Manga Friday: Superpowers
Only two books for Manga Friday this week; the deadline crept up on me and found me with a smaller “read” pile than I expected. But they’re both pretty good, and both are brand-new, which may make up for it.
First is Alice on Deadlines, which is the first time I’ve hit a concentrated dose of that Japanese-comics staple, the panty shot. Lapan is a Shingami — essentially an angel of death, or one of a legion of Grim Reapers, or something in that line of work. He and his co-workers travel to Earth to bring back dead souls who don’t come on their own, which sometimes requires a lot of “persuasion.” Lapan is also a fine example of that stock manga character, the horny creep. (We first see him absorbed in a dirty magazine at his desk.)
And, on the other side, Alice is a voluptuous young woman — presumably in high school. She’s terribly normal and average, except for being gorgeous (and it looks like all the other students of her all-girls school are also gorgeous).
Due to a mix-up, Lapan ends up in Alice’s body instead of the skeleton he was supposed to inhabit. And Alice is bounced into the skeleton. Wacky hijinks ensue, mostly involving Lapan-in-Alice’s-body trying to find a quiet place to fondle himself, and falling all over the other students. Along the way, the two of them do manage to take care of a few shishibitos (souls that cling to life instead of moving on, and which sometimes manifest magical abilities).
On the positive side, Alice on Deadlines is quite funny, with art that’s easy to follow and lots of visual interest (mostly of the nubile female kind, though there is some monster-fighting). On the possibly-negative side, it’ll be offensive to a whole lot of people. (Mostly humorless people, but I guess they count, too.) But Lapan does get some comeuppance in the last story in this volume, and the story isn’t actually on his side — the plot may be based on him being a lecher, but it’s not from his POV as a lecher.
(This also has the first explicit content rating system I’ve seen from a manga publisher. Nearly everything is rated for particular ages — this is ranked “older teen” — but Yen Press also uses letters to signify content, and Alice on Deadlines gets the full course: L (language), V (violence), S (sexuality), and N (nudity). But I should point out that the violence is much less explicit that many other manga I’ve seen, the language is pretty minor as well, and the nudity does not quite rise to the level of nipples. So Alice on Deadlines, on a content level, is about equal to a raunchy Fox sitcom.)
Psycho Busters, by comparison, is quite tame. (Though it’s also rated “OT,” mostly for violence.) It’s a “psychic kids on the run” story, familiar to American comics readers from X-Men, American book readers from Escape to Witch Mountain, Japanese comics readers from Mai the Psychic Girl, and probably everyone else in the world from many other things. (It’s a popular idea.)
This volume is mostly running around, introducing some characters and having the first bunch of big fights, so we don’t find out the full backstory. But there’s clearly some evil government agency finding and training psychics, for presumably nefarious purposes, and a few of them — not yet indoctrinated or transformed, as far as we can tell — are on the run. There’s the nasty government agent chasing them (who, in best Japanese style, is also devastatingly well-dressed, with long flowing hair). There’s angst and interpersonal conflict among the rogue psychics. And, most importantly, there’s the “normal” kid who they run into, who is our viewpoint character, and who, it is very strongly hinted, has really really major psychic powers that will become very important later in the series.
Those are all exceptionally popular, commercial elements — as Chris Claremont famously proved a couple of decades ago — and Psycho Busters puts them together into a sleek, entertaining version of a story we’ve all loved many times before. The art is crisp and laid out in a Western-eye friendly manner, and the battles and particularly well choreographed. This would be a great first manga series for readers of superhero comics.
Coming soon: a look at the fabulous, unlikely (and incredibly wordy) Manga Bible!
Alice on Deadlines, Vol. 1
Yen Press, 2007, $10.99
Psycho Busters, Vol. 1
Manga by Akinari Nao; Story by Yuya Aoki
Del Rey, 2007, $10.95
Andrew Wheeler has been a publishing professional for nearly twenty years, with a long stint as a Senior Editor at the Science Fiction Book Club and a current position at John Wiley & Sons. He’s been reading comics for longer than he cares to mention, and maintains a personal, mostly book-oriented blog at antickmusings.blogspot.com.
Publishers who would like their books to be reviewed at ComicMix should contact ComicMix through the usual channels or email Andrew Wheeler directly at acwheele (at) opt online (dot) net.