Twice in the manga a line is used that I feel was a justification. 'There are two types of fantasies. Ones where it's pure fantasy and takes place in another world like Lord of the rings or someone from the 'real world' learns a life lesson and can bring nothing back with him.' This point bothers me above all else.
The original Wonderful Wizard of Oz book was not a dream and in the books Dorothy and her family eventually move to Oz. And what about 10th Kingdom? Wolf came back to New York with Virginia FROM the fantasy world.
And the 'there are two types of fantasies' I feel diminishes the whole genre. We should not forget subgenres like urban fantasy and future-fantasy or historical fantasy or multiverse-fantasy. There's more to fantasy than Alice in Wonderland stories.
Sarah and Jareth obviously really do love each other so why didn't she stay to become his Queen?
Toby's learned lesson should have had no bearing on what happened with Sarah. Also the way his lesson was conveyed felt forced and reminiscent of an 'I learned something today' speech. The romantic part of me wanted to see Jareth and Sarah go off together as it was implying until Toby's 'enlightening' speech.
Mizumi's portrayal was completely inconsistent and I got mixed signals about what I was supposed to feel toward her. I felt there was no reason Moulin had to die. It did not make sense. The lizards were anti-climatic.
I almost get the impression that Jake T. Forbes had another ending in mind and very abruptly was told he couldn't do that or changed his mind about what he was going to do. The end did not feel right somehow. It wasn't satisfying like the film. It felt like half this volume was trying to justify what was to come. It did not make sense to me.
I defended this manga series against those that doubted a sequel could be done. I actually loved Volume 1. I didn't care for this one.
I am sorry if I am being harsh in my review. I can't give this five or four stars the way I did with volume 3 and 1 (I particularly loved those and the Jareth flashback in volume 2). I fully understand Jake's limits because Return to Labyrinth and because he had to remain to true to the source material.
It wasn't so much that Jareth didn't end up with Sarah that bothered me (though the romantic in me did want to see them together). The part of the manga that bothered me above all else was the downplaying of fantasy fiction. it's repeated twice in the fourth volume that there are "two types of fantasy," He even goes as far as to have it that this was something Sarah told Toby when he was little. As a lover of fantasy, to see this said twice bothered me. There are many, many types of fantasy. The Dresden Files for example are urban fantasy with faeries, trolls, vampires, werewolves, wizards, and the like existing in our world and the books are almost entirely set within the confines of our reality with the fantastical sprinkled in.
Also the stories where you go into a strange other world and learn a life lesson aren't exclusively about only gaining a life lesson. That was something started with Alice in Wonderland and popularized with the film version of The Wizard of Oz. In the original Oz books Oz was a real place and Dorothy and her family eventually moved there. Then there's 10th Kingdom where Virginia took Wolf back to New York with her from The 9 Kingdoms. There's no set rule that all you can bring back with you is a life lesson and I felt this volume treated this particular point like it was something written in stone. It was the boxed-in and very limited quality of this repeated implication of there only being two types of fantasy that bothered me as a fantasy lover. There's Urban fantasy like The Dresden Files, Steampunk fantasy like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, life lesson fantasy like Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland and the film version of The Wizard of Oz, then there's life Lesson where you can take something back with you or stay in the world where you learned the lesson such as Virginia taking Wolf back with her in 10th Kingdom and Tony, also in 10th Kingdom, staying behind in the fantasy world or the original Oz books, completely other fantastical world fantasy like Lord of the Rings, Historical fantasy like Merlin, futuristic fantasy, Science-fantasy like Warenouse 13 and Special Unit 2.
I was disappointed to see the genre so completely limited by Sarah, a character who was supposed to have been a fantasy lover. This part of the story, which was pressed twice, is the part that haunted me above all else. This hurt the story for me. It also felt like someone announcing 'Okay, people. There are only two ways this can go and here's why.' I'm not comfortable with stories that insist on explaining in advance why it has to end a certain way. To me it takes away from the story rather than enhances it.
I am glad that Toby learns that reality and fantasy are intertwined though.
Another issue I had was Hana (A small pixie faery) was obsessed with the wings that had been plucked off her back by goblins. Toby tries to give them back at the end of Return to Labyrinth but accidentally gives them to stank, her little Yeti she'd been riding instead. And she says 'Good enough!' Good enough!? When she's been upset about them through the books. That's like a person whose lost their legs suddenly can get them back and the person aims wrong and their wheelchair sprouts legs instead. But that's okay!? Was that supposed to be funny?
I do love Return to Labyrinth. Volumes 1 and 3 are ones I've read multiple times and I love the flashback in Volume 2. But 4 didn't have the same charm.
Return to Labyrinth, in general, is a fun read but there are certain things in the fourth volume that I found dissatisfying. I don't think Moulin had to die. I felt Toby's lesson at the end came off a little forced. And though Jake may have wanted that the line 'There are two types of fantasy' to mean in regard to Toby's preference I did still feel it was unnecessarily limiting to the genre. As a romantic I had hoped for Jareth and Sarah to end up together but I understand that this would have shifted the view away from Toby and this was Toby's story but that doesn't change that I was disappointed. At least Jareth gave Sarah new dreams.
My theory from over a year ago, that an ablation could remain separate from the original source if that person replaced that missing piece with a new version of that which was lost, was true. I had noticed that every ablation was something that was regenerative like Hope and dreams. And the song As the World Falls Down held the clue for me to Moppet's survival 'In search of new dreams.' So I was at least happy to be proven right about that.
Someone reminded me of David Bowie's statements about Jareth. Bowie had said that Jareth rather reluctantly inherited the position of goblin king. And he would rather be somewhere like Soho so he's making the best of things.
I think Bowie imagines Jareth as being someone who would rather live in the human world as an Avant Garde singer or something at run down obscure night clubs and happy with that humble life, but he was thrown into the role of goblin king against his will. Part of why volume 4 of Return to Labyrinth doesn't feel right, I think, is because it contradicted Bowie's statements on Jareth's back story and how Bowie saw Jareth.
It's disrespectful to ignore Bowie's views of the character when he had such a huge hand in the conception of the version of Jareth we saw in the film. Those were his songs, he improvised many of the lines. But we're going to contradict him now in official canon in regard to why Jareth is goblin King? This doesn't feel right to me.
Return to Labyrinth Volume 4's plot in a nutshell:
Warning: Here there be spoilers.
(Warning, I know the plot is a little more complicated than this but I am simplifying it to reveal some of the weaker plot points).
Weak Point 1:
It turns out Sarah was allowing her dreams to wither and die because she had been rejected from Juliard so to save Sarah's dreams and Jareth's own Labyrinth (which was crumbling) he had Mizumi create Moppet out of Sarah's dreams. Absorb this. Sarah gave up on her dreams and was starting to let them die- the tenacious Sarah who refused to be defeated- was letting all her dreams die because of ONE rejection letter. Terrence Mann (the Broadway star) was once quoted as saying that if you give up after the first rejection that you don't REALLY want to be an actor at all. Surely with a Broadway star mother Sarah should have realized it wasn't all going to be easy!
Anyway, it turns out ablations can only be made from aspects of a person that the person doesn't really want to have anymore. So that's how Moppet came to be. But dreams can't be held captive for long or they die. So as an act of love Jareth released Moppet but not before erasing her memories of captivity... for some reason that has no real explanation at all...
Every day I find something else about Volume 4 that troubles me
above all else. Today I'm thinking of how Sarah was just letting her dreams die all because she wasn't accepted into Juliard. Her mother was a Broadway actress. Sarah would have known there could be rejections and also that you don't need Juliard to become an actress. Terrence Mann (Javert in the original Broadway cast of Les Miserables, Beast in the original Broadway cast of Beauty and the Beast, Rum Tum Tugger in the original cast of Cats (which Sarah had as a poster in her bed room in the movie), ...Chauvelin in Scarlet Pimpernel and currently in the Addams Family musical is one of the greats. And someone once told me that Terrence Mann could be quoted as having said that if you give up after the first rejection than you don't really want to be an actor. I'm really to believe that Sarah not only lectured Toby that there are 'two types of fantasy' (an insult to the genre) but also gave up on all of her dreams after one rejection to one of the hardest schools in the world to get into!? Whatever happened to the version of Sarah whose tenacity impressed Jareth? The girl who refused to give up when trapped in The Labyrinth where others had? I am to believe that after maybe three years she gave up on her dreams after one rejection after all that?! It doesn't make sense... It would have been easier for me to believe that Sarah realized acting was her mother's dream and not hers and Sarah CHOSE to be a teacher, not that it was something she did when she 'gave up on her dreams to let them die.'
Weak Point 2: I have already complained about this but I'll keep it short. A major plot point is foreshadowed through Toby saying that there are 'two types of fantasy stories.' And it turns out Sarah told him this. To me this is contrary to the idea of a true fantasy lover. A true fantasy lover would not generalize fantasy so far as to say 'There are two types of fantasy' which 'unintentionally' implies that there are only two types of fantasy. He doesn't use the word only but it felt like he might as well have.
Anyway, Jareth reveals the events to Sarah via a puppet show. While this is going on Mizumi has taken over the Labyrinth but still cannot will Jareth's heart.
Weak Point 3:
We are given a weak back story on how Jareth became the goblin King. Apparently Jareth and Mizumi were lovers but Jareth had no real interest in Mizumi because she was a passive, willing slave and that was not what Jareth really wanted. He wasn't interested in someone who was subservient and unimaginative. During their travels they end up in a swampy area for a while where Jareth is 'amused' by the goblins that inhabit it. While there Mizumi pleads for the chance to win Jareth's heart so Jareth creates his Labyrinth and tells her that if she solves it she can have his heart. Because the Labyrinth represents himself, his heart is the pathfinder (the very core of the Labyrinth).
The condition is if she fails to solve it she can't let any harm come to it because it IS a part of Jareth. (But... Um... wasn't she technically letting harm come to it in Volume 3?)
Also this contradicts what David Bowie has said about Jareth, that Jareth reluctantly inherited the role of Goblin King and would rather be down in Soho somewhere.
Bowie didn't just say that Jareth doesn't like being Goblin King. Bowie did use the words 'reluctantly inherited the title.' meaning he didn't become Goblin King by choice. Until Volume 4 I thought Jake was using what everyone involved with the original film wanted as a basis, it's easy to research what they all thought because it's right on the DVD. I can't disregard Mr. Bowie's views on his own character when he's one of the main forces behind the version of Jareth we know.
Not to mention this is a pretty silly origin for The Goblin King. They amused him so he settles down to be their king. That's like a kid going into his garden and seeing some Ladybugs. 'Oh, look! Ladybugs! I shall be their king!' It disrespects and ignores David Bowie's statements about Jareth and is painfully simplistic. I don't know how the Henson company could have approved this to be Jareth's official origin story and yet I know they did...
I am sorry. I do love the manga over all. Please know this. I can practically hear the melody for Shadow of a Dream and it's a beautiful song but volume 4 just didn't satisfy me for multiple reasons. The manga's back story for Jareth didn't take into account what Bowie said. He didn't just say that he doesn't like the role of goblin king but that he reluctantly inherited the title.
Weak Point 4: The lizards have almost no purpose at all. They just leave you going 'Well, that was kind of pointless.'
It turns out Moulin is an ablation of Mizumi's regret. And if you make the original source of the ablation feel or gain the attribute that the ablation represented than the ablation is free to be a separate being. Moulin forces Mizumi to feel regret without actually being a part of her so the two can exist separately however Mizumi kills her anyway in a plot point that doesn't really go anywhere except to show how cruel Mizumi can be. But in a later scene it's like the writing is trying to force us to feel for Mizumi. And it feels sort of bipolar.
Sarah seems to gain new dreams but for some reason or another still rejoins with Moppet and Moppet seems happy about this even though everything she was and all her memories are gone forever. So there was really no point at all in showing that an ablation can be made to exist as a real person away from it's host.
Jareth agrees to help set things right in The Labyrinth IF Sarah agrees to marry him. She kisses his forehead. That's the 'true loves kiss' in the prophecy, a little peck on the forehead.
Jareth sets things right and then reminds Sarah of her promise to marry him.
Weak Point 5: Toby's life lesson felt like an 'I learned something today' segment from South Park. It took up several pages and it felt sort of tacked on. Also I had thought the speech in Toby's play would prove to be important later on but it wasn't. It didn't have any significant purpose like Sarah's 'You have no power over me.' speech. But Toby's life lesson somehow leads to Jareth saying that everyone may go home.
Weak Point 6: Remember how Hana was homicidal about getting her wings back? I imagine for a pixie to lose her wings it's like a singer whose tongue has been ripped out or a dancer whose legs are chopped off. It's rather important to them if they can get these lost and painfully removed appendages put back.
Hana was bitter and resentful about having lost her wings. She even poisoned the punch bowl at Jareth's ball in volume one of Return to Labyrinth. Well, Jareth gave Toby a magical crystal orb as a reward for helping him. So Toby goes to give Hana her wings (because he's 'learned to be responsible') but he misses and the wings end up on Stank, her small puppy-like variation on Ludo. And she says 'Good enough!' No, not good enough. Was that supposed to be funny? She was devastated about her wings being ripped off but she's okay because they're now on the creature she rides? That's like a man in a wheelchair but if the wheelchair sprouts working legs that makes it ALL better! This scene felt like a total fail to me.
So Toby learns his 'lesson' and Sarah goes on to become a children's book writer instead of 'just a teacher' because apparently you can't be fulfilled teaching others...
But Toby's somehow (though it's not really shown, it's told) learned responsibility. Sarah has dreams again. Jareth is king again. This is something I feared. It felt like an attempt to appease everyone and it appeased almost no one. Jareth and Sarah definitely love each other as proved by the anti-climatic true love's kiss but they didn't end up together, which was meant to appease those who didn't want them together but at the same time appease those that feel that there is true love between Jareth and Sarah.
So if that was true love's kiss (as the prophecy required) that means Sarah, for no reason at all, abandoned her one true love and not only is everyone okay with that but it's the ending her 'no longer selfish brother' preferred. Talking your sister (somehow) into leaving behind her true love seems pretty selfish if you ask me.
I like the manga in general, particularly Shadow of a Dream in Volume 3, but I don't like Volume 4 quite as much.