Monday, January 11, 2010

Manga Mondays - Black God Vol 2, Black Lagoon Vol 3 and 20th Century Boys Vol 2

Today I'm taking a look at some manga series that I've been followed up with beyond the first volume. They are, Black God, which I enjoyed but wasn't blown away by, and Black Lagoon and 20th Century Boys, two series which have really impressed me so far. Do the new volumes hold up as well as the previous? Hit the jump for my reviews and find out.

Written by Dall-Young Lim
Art by Sung-Woo Park
Adaption by Christine Schilling

+ Black God Vol 2 continues with much of the same as the first volume. Although this might seem like damning with faint praise, consistency is a key ingredient for success in any ongoing narrative.
+ The volume's main story focuses on Kuro's encounter with another Mototsumitama. Lim uses it to not only expand on some concepts introduced in the first volume but also fleshes out the relationship between Kuro and Keita, which is definitely needed. It's not that either character, or their relationship to each other, wasn't firmly established in the first volume but it was very superficial. Granted, Lim does not turn them into the deepest relationships in the history of fiction, or anywhere near it, but it is a lot less superficial than it was in the first volume.
+ Lim introduces a conspiracy towards the end of the volume that looks like it will be the main plot of the book, but, other than that, there isn't much forward movement in the overall story.
+ There is a lot of solid character work in the volume. Whether it's with the main characters like Kuro or Keita or the various characters that show up through the volume.
+ Park's art remains very enjoyable and is probably the thing I enjoy most about the series at this point. His strengths still remain his visual engaging fight scenes, which are visceral, dynamic and fluid as well as the comedic aspects to his art.
- Not enough story and plot advancement. Although this volume isn't as introductory as the first, the story still has a slight introductory feel it. This is mostly because Lim expands on some of the concepts and characters without moving the story forward too much.
- Keita is still a massive ass, to the point where it makes it hard to care about him as character. This definitely detracts from the series since he is one of the main characters and it's hard to care about what happens to him or the problems and struggles he has.
- There is a seriously downer ending. I mean, crap, it literally comes out of nowhere and is an incredibly depressing way to end a story.

Verdict - Check It. Although I did enjoy this volume, the lack of forward momentum did hurt and I'm losing interest in the series. The third volume will probably be make or break for me and needs to start moving things along.

Interested in Black God, Vol 2? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

Written by Rei Hiroe
Art by Rei Hiroe
Adaption by Dan Kanemitsu

+ Bloodsport Fairy Tale wraps up in this volume. It starts off as a gun fight, though Hiroe ends it on less explosive note. He uses it to do some character work with Balalaika, leader of the Russian mob, and Rock. It was a decent ending to the story though it felt a little light in terms of content at times. This probably has to do with the fact that it wrapped up pretty quickly and only took up three chapters in the volume.
+ Goat, Jihad, Rock 'n' Roll is the second story in the volume. It involves the Lagoon Traders trying to deliver some documents from the Triads to the US government, which puts them at odds with an Islamic terrorist group. The story is mostly a chase sequence with some gun fights and conversations in between. It's a solid story though a little light on plot.
+ The story also focuses on Chang from the Triad, another major player in Roanpur. This helps to flesh out the world of Black Lagoon some more as Chang was more like a background character in  the previous volumes.
+ The tone is lighter from the previous, darker volume. It's still not a bright and shiny story but it's not as bleak as volume 2 could be at times.
+ Hiroe focuses on Rock's continuing adjustment to his new life. This is done through his interaction with the child assassins Hansel and Gretel or his encounter with a Japanese terrorist. Rock still is, deep down, a decent guy, so his naivety still get the better of him. It does make for some nice scenes and Rock remains an interesting character who can, and does, carry the series at times.
+ Hiroe's art remains very enjoyable. There is still a nice, kinetic energy in his artwork and the action scenes still have that chaotic feel that makes them very enjoyable.
- The volume doesn't feel as substantive as the previous two. Granted, the previous two volumes didn't have that much depth but it does seem lighter than volume 2 was.

Verdict - Buy It. Although the quality in this volume remains just as good as the previous two, it lacks that little something extra that made them Must Reads.

Interested in Black Lagoon, Vol. 3? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

Written by Naoki Urasawa
Art by Naoki Urasawa
Adapted by Akemi Wegmuller

+ Urasawa continues to produce a well plotted and suspenseful story. Much like the first volume, there are plenty of twists and turns to found that keep the story moving and the reader engaged.
+ The volume also sees the introduction of two new supporting characters - Yujiki and Kamisama. Yujiki is another childhood friend of Kenji's and Kamisama is a homeless man who has prophetic visions. Both characters help push Kenji  towards being the hero he imagined himself as when he was younger.
+ A large part of the flashbacks in the volume deal with Kenji's older sister, Kiriko. This helps to not only flesh out Kenji as a character, given the close relationship between the two of them, but, when combined with other aspects of the story, provides a better understand of Kenji as a character. His sister also seems to have a connection to The Friends which adds another layer of intrigue to the story.
+ The story that Urasawa tells in the volume does a wonderful job of creating a lot of tension between Kenji's conflicting responsibilities as a shop owner and provider for his family versus his call to be a hero. As mentioned above, this allows Urasawa to really expand on Kenji as a character while moving the overall plot forward.
+ Urasawa teases more about the identity of the head of The Friends as well as the end of the world on Dec. 31, 2000. Both of these tie back into Kenji's childhood which adds more to the dense and enjoyable story. Urasawa also continues to level things vague enough that it is still not for certain what happens but gives enough information to get a good sense of what is going on.
+ Urasawa's art remains impressive as always. He always does a wonderful job with the page and panels layouts when, combined with this wonderful attention to detail, facial expressions and designs, create some very impressive artwork.
+ The volume includes a wonderful ending that seems to signal that things will be kicking into high gear soon and hopefully mean that the story pick up in future volumes.

Verdict - Must Read. 20th Century Boys Vol 2 continues not only tell a fantastic and engaging story but maintain the high quality that was established in the first volume.

Interested in 20th Century Boys, Vol. 2: The Prophet? Buy it on and help support the Weekly Crisis!

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Anonymous said...

The Friends? That brought a chuckle to me after have read all the chapters of 20th Century Boys and it's follow up 21st Century Boys. Tbh, i never thought to call Friend's followers "The Friends" yet it all makes sense.

Still, it's probably my favorite manga of all time. His "Monster" was also a very enjoyable read too. In some ways, it's actually better paced than 20th Century Boys but the story and personality of the characters shine brighter in 20th.

Other Than that, Naoki has of some best A Hole villians ever created. Friend being the most prime example. Doom, Ozymadias, Aizen Sosuke (from bleach), Magneto, Lex Luthor, red skull, and etc big 2 villians has nothing on him. Anyways, keep up the good work eric. Btw, I'm from Texas too. Around the Corpus Christi area.

Yoyocool (since firefox hates logging me into blogger i just opted out for anon)

stevo said...

20th Century Boys is amazing i can't wait to read the rest of the volume.

Eric Rupe said...

Yoyocool - I've seen them mentioned as "The Friends" somewhere, probably in the manga at some point, so I didn't come up with it.

As for the Friend himself, he's a decent protagonist but, in the volumes I've read, he hasn't made that many appearances so I can't say one way or the other about how he compares to other classic villains.

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