MPD Psycho
Publisher: Dark Horse
Story: Eiji Otsuka
Art: Sho-u Tajima

Kazuhiko Amamiya, a police detective with a split personality, is taken out of jail to deal with an epidemic of gruesome serial killers. Cannibals, amputation fetishists, psychotics who plant flowers in their victims’ still-living brains ... each killer is more horrible than the one before, and each one is linked by a single clue: a barcode imprinted on their eye. A long-running crime/horror classic, MPD Psycho (aka “Multiple Personality Disorder Psycho”) is one of the most graphically violent manga ever released in the US, a product of the decade that brought Seven and The Silence of the Lambs to the public eye. The subsidiary characters—a grunge TV journalist, a psychological profiler, a token high school girl—are hip and cynical, often inappropriately so, but Amamiya is a serious force of justice, until his split personality takes over and he goes “bad cop.” Like, really bad cop. Fans of guro manga (such as Suehiro Maruo) will recognize the influence in MPD Psycho’s full-page shots of women’s corpses mutilated in inventive ways. The gore wouldn’t work if it weren’t so well-drawn; Tajima’s linework is dark and fluid, with extremely realistic human anatomy, sinister narrow-eyed faces, and glistening blood. Also check out the Takashi Miike live-action adaptation and Otsuka’s other manga The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. BACK TO TOP.

My Heavenly Hockey Club
Publisher: Del Rey
Writer: Ai Morinaga

Like Rumiko Takahashi, Ai Morinaga’s romantic comedies can appeal to readers of both sexes; her art is boyish, her stories are slapstick, and her teenage characters are hot. Unfortunately, both of her translated series (CPM’s Duck Prince and ADV Manga’s Your and My Secret) have gone on hiatus. Compared to her other translated work, My Heavenly Hockey Club is a relatively conventional shojo comedy, the story of a girl who just wants to sleep and eat and how she ends up joining the school hockey club with five good-looking guys who never actually play any hockey. Will Hana Suzuki end up falling for Izumi Oda, the rich sophomore who founded the club just so he’d have an excuse to travel to away games in exotic destinations and eat local delicacies? Or will she be grouchy because now she only gets 10 hours of sleep at night? One thing’s for sure: you don’t have to worry about a Morinaga series suddenly getting all serious and depressing. The best jokes involve wacky (but surprisingly realistic-looking) animals, including an amorous monkey met at a hot springs, and a drooling bear who is recruited as a goalie. BACK TO TOP.

Street Fighter Alpha and Street Fighter Sakura Ganbaru
Publisher: Udon
Writer: Masahiko Nakahira

In 1996, I worked for a short-lived magazine called Game On! USA that ran translations of fighting game manga, and so I feel qualified to say: most video game manga sucks. One exception is Masahiko Nakahira, previously known in America only for Viz’s long-out-of-print Super Street Fighter II: Cammy. Serialized in the now-defunct arcade game magazine Gamest, Street Fighter Alpha follows the same formula as most licensed adaptations—the whirlwind plot is just an excuse for Charlie, Birdie, Dan, Rose, Sodom, and other Alpha characters to show up one after the other—but Nakahira’s art is unusually good, with attractive characters, fantastic action scenes, and every “shoryuken” looking just like a sprite from the CPS-2 engine. The story follows martial artist Ryu across Paris, Florida, and the Amazon, fighting Shadaloo and trying to control the “Dark Hadou” power inside him, which periodically transforms him into an unstoppable killing machine. (Nakahira’s so-called “Evil Ryu” later appeared in the Street Fighter Alpha sequels.) Coming out in July, Street Fighter Sakura Ganbaru is a light spinoff based on the Alpha character Sakura, the earnest schoolgirl martial artist who wants to be just like Ryu except that her panties flash every time she does anything. (Sakura only shows up at the very end of the Alpha manga.) As a high school martial arts comedy, it’s less dramatic than Alpha, but you do get to see Sakura fighting on the wing of a flying plane and meeting her rival, Karin, another one of Nakahira’s inventions that Capcom paid the compliment of using in a game. If you have any interest in the Street Fighter games, these comics should be on top of the heap. (Udon, how about translating Mami Itoh’s Capcom manga next?) BACK TO TOP.

Peace Maker
Publisher: Tokyo Pop
Story and Art: Nanae Chrono

The anime aired on American cable TV, and the sequel series Peacemaker Kurogane was briefly licensed by ADV Manga, but the original Peace Maker manga has never been translated until now. Set in 1864 Japan, this series combines imaginary samurai/ninja intrigue with real historical figures from the Shinsengumi, the elite Shogunate police force that protected the city of Kyoto. (The much different Kaze Hikaru involves the same group.) After their parents are murdered, Tetsunosuke, the childish, spiky-haired hero, and Tatsunosuke, his pacifist older brother, seek to join the historical Shinsengumi. But their motives are very different; Tetsu wants to grow stronger and get revenge, while Tatsu, an accountant rather than a samurai, seeks the path of forgiveness. In Chrono’s hands, the Shinsengumi is full of bishônen innuendo, comedy, and occasional shocking violence. Unfortunately, the art has its weak points, and the series has been on hiatus in Japan for over a year—will Chrono ever finish it? BACK TO TOP.

Pretty Face
Publisher: Viz Media
Story and Art: Yasuhiro Kano

Now this is a weird manga. Masashi Rando, a short but tough teenage martial artist, is caught in a bus accident and presumed dead. A year later, he awakes from his coma to find that his horribly burned face has been surgically reconstructed ... to look just like Rina, the girl he has a crush on! Turns out the plastic surgeon used the photo in Rando’s wallet as the model for the reconstruction, and now Rando has the head of a cute girl. While running around the streets trying to figure out what to do with his life, he is mistaken for Rina’s long-lost twin sister and adopted into her family, leading to one of the most bizarre cross-dressing comedies imaginable. Yasuhiro Kano is mostly known as a light novel illustrator, so his artwork is precise and detailed, but his wacked-out facial expressions are as hilarious as his character designs are pretty. Ridiculous twists and turns, gender confusion, and great art. BACK TO TOP.
OTAKU USA. Copyright 2007.