Specialized children, an alien gift and they mysteries around both
Laddertop vol. 1 from Tor offers a bit something different from the normal manga. It reads in a western manner and puts the focus on mystery in this first volume with much being introduced from story to characters. Nothing new here but manga make or break themselves in the first few volumes and this tale is no different. So how do the children of Laddertop fare … let’s take a look.
Story – The aliens known as the Givers came to earth and, while never showing themselves, left a tremendous gift. Four towers known as Ladders stretch 36,000 miles from the Earth’s surface into space and help to provide energy to the planet. To service these ladders children are selected from the elite Laddertop Academy as only children can fit into the spaces where maintenance is required. It’s been 25 years since the Givers granted this gift and left and the latest recruits are introduced to the ladders. Roberta Holten is one of these recruits but her encounter with the Scan machine which selects the children changes everything. The technology is still largely unknown to humanity and when Robbi does her Scan a new symbol appears and visions begin, odd dreams with a hidden message. As Robbi joins the workers on the ladder she must not only adjust to her new setting but these visions and what message they hold. Were these gifts truly given with nothing expected or is the time coming for humanity to pay their due?
The basic concept in Laddertop is easy to swallow from a manga standpoint. Aliens provide gift to lesser race but what are the hooks, what’s the catch? This is strongest point for Laddertop, the mystery of the gift, what it really means and how it unfolds. This is the core ‘good’ and it works with Robbi and her vision but then there’s other stuff that gets in the way. Robbi’s best friend, her fellow recruits and the obnoxious cast of characters present. There are forced family issues and over-the-top annoying politicians take away from what is a very interesting sci-fi story. Get past the annoying and there remains one solid manga.
Art Style – Besides some of the forced human issues (abusive father, bullying) the art is the one thing holding back a compelling story. It’s manga but fits no discernable category and its American left to right reading panels and obnoxious designs just detract and will turn off fans looking for solid art to go with the story.
Miscellaneous – Not too much to add other than this is a manga taking a chance from a less traditional publisher, meaning not as many titles as a Viz or Bandai.
Overall Laddertop offers a solid story with a few annoying characters and art that’s not quite tier-2 in design but it’s different. The strongest point for Laddertop is its mysterious story and what these aliens left behind. Would I recommend it … only if readers are done with the usual shojo and shonen tales and wanting something a bit sci-fi and new.