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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Black Lagoon volume 1 Impression

Black Lagoon, new action anime from Geneon, starts off fast and never takes its foot off the accelerator. Mixing stylized characters with action not seen since the A-Team (boat + ramp, you'll see) Black Lagoon is a series that bears watching, and not in just the literal sense.

Rokuro Okajima is described as "meek, mundane and metropolitan" and that he is, in much the same manner Neo was in The Matrix right before he took a certain pill. While on a business trip Rokuro is abducted by Revy, Dutch and Benny, a group of modern day pirates that would fit in very well with Spike, Jet, Ed and Faye on the Bebop. Abducted for a data disc he possess, Rokuro is left out to dry by his company and eventually begins to adapt to his new surroundings by adapting to the action the only way he knows how, analysis and logic. If being kidnapped wasn't enough Rokuro finds himself teaming up with said pirates as all four of them are targeted by yet another mercenary group that has ties to whomever is behind … well you get the point. Lots of action, lots of guns and a little shirt and tie wearing business man in the middle.

The character design as stated before is stylish and relatable as the stories setting is modern times, so no spaceships or crazy gadgets. The vehicles and weapons can be found in nowadays and you feel the influence of the Street Fighter TV series in the action since Black Lagoon shares the same director, Sunao Katabuchi, as well as Episode Direction by Kenichi Kawamura of Tenjho Tenge fame. The voice acting is also on par with what we've become to expect from top quality anime as emotion is relayed with, well feeling and believability. This does not feel forced or fake.

Black Lagoon has stared off very nicely with volume 1, and as an anime fan I've got my fingers crossed it continues. Generally speaking most anime slow down with their volume 2 release, to give some insight into the character(s) background and the plot, but this has already begun in volume 1 of Black Lagoon with zero slowdown. I really love the fact that these are pirates, not good, not bad, just out to make abuck. When it comes to action anime, Black Lagoon is a solid choice. It's unique story, characters and real world setting are easily immersive and will not leave viewers feeling like they've been there and done that. It's all hands on deck as Geneon has setup another solid title to sit along side Gun X Sword and Law of Ueki.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yakitate!! Japan volume 1 Impression

I love action manga. Series like O-Parts Hunter, Naruto, King of Hell, series with fights and adventures, journeys, the hero on the brink of defeat just to come back and win. Yakitate!! Japan is not an action manga, it does not have super powers, chapter after chapter fights or scantily clad heroines, it’s got dough, lots and lots of dough … and I love it!

Yakitate!! Japan from Viz with story and art by Takashi Hashinguchi, is a story about a young boy, Kazuma Azuma, who has vowed to make Ja-pan, a bread that is unique to Japan and world renowned. He possesses the ‘Hands of the Sun’ and a drive to be the best (is this sounding like an adventure manga now?). Kazuma departs his childhood home having slowly crafted his bread making at a local bakery and tested his various Ja-pan’s on his family. The ultimate test for Kazuma was getting his grandfather to submit to Ja-pan. Like many Japanese his grandfather prefers rice, good ol’ home grown rice to bread. By crafting a unique bread that even his grandfather cannot resist Kazuma decides it’s time to hit the road, onto Pantasia.

The intro to the story is basic; boy has a dream, hidden power and sets out on a journey. The twist is that the story is about break, about baking bread. I’ve learned more than I though I would by reading up to volume 6 of Yakitate!! Japan, and like a warm melt-in-your-mouth butter roll fresh from the oven, I’m hooked. Takashi pens a manga that at times reminds me of the zaniness found in Excel Saga and others the seriousness of Vampire Knight. Great character design is not always needed in a well written manga, but what Takashi pulls off is art that really draws the reader into break making. Kazuma’s rise up the Pantasia rookie ranks is as engaging as it is funny. Who know baking a loaf could be this much fun.

Each volume of Yakitate!! Japan just gets better and better. I urge anyone with an interest in action manga to take a departure from your comfort zone and pick up a volume, you won’t be disappointed. Great art mixed with a great story makes for a recipe that is sure to rise to the top of the manga charts. Give it a taste.