. Moulin dies in Moppet's arms and Moppet and Mizumi walk through the door.
Meanwhile, Jareth's kingdom is looking really pretty. He says that it's almost complete. Sarah says that Moppet has passed the second door and Jareth kind of shrugs and says, (paraphrasing), 'whatevs, it's a dead end.'
Mizumi is not pleased with this shenanigan. She demands to know what he sees in Sarah (Sarah is epic, and you are boring, that's what he sees in her, Angie Bowie.) and then says to find Sarah, Moppet just needs to create her own door.
Wait what? Mizumi is now helping Moppet? For God's sake manga, make up your mind, is Mizumi the antagonist or not?!
Start chapter 5, which is called 'As the World Falls Down.' Yes, the title of the song Jareth and Sarah danced to in the movie. Sounds promising, right? Sounds like the title of something full of Jareth/Sarah-ness, especially since they've been foreshadowing their romance since volume two. Well hang on to your hats, cuz this is the chapter that made me scream. Scream? In glee? In suspense? In frustration? Oh, you will see, my Hermiones, you will see.
Sarah says that the crystal's gone dark and Jareth tells her to let it go. Sarah smiles and says that this new world is perfect. She comments that it's just how she imagined it in the book she read when she was younger, and how she had a terrible crush on the Goblin King. She suddenly blushes in an adorable fashion and I start leaning towards the manga eagerly. Jareth tells her it's no fantasy, and asks her to dance. As they do so, he tells her that last time, she ensnared his heart and left it broken, and he won't let her leave this time. It's all wonderfully romantic and I am well pleased with this, when freaking Moppet has to interrupt, right before they're about to kiss.
Oh, by the way, the goblins are revolting against Toby. And Toby doesn't want to be king anymore so he gives up the amulet thing.
Back to the interesting part. Moppet announces that it's all over. Now that they're together, Jareth can't beat her, ha! Jareth looks slightly annoyed. Moppet asks Sarah about her friends in the Labyrinth, and Sarah looks concerned, and asks Jareth to show her them. Jareth mutters that it's their two fates that are important, but acquiesces and shows her them with a crystal. Sarah sees that it's all falling apart. She tells Jareth that he has to save them. Jareth pouts and pretty much says he doesn't wanna. Basically, he has to make a choice, his love for Sarah or the fate of the Labyrinth. Jareth says that if he turns back time, Sarah will forget everything. Moppet informs Jareth that Sarah doesn't need him.
Sarah interrupts Moppet and says, well, actually, yeah, she does need him.
Both Jareth and Moppet stop what they're doing and go, 'wait, what? Really?' Sarah nods and says she needs all of them. Jareth looks a little dizzy. Probably the euphoria. YAY, SHE LIKES ME!
Oh, he also adds that they're doomed. Sarah smiles and says his will might not be strong enough, but hers is, and requests that Moppet help her. Moppet smiles and is reabsorbed into Sarah.
Here it comes...the part we've all been waiting for...
Sarah looks at Jareth and says softly, "If it's true that I have power over your heart, then you'll grant my wish." Jareth takes her hands. "And what I wish for most of all is for you to take back your kingdom."
Jareth says quietly, "Of course. But only if you grant me one wish first..." Their faces are really close together. It's an intense, emotionally charged moment. I lean in, eagerly anticipating...
And I get this.
WHAT?! WHAT?! AFTER ALL THAT ROMANTIC TENSION, AFTER ALL THAT UST, ALL YOU GIVE ME IS A FREAKING FOREHEAD KISS?! WHAT?! NO! NO! I PROTEST! YOU WERE THE ONE WHO STARTED GOING IN THIS JARETH/SARAH DIRECTION, MANGA, YOU SURE AS HELL BETTER FOLLOW THROUGH! YOU ARE FIRED FROM LIFE, MANGA! YOU SURE AS HELL BETTER MAKE UP FOR THIS TRAVESTY!
APPARENTLY this is good enough for Jareth, so he saves the Labyrinth. Yippee. Toby attempts to bitch Jareth out for pulling all this crap and Jareth is all, 'What? This was a GROWING point for you, you're a hero, isn't this exactly what you wanted?'
Ludo, Sir Didymus, and Hoggle are all hugging Sarah and excitedly asking if she's here to stay. Jareth says that of course she's staying, he can't maintain this world without her, it's her destiny.
Are you possibly making up for that fail of a kiss, manga?
Toby has a big boring speech about how we make our own paths, blah blah blah. But then Sarah AGREES with him, and says she has to go back and make her own path. She says that it doesn't mean that their paths are exclusive though. Jareth is all, 'fine whatever' and then wanders off to bask in the cheers of the goblins. Sarah goes back to the real world, becomes a fantasy writer, and Toby asks out a girl. The end.
No seriously. That's the end.
I'll let you scream in anger for a minute before summarizing my final thoughts. Go ahead. I'll wait.
Okay, here's the main problem with this manga series. The series revolves around Toby when it should've been about Sarah. No matter what your interpretation of Jareth, Sarah, the movie Labyrinth, it was always about HER journey. Toby was at best, a minor pawn, a macguffin to keep the plot moving. Jareth's kidnapping of Toby was purely to GET TO SARAH. It was about her maturity, her adventure. Not Toby's. Creating a new main character for something as beloved as Labyrinth simply will not work, especially if your character HAS no character. Toby doesn't grow up in this series. He whines, he makes friends, he doesn't learn anything, and he's still the same selfish boy he was going into the series. In the movie, Sarah starts out as a selfish albeit imaginative young lady, and becomes a young woman who learns that there are more important things than her fantasies.
The second problem: The writer, Jake Forbes, is trying to please too many people. He's trying to please the people who want Jareth as a villain. He's trying to please the people who want to stay true to the original movie. He's trying to please the people who want an original story. Most of all, he's trying to please the Jareth/Sarah shippers while still trying to please those who don't want that relationship. This is why the characters keep shifting in their opinions and dialogue, and why by the end of it, I couldn't tell who was supposed to be the antagonist anymore. You cannot please all the fans. Forbes needed to balls up and make up his mind what direction he wanted to go in and STICK WITH IT. If he wanted to do a Jareth/Sarah romance, than he should've gone all the way. If he wanted Jareth to be a manipulative villain, then he should've made him so, rather than making him a half-hearted villain with a heroic turnabout at the end. Yes, a part of the fandom will be upset, but it's a lot better than pissing off ALL OF THEM.
In the end? I can't say I absolutely despised it. There were things I liked. It's a quick, brainless read. But it's not satisfying and I honestly wouldn't recommend it to the diehard Labyrinth fan.
My advice? Read Lixxle's fics. Read Jack Hawksmoor's fics. Read Scattered Logic's fics. Read Subtilior's fics. All of these writers create believable, canon stories that are much, MUCH better than this manga series. They vary between funny, romantic, dark, scary, terrifying, angst-ridden--anything to any Labyrinth fan's pleasure.
Or, if you're not a fanfic nerd, and you really are craving some shojo Labyrinth fluff, read Girls Next Door. By one of my favorite artists, Pika la Cynique. We not only get our Jareth/Sarah fanservice, we get believable character growth for both amidst the fluffy wonder.
If you don't like shojo, read Roommates which has a bit of a more epic storyline than GND, but is just as good. It has more action than fanservice, the current plot being quite intriguing and frightening. I mention what both are about in my favorite webcomics post if you want more details. Both are amazing.
That's all for now. Thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you enjoyed my review!