In the tradition of older shojo manga, Planet Ladder Vol. 1 by Yuri Narushima is an ambitious story of the world's destiny in the hands of a little, "normal" girl with abnormal powers. Or so we're led to believe. We're not told much about the main character, or how she's going to function in the plot, except that she's really important. We do get to see her goal - to become stronger - and watch her start to take steps toward that end, but before that comes some plot involving her adoptive family that may or may not be important in the future.
Like a lot of older shojo manga, the style of the art is very characteristic (think about older CLAMP works) and quite pretty. Narushima is also quite good at keeping the number of characters low, and using different facial features to distinguish them. While I sometimes forgot their names, I never forgot which character was which. Depending on your bent, the characters either thankfully adhere to genre conventions or are just like other characters you've seen before. The heroine, Kaguya, is young, and a little whiny and sheltered. She sees herself as weak (and, indeed, cries an awful lot) but wants to become stronger. Her companion, whom she calls Doll, is pretty but silent and caring. Prince Seeu has long dark hair and piercing eyes - dangerous, but alluring. And bearded Idou is the protector; even though you don't know much about him, you sense that you can trust him.
Because it is the first volume, there is a lot left to be explained, and the end of the volume only introduces more things that will need to be explained. For those with a short attention span, this is torturous, as none of your questions are entirely answered so you can move on to the next set of issues. For those who like an elaborate, drawn-out plot, separating out all the threads and speculating about them until the next volume should be fun. As I read I found I was a little of both: I loved new things being hinted at, but I hated having hints that didn't seem to lead me anywhere. This is especially true when it comes to figuring out the premise of the entire series.
By the end of the first volume, you know that there is tragedy - part of the story involves some kind of apocalyptic war. And you know that the mysterious Prince Seeu did something awful that he is trying to atone for. And you know that Kaguya is really important for... something. Maybe to save her world, which is apparently not Earth. Earth is dirty. But why? And what in the world(s) does everyone want with Kaguya? And what do tarot cards have to do with anything? When I sit back and think about it, I realize that independent of the cover summary of this and future volumes, I have absolutely no idea what the series is really about. (My assumption because it's a shojo manga is that Kaguya is going to save the world. Worlds?)
In a first volume, you can't expect to know all the details. Again, if you are an impatient reader, then this will probably not sit well with you. I don't think that the volume does a good job enticing you to read more; instead, it sort of information dumps and hopes that something there - Seeu and the "doll," the past war, the magical beings that appear to help Kaguya, the empty world she's transported to - catches your interest and makes you want to stick around. But I'm patient, and I assume that later volumes will fill in a lot of the blanks - and there are certainly a lot of blanks to fill, so later volumes definitely have their work cut out.
So there's a young girl who is transported away to some magical realm - presumably she's some kind of princess that needs to come back for some reason we don't know yet.
Other than that there is much explaining to be done. As you would expect from the first volume of any series, this volume sets up the characters. However, we don't really know what the characters are after, which faction is doing this or that, etc etc. The following volumes will have to reveal that.
It's not bad, but because there so many unknowns - a bit too much for my tastes, this series doesn't start off tantalizingly entertaining or teasing. Yet, it's not boring and the art is good.