Sunday, May 02, 2010

Ratman, vol. 1

Story and Art by Inui Sekihiko
Published in the US by TokyoPop

Slugline: Rats are not exactly good models for heroes or villains.

Shuto wants to be a hero, which is more possible than the typical childish fantasy because he lives in a world where super heroes are common. Even though he is short for his age and so few people take him seriously, he continues to espouse the notions of justice that he believes are the bedrock of heroes. Only two people seem to take his desire seriously, a slightly odd student at his school named Mizushima and Rio, the daughter of the head of the Hero Association. Shuto finally gets his chance to be a hero by rescuing Mizushima but discovers that it was to trick him to undergo an experiment and be forced to become a villain by Mizushima's sister. Shuto's first mission as a villain brings him into conflict with the Hero Association, leading to Rio vowing to hunt him down personally along with the Hero Association as a whole.  Shuto is torn between his heroic desires and the messed up reality that he finds himself forced into.

Shuto has the sort of personality that is so earnest in wanting to be a hero that he would normally annoy anyone. So when the trap is sprung and he is forced to become a villain instead, Shuto's stunned response makes the story. Sure, that particular twist can be seen coming a mile away, but since it is a twist that the character would never expect because of his nature, the readers can allow themselves to enjoy it. Sadly, for the moment the female characters are just foils for Shuto to react against rather than having their own personality.  While parts of the manga descends into parody the fact that Shuto is taking the heroic ideals so seriously suggest that will have a more mature examination of them, though the rest of the story may be less so. It is the interplay between the two that will keep things interesting.

Ratman, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga


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