Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spy vs. Spy: Missions of Madness

By Antonio Prohias
Published by Watson-Guptill

Slugline: The Wrong Format

Spy vs. Spy is a classic comic strip made famous by Mad Magazine featuring two spies that use increasing more elaborate traps and ruses (including Rube Goldberg machines) to trap and kill one another. Very much a creation of the Cold War, with its creator Antonio Prohias a Cuban exile, the two spies representing opponents that have become indistinguishable from each other. This volume is one of several collections of the comics earliest strips in a manga format. It is because of that manga format that it is included on Prospero's Manga since it is likely that this volume (along with its companion collections) could be shelved with manga titles. That is a mistake because the comic is totally unsuited for the format, having just a single panel (in most cases) per page. Strips that would take up just a page or two in the original magazine format takes 10 or more pages in the manga, completely changing their feel and pacing. Since the comics are without word balloons the volume reads far too quickly making the book feel short even though it as long as traditional manga. The material itself are fine, this is just the worst possible way to read it.


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Battle of Genryu: Origin, vol. 1

By Shoko Fukaki
Published in the US by CMX Manga

Slugline: A plot an uncertain as its fight scenes are smooth

Jin is a high school student that also practices martial arts and while he is good at it he is not exceptional. Except for about one day a month when everything seems to go his way and he can pull off near superhuman feats of agility and strength. Jin chalks off those days as his lucky days but his family knows it is just a sign of his growing power. Unknown to Jin, he has deeply hidden abilities that have secreted away so that he doesn't lose control and kill people. But Jin days of hiding are over because his missing brother Soichiro has found him while also using his own marital art abilities to rule the fight circuit. At first Soichiro has Jin beaten by ordinary thugs during one of his weak days but quickly escalates to challenging Jin himself while trying to convince their sister that he has their best interests at heart.

This is another example of how the story doesn't seem to know where it wants to go. At first it seems that Soichiro is going to be a mysterious mastermind but when he is more fully introduced he starts to look like one of the misunderstood characters who can be redeemed once their own errors are proven to them, usually by beating that into them during a battle royale . But the the uncertain, almost stuttering plot refuses to settle down to a consistent direction or tone. Martial arts manga are not required to have much of a plot but what little they have should flow as smoothly as its fight scenes. Unusually, the fan service wasn't too annoying, verging on the reasonable rather ridiculous while the art in the few fight scenes being especially well done.

The Battle of Genryu: Origin, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Leave it to PET!, vol. 1

Story and Art by Kenji Sonishi
Published in the US Viz

Slugline: An incentive to throw your recycling into the dump

Noboru is a typical nine year old who wants to avoid trouble and have fun, in that order. He thinks that both of those goals will be easily meet when PET enters his life, for despite being a recycled plastic bottle, PET has all sorts of abilities, sort of like a super-robot such as Doraemon. Unfortunately for Noboru PET is not very smart and has far less common sense than him, which means that many of PET's attempts to help Noboru backfire spectacularly. The exceptions are when he does not properly understand what Noboru is asking for or is bored and decides to do something else. Despite feeling that he owes Noboru for recycling the plastic bottle that made him, PET does not try very hard to improve either himself or Noboru.

You would think that after the first few times that PET made things worse for Noboru he would stop being so willing to call on PET, but that is a lesson that Noboru never seems willing to learn, if for no other reason that it would end the series. As a kid's series it definitely is just for kids rather than being appropriate for all ages for if you are well into your teens the story will quickly become repetitive and is just not very funny. As for the series name, PET is an acronym for a widely used recyclable plastic though most plastic items are labeled by number rather than type. The story does gently tweak recyclable programs, if for no other reason that if you recycle you may get stuck with a robot friend like PET.

Leave it to PET!, vol. 1 is also available from Right Stuf, Intl., an online retailer specializing in anime and manga.

- Ferdinand