Monday, December 13, 2004

Quick Manga Reviews

Apocalypse Meow, vol. 1
by Motofumi Kobayashi
What a disappointment. In using rabbits, cats and other animals to tell stories of the Vietnam War, Kobayashi seems to be aiming to produce a work on the level of Maus, but he falls quite short of the mark. While the art does a remarkably fine job of presenting the setting and the action, and doesn't look ridiculous at all in integrating the animal characters, the stories are as pointless as the plot from a first person shooter. Bunnies go on a mission, shoot things, get shot at, then come home. The characters are barely one dimensional. While war may seem pointless to those in the trenches, stories about war cannot afford to be without a point.
Rating: 1.5 (of 5)

Ai Yori Aoshi, vol. 1
by Kou Fumizuki
In this young men's romance manga, college student Kaoru is surprised when his chilfriend friend Aoi, now a beautiful young woman, shows up unexpectedly and declares that she's going to marry him. It's a standard sort of male fantasy, as Aoi wishes to serve Kaoru every desire. There's an added complication in that Kaoru has disowned himself as heir to the a powerful merchant family and Aoi's family disapproves of her being with someone who has brought such dishonor on himself. Fumizuki's art is strong, especially the detailed backgrounds, and the storytelling is clear. It's fine for what it is, but there's just something creepy about the fact that the perfect woman is presented as submissive--I suppose that there's something inticing to a young man in the thought that a perfect woman would just show up at the door one day, and that 'true blue love' with with a sexy girl can be had with no effort.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)

Musashi #9, vol. 1
by Takahashi Miyuki
Musashi is Agent #9 for Ultimate Blue, a secret extra-governmental organization that works behind the scenes to stop terrorists and maintain world order. Although she's only 16-years-old, Musashi is considered to be the most effective of the nine special U.B. operatives. Unfortunately, throughout each of the four stories in this volume Musashi remains a cipher, completely undeveloped as a character. The only thing we know about her personality is that she dresses like a man, and is mistaken for a teenage boy until the very end of the story when her gender is revealed. This could make for an interesting character, but nothing is made of Musashi's ambiguous gender other than the reveal--there's no attempt to explore gender roles or Musashi's identity at all, it's just a quirk of the story. Miyuki's art is generally strong and he draws action well, but his characters tend to lack personality in their drawing as well as in their characterization.
Rating: 2.5 (of 5)


Pata said...

From what I've heard, Kobayashi was in no way trying to produce something on a level with Maus. He was working on a serious Vietnam War comic at the time (with human characters) and did the animals thing to blow off steam. I don't think he ever intended to produce anything of artistic merit, and it shows (in fact this was originally serialized as a webcomic called "Cat Shit One." A webcomic!)

It bugs me that everyone wants to peg Animals + War as a formula for detecting a Maus wannabe, when sometimes no such aspirations exist. This is really more Tom Clancy with furries than anything else.

Dave Carter said...

It doesn't even come close to even Tom Clancy--there's no plot at all. He may have meant to 'blow off steam,' but there's three volumes of the stuff, so it was more than just a lark. If you're going to invest that much time and effort in a comic, it should be more than just a bad video game.

And if someone does animals + war, the Maus comparisons are inevitable, whether justified or not.