Anime and Manga — Reviews and Previews
Why, hello there, fellow madcaps! The past few months have been a time of change for me, not the least of which was the fact that I switched jobs. As I no longer work at a bookstore, I have lost my (free) access to all that lovely manga. This certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t be buying and reading new series, just that they’ll probably be interspersed with some of my old favorite instead. But enough about that – I managed to fit in some new series this month, and it’s the manga that you’re here to see!
Aron’s Absurd Armada vol. 1 by Misun Kim
Whatever anyone may think, we are definitely pirates… We have a captain, a crew (?), and even Robin, so we are absolutely pirates… Captain Aron is a brainless idiot, and Robin only loves money, but we are still pirates… Sailing in search of treasure (or not), we are unquestionably pirates… So, in conclusion, we are pirates…!” ~ blurb on the back of volume one.
One of the reasons I gravitated towards this book was that interesting little self-depreciating blurb it’s got, with the narrator so innocently insisting that the crew of Aron’s Absurd Armada are, in fact, pirates. The other reason I picked up this volume was the fact that it was larger than your typical manga/manhwa, printed on glossy pages, and presented in full color. There’s a lot of money tied up in the production of this book, and I wanted to see what was worth all the expense. Unfortunately, the packaging is more impressive than the content, and I ultimately walked away from AAA feeling underwhelmed.
First of all, this is a 4-koma manhwa, a format that’s notoriously hit-or-miss for me. So long as a 4-koma can keep the gags coming and keep them feeling fresh, then the Madcap is a happy camper and will gladly consume every little comic one throws her way. (This is how I devoured Hetalia as long as I did.) But when the gags get tired and the jokes repetitive, I drift away, like a boat with a windless sail. AAA is hilarious for the first twenty pages or so, and then again for a few pages every time a new character is introduced and brings fresh blood to the comic. But after about the midpoint of this good-sized collection, everything begins to blur together into the same broad-stroked jokes. Robin is obsessed with money. Aron is an idiot. Ronnie is a girl who looks like a boy. Mercedes is a man who looks like a woman. Vincent is a cook who can’t cook. You can’t make an entire book out of these little quirks, though AAA gives it a valiant shot.
I enjoyed the art for what it was. It matched the tone of the book, and the addition of the color was a nice touch that sets it apart from other 4-komas. But it was never transcendent, and it certainly wasn’t enough to save the book from the pitfalls of its chosen format. Aron’s Absurd Armada is a fun enough way to pass the time, but it’s forgettable, digestible entertainment.
Attack on Titan vol. 1 by Hajime Isayama
“In this post-apocalyptic sci-fi story, humanity has been devastated by the bizarre, giant humanoids known as the Titans. Little is known about where they came from or why they are bent on consuming mankind. Seemingly unintelligent, they have roamed the world for years, killing everyone they see. For the past century, what’s left of man has hidden in a giant, three-walled city. People believe their 100-meter-high walls will protect them from the Titans, but the sudden appearance of an immense Titan is about to change everything.” ~ blurb on the back of volume one.
I have a sneaking suspicion I’m in the minority on this one, but I did not enjoy the first volume of Attack on Titan. At all. I thought the artwork was, for the most part, a distracting, muddled mess that showed creativity only in the design of the Titans themselves and the technologies used to battle them. I remember reading the author’s note about the aforementioned technologies – the passion with which Hajime Isayama talked about the process of coming up with it – and wondering why so little of that passion came through in the story. I found the characters to be largely one-note caricatures, though the protagonist’s burning desire to get out and fight was commendable and sympathetic. I felt like the deaths of many characters, though, were cheap, tear-jerking moves that hadn’t yet been earned, at least not enough to make me truly feel saddened or threatened. There was nothing in volume one except perhaps it’s puzzling, high-stakes ending that made me want to continue on to volume two.
But then the [promo artwork] for the anime came out, and I started to wonder if perhaps I might prefer Attack on Titan as moving pictures more than as static ones. After all, then I might be able to see and digest the admittedly cool battle mechanics without getting distracted by the artwork. I guess we’ll have to wait a few months to see.
Witch Hunter vols. 1-2 by Cho Jung-Man
“In a world where witches have declared war against humanity, the surviving human population has gathered specialists with the power to hunt and destroy witches. Tasha Godspell, also known as the “Magic Marksman,” is one of the best Witch Hunters there is. Along with his sword-wielding Jack-o’-Lantern partner known as Halloween, Tasha puts his magical training and weaponry to good use, in his constant battles against witches. And yet, he cannot bring himself to fully hate the very witches he is tasked to destroy.” ~ blurb on the back of the first omnibus.
There is nothing here – and I do mean nothing – that you haven’t seen done, and done better, in half a dozen shonen manga that came before. The trio of protagonists who fight with each other as much as they fight with their enemies, the overly confident hero. Even the setting is generic fantasy with a hint of generic sci fi. I guess I should have considered myself warned when the marketing for this series heavily relies on the phrase, “in the vein of Soul Eater and Fullmetal Alchemist.” If you have to call on other popular series in order to sell your own, you’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere.
But this makes it sound like I dislike Witch Hunter. I don’t. I just didn’t find it interesting enough to either love or hate because I felt like it wasn’t trying to accomplish anything new. It didn’t help matters that I was immediately put off by how poorly handled the first chapter was, in which we get the history of the fight between the witches and the witch hunters in an awkwardly phrased and forced conversation between two people who obviously know what the heck is going on and thus shouldn’t be discussing this at all. It would have been better just to have a page of text for all the dialogue and characters added to the information dump. Now, some of the fights were interesting in their mechanics, and there were occasional flashes of characterization that made me feel like I could come to like some of the characters. Ultimately, though, Witch Hunter was fighting a losing battle from the get-go.
Just a heads up – between today and my next post on February 1st, I’ll be tweaking the layout of this site in order to make it easier to navigate as well as more pleasing to the eye. So if you happen to stop on by and notice it’s in a state of “creative madness,” don’t fret! Everything will be in its place as soon as possible!
While I wrestle with rogue data and HTML tags, tell me what manga or manhwa you’ve been reading lately! Are you keeping up with the latest and greatest? Or are you gravitating towards old favorites and familiar comforts?