In a manga market that’s traditionally the reserve of either big name artists, or large manga publishing companies it’s rare to get access to up and-coming Japanese talent short of travelling to Japan’s Comeket, and bringing a Japanese dictionary
And Yet the American Gen manga entertainment are attempting such an endeavour with GEN – a manga magazine dedicated to releasing stories from writers and artists direct from Japan.
In this, the inaugural issue, we are introduced to four separate stories, and each with their own characters, art-styles – and executed with varying degrees of success.
WOLF [Nakamura Shige]
This first story, a Seinen boxing series introduces us to Okami Naoto, a traveling man with a perchance for getting into fights [and a talent for fighting his out of them] who in this first episode arrives in Tokyo to confront Kurozaki, a former professional boxer and head coach at a gym,
But also a man who abandoned his wife and child for the sake of becoming a boxer.
And now his son – Naoto – has come to confront him – and possibly kill him.
Along the way we are also introduced to Shota Ishizuka, a wet around the ears teenager who, on his way also to Tokyo to train to be a Sumo wrestler, although time will tell as to weither we see more of him as the series progress.
While the characters themselves are intriguing I couldn’t help but feel that this seemed like one of many a shounen fighting manga – the cocksure newcomer, whose enthusiasm outmatches his talent, but who over time strives to become the best at boxing. Also the artwork, while detailed enough to convey the plot and scenes portrayed, they seemed just that – detailed enough and nothing more – it seemed at times the artist either didn’t have time [or just didn’t bother to] draw more than what was necessary, and even those rare times you see any detailed background in these scenes end up looking like cardboard scenery from an amateur dramatics production.
…and yet something about this – either the plot [ what price ambition, and what price revenge?] or the fledgling characters, make me want to see how this develop, so i’ll give it the benefit of the doult and move on to….
This manga follows Kitaro Iguchil, whose otherwise normal high school life is interrupted by the appearance of Aya Segawa, who asks for his help in proving whether or not fellow high school-er Sana Sakuma is an alien.
Yes, that’s right, an alien – Just…go with me on this.
Whilst rading this I got a definite Haruhi Suzumiya vibe from this story and indeed throughout my own opinions, a well as Kitaro’s, as to whether Aya was indeed an alien or not changed all the time, right up to the ending which, without hopefully not giving too much away, easily leaves an opening for more episodes in the future.
Finally the artwork, while not as devoid of background details like “Wolf”, still feel sketchy and incomplete – like something a mangaka would scribble in his notebook prior to drawing properly.
All in all a B for effort, but needs improvement.
Kamen [Mihara Gunya]
With a potential to be a great Seinen series “Kamen” opens up with our protagonist awakening seemingly in a strange land, a mask [ which in Japanese is “Kamen”, thus the title] strongly attached to his face,and a mysterious voice telling him that he’ll die if he try’s to remove it.
The episode was almost entirely setup – with the masked man [who strangely reminded me of Ken from SF2, but with Vegas face mask] stumbling on a prison convoy, containing a motley group of prisoners and guards, again with little real clue as to who they are at this time.
Also out of all the titles in this magazine Kamen has by far the best artwork, with interesting and well drawn backgrounds, and even the simplest of props and items, like swords and the saddles and bridles of the horses that appear here.
My only real grumble I can really lodge against this is, at 24 pages, its a lot shorter than the normal 30 pages traditional Japanese manga chapter would be, and as such It felt incomplete, with the plot suddenly just ending, with no real clue as to what is really going on!
Which leaves us with the final story
Souls – Empty shell [chapter one] [Karino Arisa]
It is a dark, stormy night and at a traditional Japanese house, home to an overly strict mother and her browbeaten daughter, a strange woman arrives – and her revelations will tear the families world apart.
What is the secret of the family? Why do neither the daughter or the mother acknowledge the mysterious door – and just who is knocking from behind it?
This series definitely makes itself out as a dark, supernatural horror, with the mysterious woman [whose name is never mentioned] acting as some kind of combination investigator/medium, whose role is to placate restless spirits.
……And yet despite trying to create this suspense and drama the small page count yet again stymies the story flow – Karino could have easily take this episode to develop the story more slowly, and then give the big reveal next episode.
Also I found that the artwork really let this story down – from the characters with the EXTREME eye-liners, to the backgrounds that seemed in one hand unfinished, and in another too simplistic, with little or no consideration for light and shade, and rooms that seemed all too flat and two dimensional – if I didn’t know better I’d say they’d been put together within the space of an hour with MS paint!
Sorry, but bad artwork and poor pacing bring down what could be a good series.
I’m in two minds about this.
On the one hand to be fair this is a first issue, with all the stories as such only starting here, and as such there has to be some leeway to be given for it – time for artwork to develop. Storyline’s to develop and properly explain themselves etc.
And yet, going by what I’ve seen, hardly any of the plotlines these titles present seem like they’re breaking new ground – many of the plots have already been done by more mainstream manga companies and mangka, and to much greater success!
At the end of the day, and Considering that this magazine touts itself as presenting [and I quote] “indie manga from the Tokyo underground”, it feels at times like the kind of thing you’d expect from Tokyopop’s now Defunct OEL manga line.
All I can tell you reader is to follow the old addage – “LET THE BUYER BEWARE”.
GEN magazine is available for $2.99 after this first free edition either as a digital download or [albeit with a limited run] as a physical publication. Both can be ordered from their main website: http://genmanga.com.