By Hosana Tanaka
Del Rey, 208 pp
Rating: OT (16 +)
Katana Raizo is the last surviving member of his family, so to keep the bloodline alive, the ninja clan entrusted with protecting the Katana family has assigned three buxom ninja girls to take him in search of a suitable bride. Unfortunately for them, Raizo’s seems to have little interest in any of this.
I’m coming into the series cold, so I was fairly happy to discover that this volume is made up, almost entirely of a single story. It tells the tale of the Raizo and his companions stumbling into a tournament to decide the next head of the Yagyu clan. Unfortunately the tale follows the all too common trope of introducing a strong young woman, in this case Yagyu Izuna, and then cutting her off at the knees by showing that underneath that tough and capable exterior, she’s really just a little girl at heart. Yagyu Izuna isn’t the only cliched character though; no one in this book really jumped out at me as terribly engaging or fleshed out; they all felt fairly one note. Katana Raizo is your typical, good hearted protagonist who’s awkward around women and a bit thick when it comes to dealing with them. His three ninja escorts barely appear in this volume, so I never really got a clear indication of who they were beyond being comedy and fan service material.
The artwork is ok and fits the material well. The women are all huge breasted, scantly clad and with costumes that allow for easy shots of cleaveage and panties. Much to my surprise though, there’s also a few fairly decent action sequences too. Admittedly they’re short and few in number, but Hosana Tanaka does an excellent job with them. Lots of mid ground shots, depicting the action clearly while keeping them entertaining and interesting. Each move flows into the next nicely, particular in the scene’s involving young Yagyu Izuna. I kind of want to see Hosana Tanaka do a straight action series after seeing some of the fight scene’s here.
Overall, Ninja Girls seems to be yet another manga title that isn’t for me. I got a few chuckles from it, and the short action scene’s where rather nice, but overall I didn’t find it to be terribly interesting. The fan service oriented artwork and flat, bland characters make it a light, forgettable read.
Ninja Girls, vol. 3 is available now. Review copy provided by the publisher.
By Felipe Smith
Vertical, 256 pp
Rating: 18 +
Young Milton suffers from a malady that almost everyone experiences at one point in their life. He absolutely and utterly fails to fit in to the world around him. He goes out, forcing himself to be something he isn’t, but as soon as the opportunity arises his true self comes out. Namely, that of a huge anime geek. As fate would have it he’s about to get the opportunity of a life time, to visit the anime/manga mecca of his dreams, Tokyo, Japan and soon he’ll find out just how wrong his preconceptions of the country were. From Felipe Smith and Morning 2, comes Peepo Choo.
Peepo Choo is a brutal skewering and satire of geek culture, international cultural misconceptions and more. Nothing is sacred within this book. Milton and his hardcore “otaku” pals are generally the brunt of the jokes, but American comic fans, Japanese society, their perceptions of America, and more are all ridiculed and mocked in over the top and vaguely offensive fashion. Amid all the caricatures and skewering of social groups lies a plot line involving yakuza and an insanely violent hitman. This is clearly the connecting strand, pulling together the urban American culture obsessed yakuza member, the awkward fujoshi Japanese teenaged girl, Milton and the various other characters; but for the most part it feels like it was tacked on as an after thought to try and make the series something other than a group of skits mocking anyone it can.
Felipe Smith’s artwork is definitely dynamic and it’s heavily exaggerated for comedic effect. Unfortunately the result is that it’s also fairly ugly most of the time. The muscled characters are absolute mountains to the point of deformity, while the women are some sort of adolescent wet dream where they’re all ridiculously curvy and voluptuous, with breasts that must surely be exerting their own gravitational pull.
I’m not really sure what to think of Peepo Choo. I’m not particularly fond of it. The artwork is pretty far from my thing, and it doesn’t really feel like it’s saying anything new either. It generally feels like it was attempting to shock and offend for the sake of shocking and offending, and that’s just not something that appeals to me. But at the same time, given it’s huge popularity among the more respected commentators on the scene, I feel like I should like it. For me, I think Peepo Choo is my manga Preacher. Something that’ll be hailed by critics, but I just don’t get or enjoy at all. I have no doubt that it will find it’s audience though. Lord knows there’s enough people trotting out the stereotypical image of a “weeaboo” for laughs on the internet every day for it to sell well, but I’m definitely not among them.
Peepo Choo, vol. 1 is available now.
Created by Tsutomu Nihei
Biomega follows the exploits of Zoichi Kanoe and others, as they attempt to foil the scheme of a large, globe spanning corporation to seed the earth with a virus that will turn just about everyone into mutated, flesh eating zombies. Make no mistake though, this is hardly you’re typical zombie apocolypse flick as it combines elements of the zombie genre with corporate conspiracies and jaw dropping action sequences, all wrapped up in a cyberpunk/industrial nightmare aesthetic courtesy of Tsutomu Nihei!
The plot is about as straight forward as you can get. Zoichi Kanoe is part of a special ops group designed by Toa Heavy Industries to help deal with the coming zombie apocolypse. He’s insanely fast, strong and durable, and comes equiped with a hi-tech motocycle and holographic AI companion. Together they fight the forces of a rival group, the Data Recovery Foundation, and do so in style! In fact that’s what this series is all about, style over substance. Zoichi and his allies, for their parts, are pretty much ciphers. He’s driven, silent, and that’s about all we know by the end of the first volume. The second expands upon his past and history, giving him a bit more meat and an emotional hook that might help garner some sympathy, but so far his personality is that of your typical strong, silent pretty boy. On the antagonist side of things, the DRF is a shadowy oragnization full of cannon fodder with plans that seemingly span centuries. One can only assume that more will be revealed as the series continues, but for now they’re pretty much an enigma as well.
Nihei’s art is eye popping to say the least with huge vistas of urban sprawl, built on a staggering scale and massive highways that span oceans, artificial island cities and more. The character designs for Zoichi and his group are fairly uniform; pale, vaguely adrogenous, dark hair and dark leather body suits. Aside from the zombies and generic flunky soldiers, the main group of villains are a nightmarish flesh and metal mix that’s reminiscent of the cenobites from Hellraiser fame. Leather aprons, faces that look like they were skinned and than nailed or otherwise attached to metallic heads and lots of black organic looking armor. It’s all incredibly striking and absolutely lovely to look at. The action sequences are beautifully over the top, featuring such feats as riding a motorcycle over a collapsing roof, across jet planes and more. It’s eye candy of a distinctly dark and gritty kind.
Biomega is an absolutely fantastic read. It’s fun, dark, action packed, nightmarish and just plain cool. Is it terribly deep? No. Is it hugely emotional with tearful confessions of love? No and it probably won’t be. Do the characters constantly emote and explain their motivations, tactics, skills, etc? Thankfully, no. What Biomega is, is one of the most over the top, stylish, action series put on paper.
Biomega, vol. 1 + 2 are available now.
Written by Tommy Yune, Jason Waltrip and John Waltrip; Art by Omar Dogan
DC/Wildstorm, 128 pp.
For nine years, Jason and John Waltrip were the co-creators on Eternity Comics Robotech II: The Sentinels. Sadly, as the series neared it’s conclusion the company went out of business. Now, nearly a decade later they’ve produced an ending to that series, while at the same time bridging the gap between The Sentinels and the recent movie, Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles. The result is a vaguely confusing read that will probably only appeal to hardcore Robotech fans.
It opens in a rather dramatic and action packed way, and drops the reader head first into the plot: A dead body in a high ranking officials office, a prototype ship is stolen, the whole nine yards. But what exactly does it mean? Thankfully as the series progresses we’re brought up to speed, though there are a number of plot elements that will remain a mystery to anyone who hasn’t read the earlier stories within The Sentinels series. We soon learn that Col. Edwards is attempting to usurp control of the REF space fleet from Admiral Rick Hunter, and that Edwards has formed an alliance with the alien race known as the Invid. Long time fans will know who they are and why this is important, new comers might be scratching their heads for a bit, but thankfully there are several handy character charts, time lines and supplemental material that might clear some of it. Only some of it though, as a lot of the specifics are left unknown. The corpse that we start off with is never properly explained, nor are the exact specifics of who a great deal of the cast is. I was a fan of the series, but even I was left scrambling for wikipedia information on the supporting cast!
Omar Dogan and the Udon team provide the artwork for most of this series, and it’s about as good as you’d expect from them. I don’t mean that in some backhanded sarcastic way either, I enjoy both Dogan and Udon’s work and it’s probably the highlight of the mini-series for me. The action sequences feel a bit compressed and difficult to follow at times, particularly some of the dog fights, but overall it’s decent and the renditions of the various mecha and starships are nice enough that I wish they had more of them. I have to admit though, if it wasn’t for the dialogue I never would have recognized Rick Hunter and Lisa Hayes/Hunter. The aging of the characters combined with an art style that tends to eschew the traditionally point chinned look of the characters is a nice change of pace, but the result is that certain characters look very different from how I remember them.
I didn’t exactly love this series, but I’m not quite sure that I hated it either. It fell a bit short of my hopes for it, but I can’t deny that I felt a swell of nostalgia when reading it as well. I’ve been away from the Robotech saga for so long that revisiting it was nice, but vaguely awkward and uncomfortable as well. Kind of like a high school reunion. Still, long time and hardcore Robotech fans will probably be happy at getting the finale for a series that they had most likely given up on.
Robotech: Prelude to the Shadow Chronicles is available now. Review copy provided by the publisher.