Thursday, February 10, 2011

I Reads You Review: LIVES, VOL. 1

Creator: Masayuki Taguchi with Bryce P. Coleman (English adaptation) and Monica Seya Chin (translation)
Publishing Information: TOKYOPOP, B&W, paperback, 192 pages, $12.99 (US), $16.99 CAN
Ordering Numbers: ISBN: 978-1-4278-1667-2
Action/Fantasy; Rated “M” for “Mature Ages 18+”
I enjoy reading manga, and for most of the last eight years, I’ve been exposed to a lot of it. Manga offers high-quality series in so many genres and sub-genres, and there is such diversity that some manga are simply hard to classify. There are also titles that I call “guy comics” because those manga appeal to the action-loving, science fiction/fantasy fan that cannot get enough of kick-ass shonen and seinen manga like Bleach, Naruto, Black Lagoon and Akira. I just discovered a new seinen manga (comics for adult men) that has made me anxious for the next volume.

TOKYOPOP recently published the first volume of their English language release of Lives. Created by Masayuki Taguchi (the artist of the Battle Royale manga), Lives has elements of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and monster comics. It also has a passing resemblance to TOKYOPOP’s World of Warcraft graphic novels.

Lives, Vol. 1 focuses on a group of people who live in the Kanto region of Japan, which is devastated by a freak meteor storm. People caught in the terrific blasts caused by meteors hitting the area are mysteriously transported to a strange world that one of them dubs “Afterworld.” There, the human arrivals transform into monstrous cannibalistic beasts that must fight and sometimes eat each other to survive. Shinma Shingo, a genial martial arts student, leads a small group of survivors. His peaceful and protecting ways, however, are at odds with what seems to be the way to deal with life on Afterworld.

Readers who enjoy battles between behemoths and other super freaks, like those found in teen-oriented, battle manga, will like Lives. The story is a little confusing in places because Taguchi uses a non-linear narrative in which he builds chapters around the back story, arrival, and survival stories of individual characters. Chronologically, Vol. 1’s opening chapter, which his about a girl group singer, actually takes place after the main character’s (Shinma Shingo) story has already taken place. Shingo’s story doesn’t appear until late in the second half of this volume, although it is chronologically the beginning of this story.

Still, Taguchi is very good at telling a story using graphics and the word-and-pictures dynamic of comic books. While his art is beautiful, the beauty is merely an element in what is a spry and expressive visual narrative that is capable of conveying the characters’ thoughts, emotions, and actions. I have to praise Taguchi, though, for his imaginative creature design, which mixes dinosaurs, reptiles, big cats, assorted mammals, and a touch of Cthulhu. Shinma’s beast mode is like a mix of Wolverine and Sabertooth, but with three-foot claws.

If the monsters aren’t enough for potential readers, there is fanservice in the form of crotch shots and tits-and-ass galore. I look forward to more cool monsters.


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