Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review: GEN Issue 1

[Note: Images from and are (c) Gen Manga Entertainment Inc.]

GEN Manga is an intriguing new self-published online anthology magazine of translated original works by Japan's top dojinshi artists. The (free) first issue features four very different stories by members of the so-called "Tokyo Underground." As you can imagine, I absolutely HAD to take a look; I am always looking for a different look at contemporary Japan, and when said look happens to come in panels (and for free/next-to-nothing), all the better! While not exactly AX for the internet, GEN is a fine look at the good fans who love and love to work in their medium of choice, and has a lot of potential. I wish the magazine's staff luck in culturing a fantastic magazine. Now, here are 4 bite-sized reviews of the first 42 pages of each story in the publication.

WOLF Chapter 1 by Nakamura Shige
Story: Naoto seeks heads to the big city in search of his absent father, a professional boxer, and befriends Shota, a nice kid with dreams of becoming a sumo wrestler in this charming sports manga.
My Thoughts: One word: Eh. This is a really nice story with lovable characters, simple, vintage-style artwork, but not a lot of ambition. There's not really anything that compelling going on in this story, but on the upside, there aren't really any big problems with it. Just plain old, straightforward GOOD. Wolf is the kind of comic made for anthology format; alongside another, stronger series, it can just be itself and leave a big smile on the reader's face, if not anything more.
Later Chapters Should: Give Shota a bigger role. His constant optimism is a big part of what makes this manga shine.

VS ALIENS Chapter 1 by Suzuki Yu
Story: One day, normal kid Kitaro is confronted by Aya, your standard eccentric girl type with glasses, claiming that Sana, the cutest girl in the school, is an ALIEN! Wacky hijinks ensue.
My Thoughts: VS Aliens is a really entertaining comic. Basically K-On with UFOs (UF-On?), this issue's chapter is formulaic mush at its best: similar enough to everything else, but including some special qualities that make it unique. Of course, it makes no sense that this appears in a magazine that calls itself "underground," but whatever. VS Aliens is a fun read, and I wouldn't be shocked if Suzuki ends up being a major mainstream mangaka (say 10 times fast) in the near future.
Future Chapters Should: Build on the sci-fi. Am I the only person who wants to see cute anime-style girls beat the crap out of space dudes? I think not!

KAMEN Chapter 1 by Mihara Gunya
Story: A man wakes up with a mask. He tries to take it off. Then the mask tells him that he will die if he takes it off. Meanwhile, a group of soldiers with a caravan carrying prisoners spot him and take him as an enemy.
My Thoughts: I can't really say that much, as not a hell of a lot happens in this chapter, but Kamen could be the strongest feature in GEN at this point. The comic employs a leisurely pace in what could easily become a fantasy epic, drawing the reader in without showing or telling us much, but hinting at enough to give the feeling that the story will go interesting places. Gunya also deserves credit for some incredible artwork, reminiscent of series such as Vagabond, and on a whole other level compared to the rest.
Future Chapters Should: Show us a bit more, but slowly. This is a great comic so far, and I can't wait to see what happens next!

SOULS: Empty Shell Chapter 1 by Arisa Karino

Story: A mystery woman comes to take the soul of a young woman named Harue, who is abused by her controlling mother.
My Thoughts: Souls is the exact worst possible kind of fan comic. Within the first two pages alone, we are given hackwork purple prose (Cry rain...cry for me...), and ugly, chunky artwork, with screen tone splattered all over the pages like gooey phlegm. The story seems to be going for a melancholy traveller-type tone like Mushishi on Mermaid Saga, which I don't mind, but to do a story like that, you need to be able to tell a coherent story, a skill this artist seems to not possess.
Future Chapters The Artist Should: Get a mentor of some sort. Karino is not talentless, but really needs someone to help her (or him? GEN doesn't have any author bios) focus said talent better.

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