August 6th, 2007 by Katherine Dacey Bookmark this post
CLAMP fans, rejoice—a new volume of CLAMP no Kiseki arrives on store shelves this week. Owing to cost overruns and poor sales, Tokyopop suspended production of Kiseki last year. Tokyopop then went back to the drawing board, redesigning the packaging and slashing the price by 33%. Volume 7, which focuses on one of the quartet’s most popular series, Chobits, is a thirty-two page, full-color magazine chock full of artist interviews, publication trivia, gorgeous artwork, gag strips, and, of course, three more chess pieces for your collection. (Hint: Chii is one of ‘em.) In addition to CLAMP no Kiseki, Tokyopop is also shipping new installments of Genju no Seiza, a wonderful coming-of-age story by Pet Shop of Horrors creator Matsuri Akino; tactics, a demonic comedy inherited from ADV; and Nosatsu Junkie, a savage little valentine to modeling. You’ll also find a new manwha from Dark Horse, Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend (reviewed below), and several new titles from DMP, including a manga travel guide for otakus planning a pilgrimage to Akihibara.
REVIEWED THIS WEEK:
SHIPPING THIS WEEK:
Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend, Vol. 1
Story by Kim Sung-Jae, Art by Kim Byung-Jin
Like Banya the Explosive Delivery Man and Shaman Warrior, Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend is an action-oriented manwha with gorgeous visuals, smackdowns a-plenty, and a hint of the supernatural to spice up the proceedings. The titular character is a fierce young man who was exiled from his father’s palace on suspicion of being a demon. Chunchu has fallen in with the Mirmidons, a scruffy but proud group of warriors caught in the middle of a bitter war between two more powerful clans. Though they tolerate his presence, the Mirmidons regard Chunchu with a mixture of fear and suspicion, as Chunchu’s excessively violent behavior threatens the clan’s existence. Only the kind attentions of Lady Passo, an elegant beauty promised to Chunchu’s twin brother, have the power to soothe Chunchu’s demonic bloodlust.
The story is a bit tricky to piece together, as the early chapters segue between past and present without warning. The political intrigue, too, may leave some readers scratching their heads wondering why these various clans—Yoong, Mirmidon, Gomah—are fighting, why all of them view Chunchu as an enemy, and whether Chunchu’s brother is manipulating the clans to serve his own fratricidal agenda. In short, The Genocide Fiend is the rare title that would benefit from more preliminary exposition. The artwork, on the hand, is first-rate, with artist Kim Byung-Jin devoting considerable attention to the nuances of facial expressions and body language. He also draws a mean action sequence, capturing the chaotic violence of an ambush with both dynamism and clarity. On the strength of Kim’s artwork, I’m recommending Chunchu to action junkies, with the caveat that some of it may confuse as much as it entertains.
Volume one of Chunchu: The Genocide Fiend will be available on August 8th. Click here to read a short excerpt.
ME2, Vol. 1
By Sho Murase
Aki, an introverted loner, is the object of her classmates’ scorn, both for her painfully shy demeanor and her gothic fashion sense. When her older brother Ken dies in a fire, Aki begins questioning her sanity. She frequently blacks out, finds unexplained objects in her closet, and lapses into disturbing daydreams about Ken. She’s also puzzled by a sudden and uncomfortable development at school: two of the most popular students—Marya, a pretty blonde swimmer, and Adrian, an athlete and student council member—have made very public efforts to befriend her. Adrian’s attention is particularly vexing; Aki can’t decide if his invitation to attend a poetry reading is sincere or simply a cruel joke.
Sho Murase favors a flatly two-dimensional style, using large swatches of pattern to suggest hair and clothing (think Gankutsuou) and a variety of other techniques to capture the setting. Some of her images are composed of bold, black and white patches, favoring a kind of abstraction rarely found in shojo manga, while others have a delicate, sketch-like quality with pencil-thin lines. The results of Murase’s artistic experimentation are mixed: a few images astonish with their stark beauty and communicative power, capturing the oppressive atmosphere of Aki’s school, while others are so stylized that they register as doodles or visual noise. Perhaps that’s Murase’s intention, but even when the protagonist’s grip on reality is tenuous, the artist needs to impose a certain amount of visual clarity on the material.
The other disappointment of volume one is the cast. Adrian, in particular, defies most behavioral norms of popular teenage boys, carrying his favorite volume of Edgar Allen Poe in his knapsack, praising Aki for a poem she read aloud to her English class, and ignoring catty comments from his peers. I don’t mean to suggest that boys (or jocks, for that matter) are incapable of sensitivity, just to point out the sheer improbability of the school’s golden boy courting the class scapegoat with talk of sonnets. (I’d certainly be suspicious of Adrian if I found myself in Aki’s shoes.) Aki, on the other hand, remains a cipher throughout. Her unpleasant predicament commands the reader’s sympathy, to be sure, but we don’t really know her as anything more than a victim and bereaved sibling. By volume’s end, Murase suggests that Aki may have a second, butt-kicking personality, but the revelation feels more like a tired, predictable plot device than an exploration of Aki’s character. And with that revelation, ME2 seems perilously close to becoming a Carrie-esque tale of righteous revenge—a decidedly less interesting story than the experimental coming-of-age drama that Murase might have written.
Million Tears, Vol. 1
By Yuana Kazumi
Million Tears is a nicely illustrated supernatural drama with an interesting plot structure but one-dimensional characters whose motivations make little sense. When we first meet Hiromu, he appears to be a run-of-the-mill teenager with a cute girlfriend and a spot on the school basketball team. Hiromu makes an unsettling discovery: some of his classmates have vanished without a trace. Enter Vermillion, an immortal creature who feeds off the life-force of humans. Vermillion insists on calling Hiromu by the name Glorious Lily—I’m hoping it sounded cooler in Japanese—and telling Hiromu that it’s time for him to resume his previous life as a “destiny thief.”
The story then unfolds backwards, a la Memento. We learn how and why Glorious Lily became a “destiny thief,” backtracking over 100 years to the Meiji Era, when Glorious Lily, a.k.a. Hiromu, was actually a young human named Hirokazu. (Confused yet?) This flashback—which is clearly meant to show us what sort of person Glorious Lily used to be—contains some truly egregious material that distracts more than it elucidates. There’s an unintentionally funny scene in which Glorious Lily defends a pretty Christian missionary from a torch-wielding mob who suspect her of being a witch; I thoroughly expected someone to shout, “She turned me into a newt!” There’s also a cringe-worthy scene in which Glorious Lily and Vermillion argue over a girl as if she’s a Carl Yastrzemski card. No doubt there are readers who will find this moment romantic, but it left me cold.
Volume one of Million Tears is available now.