Monday, March 12, 2012

Book Review: MM9

VIZ MEDIA/Haikasoru

AUTHOR: Hiroshi Yamamoto
TRANSLATION: Nathan Collins
COVER: Izumi Evers
ISBN: 978-1-4215-4089-4; paperback, Rated “T” for “Teen”
256pp, B&W, $14.99 U.S., $16.99 CAN, £9.99 UK

Hiroshi Yamamoto began his career as a video game writer, designer, and developer. As a fiction writer, he created the Ghost Hunter series and gained acclaim for his science fiction novel, God Never Sleeps. 2010 saw the publication of his novel, The Stories of Ibis, in English. In January 2012, Haikasoru, an imprint of VIZ Media, published a second Yamamoto novel in English.

Originally released in Japan in 2007, MM9 is a science fiction novel composed of five interconnected short stories. MM9 follows the challenging labor of a Japanese unit that fights giant monsters called “kaiju.” The kaiju are monsters/creatures of the Godzilla, 50-Foot Woman, and giant plant variety.

MMD is an acronym for Monsterological Measures Department, a special unit under the Meteorological Agency. The MMD is a special anti-monster unit in Japan that deals with “natural disasters of a high ‘monster magnitude.’” “Monster magnitude” is a measure and designation related to the size of a monster and how much damage it can cause with MM9 being the most powerful and most dangerous kaiju.

The stories follow the members of the MMD as they fight various kaiju. There is Ryo Haida, a top member of the MMD’s Mobile Unit, and Sakura Fujisawa, a soft-hearted young woman and a specialist of Mobile Unit, Vehicles and Transportation, and she’s actually a whiz at driving to avoid monsters. Yojiro Muromachi, Mobile Unit, Director, keeps these two in line and on the job. Yuri Anno is the resident astrophysicist, but she sometimes feels out of place. Department Chief Shoichi Kurihama sweats the details and the small stuff, but when he really needs to be in control, he’s the ultimate take-charge guy who can manage a crisis as well as anyone.

In the opening story, “Crisis! Kaiju Alert!,” a sea-based kaiju threatens Japan, but nothing about the way this kaiju moves or its composition makes sense. The MMD will have to solve this mystery in time to save the coast of Japan. In “Danger! Girl at Large!,” meet Princess, the girl who is taller than a five-story building… and growing. Is she really a kaiju or a science experiment? Sakura will put her life on the line to get all the answers. In “Menace! Attack of the Flying Kaiju,” Ryo Haida and his date, Eiko Hamaguchi, find their night-out interrupted by a radioactive, flying kaiju with Tokyo on its mind.

A TV camera crew follows the MMD in “Scoop! Twenty-Four Hours with the MMD!.” All is quite, but a plant menace may turn a documentary special into a disaster movie. In “Arrival! The Colossal Kaiju of the Apocalypse!,” meet the kaiju with an ages-old mystery of history behind it. And it may also be the end of the world as we know it.

In the eight years that I have written reviews for the Comic Book Bin, publishers have sent me copies of their manga titles for review. Sometimes, they also send copies of the light novels they publish.

I was surprised to find that the MM9 novel is not like other light novels, if it can be labeled a light novel, at all. Middle and high school students that already read novels can comprehend this, but while MM9’s subject matter is light (giant monsters), Yamamoto executes it in an inventive manner, which shows that he clearly intends on engaging adult readers.

Hiroshi Yamamoto’s novel shares elements and ideas similar to the Men in Black film franchise and Warren Ellis and John Cassaday’s Planetary. MM9 is a high concept like the former and a deeper excursion into subgenres like the latter. This is not just a novel about giant monsters and the characters that fight them. This is also science fantasy; in the sense that Yamamoto takes fantasy, mythology, and real-life faith and belief systems and builds a scientific structure in which the natural and supernatural are not opposites, but are related. They are part of the human condition and part of our history.

MM9 is smarter than you think, because you might think an author would not put so much thought into a novel about a special agency that fights giant monsters. On a scale of 1 to 10, MM9 won’t even settle for 9.

Reviewed by Leroy Douresseaux

No comments:

Post a Comment