I’m taking a week off from the license requests. Sometimes you just have to try and catch up with what’s actually available, and Viz isn’t making it easy with all of the freebies on its SIGIKKI and Shonen Sunday sites. It’s the end of the week, and I’m kind of fried, so I’ll take a look at the presumably more lighthearted shônen fare of the latter.
First of all, I have to say that I like the way Viz is assembling these animated trailers. They look nice; Kate Dacey used the one for Daisuke Igarashi’s Children of the Sea in a recent post, and it’s very effective. Second, I don’t really have anything to add to what I’ve already said about Rumiko Takahashi’s Rin-Ne; it’s solid entertainment, but it has yet to change my life. Third, I still don’t like reading comics on a computer, but Viz’s platform is simple enough to use and readable in scale and resolution, at least on my screen.
Now, on to the new series:
Arata: The Legend, by Yuu Watase: Here’s how smart I am. My eyes passeded over the creator credit not once but twice before I started reading this, and one of my reactions to the comic was, “That’s kind of weird to have a Yuu Watase knock-off in a shônen magazine.” Of course, it is Watase, and it does seem kind of weird for her work to be in a shônen magazine, but weird in a nice way. I always like it when women branch into shônen and the less frequent phenomenon of men creating shôjo (though the only one I can think of who’s been licensed and published is Meca Tanaka), and Watase is very popular and has always been able to spin solid fantasy-adventure tales.
In this one, a young man must pretend to be a young woman to fulfill his clan’s obligation to provide princess-protectors to his nation. The ruse goes badly wrong in some unexpected ways, and, judging by the series description, further drastic twists are pending. There’s not much else I can say about it at the moment, other than it’s wonderfully drawn, like all Watase series, and that I already like it loads better than her last licensed outing, Absolute Boyfriend (Viz). That’s good enough for a start.
Hyde and Closer, by Haro Aso: This one reminded me a lot of Akira Amano’s Reborn! (Viz), though I’m much more favorably inclined to a magical legacy than someone being destined to a life of organized crime. Lead character Shunpei Closer devotes a lot more energy to avoiding conflict and embarrassment than he’d ever expend just sucking it up and facing what life throws at him. His aversion techniques won’t be of much use when sorcerers around the globe learn that they can gain enormous power by killing him. Fortunately, his missing grandfather left Shunpei some protection in the form of a cigar-smoking, bourbon-drinking teddy bear. You read that correctly. Stuffed-animal mayhem ensues, which is both adorable and disturbing. I’m not sure how well the premise will hold up, but it’s hard to resist the stuffing-soaked action.
Kekkaishi, by Yellow Tanabe: This series has been around for a while, and it’s much admired by various people with excellent taste (most notably John Jakala). So what we have here is an under-appreciated title that’s already got a lot of volumes in circulation; it’s a smart move of Viz to give potential readers a low-risk entry point to the series. The whole concept of free chapters on line is smart, but especially for books with an imbalance of critical regard and sales. I very much liked the first chapter about dueling families of demon hunters. Young Yoshimori Sumimura is destined to be his family’s leader, but he’s got no love for their traditional profession. He’ll have to come around and live up to his potential. Tanabe has assembled a clear, concise mythology and a solid emotional foundation for the characters. The art is terrific, particularly the action sequences, and there are lots of fun, funny touches. I particularly liked the cranky grandparents of the warring clans, and I immediately started ‘shipping them, which is always a good sign. This is definitely the hit of the site for me.
Maoh: Juvenile Remix, original story by Kotaro Isaka, story and art by Megumi Osuga. I got a bit of a Death Note (Viz) vibe from this one, in that it seems intent on providing thrills with an added layer of moral complexity. It stars Ando, a high-school student who’s gone to some pains to conceal his psychic ability. He can make people around him say things he’s thinking. That’s an odd and narrow enough super-power to make me suspect that the creators have something interesting in mind. Ando meets Inukai, the oddly charismatic leader of a local vigilante group that’s trying to restore order to the rather raucous streets of the city. Ando is intrigued by Inukai’s desire to change the world for the better, but vigilantism has a dark side. As Death Note proved, you’re unlikely to go broke telling morally ambiguous tales starring hot guys. Count me as intrigued.