Thursday, September 04, 2008

Bratz: Super Bratz

Written by Christine Peymani and Art By Anthony Tan
Published by TokyoPop

Slugline: Why do I find their lack of noses the most disturbing thing about the Bratz?

The All-Ages rating for this title is a little misleading. The rating really should say "Aimed at Pre-Tween Girls, All Others May Suffer Saccharine Poisoning." Not because the title is particularly bad, but because the pre-tween target demographic is the only one that the book really cares about. If other types of readers happened to pick up the book, that is fine, but having something that could appeal outside of that narrow demographic seem unimportant. Which is a shame, for I can easily see that this title could have been a successful really All-Ages title, but because it is linked to the Bratz property, it is limited to a certain approach and attitude to fits within that.

The girls of Bratz learn that their special skills that have made each of them stand out before were only the beginning manifestations of their superpowers. The cheerleader that could do high leaps now flies, the athletic type is a speedster, the social butterfly is a mind reader, etc. The Bratz discover that there is local school that teaches people how to use their superpowers, which apparently means road trip! The Bratz decide to go to school there, but discover that other students have their own selfish plans. Which the Bratz, after one failed attempt, discover the ways to use their new abilities to uncover what the not-so-nice students are planning and present proof to the teachers, who take care of the problem.

So yeah, this is X-Men lite with a side of the Bratz brand. I assume what minor character touches there are is from whatever character bible the Bratz brand managers gives out. I also assume that is why there are so few character flourishes for each Bratz, so that the property can be extended into as many different venues and forms as possible, without having to worry about keeping track of multiple character facets that may not work in any particular media. The response to that challenge is to minimize the individual characters.

What was nice is all I know about the Bratz is what I learned from the trailer of their rather horrible movie I was unfortunate enough to see twice. I didn't even need to know that much to pick up the book and go right into it, because you could learn most of that in the first chapter, along with the fact that they enjoy all the normal tween activity even though one of them was old enough to drive a car. It took me a little longer to keep all the characters straight, and the fact that the characters didn't have noses threw me far more than I thought it would. The character's characteristics, such as they are, are hard to tell apart other than by their special ability, but the Bratz are not credulous and are willing to entertain the thought they are not trapped in a simple, straightforward plot (which they are, but at least they consider otherwise).

Ultimately, this is not a book about the characters, it is about making sure that the property of Bratz exists in manga form. Which is a shame, because I think without that intent, and inherent set of boundaries that purpose imposed on the title, the core concept and the creators could have done more with it. But that would require taking risks that one does not allow with a multi-million dollar brand, especially in a particularly low profile manga (in comparison to the rest of the brand). So it is what it aspires to be, competent, rather than anything more.

Bratz: Super Bratz is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

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