Darkside Blues

January 26, 2010

Story by Hideyuki Kikuchi, Art by Yuho Ashibe – ADV Manga – 2004 – 1 volume

I am likely the only person in America who bought this in a fit of joy after finding out it was another licensed work by artist Yuho Ashibe, only to realize when it arrived that the story was by Hideyuki “Vampire Hunter D” Kikuchi.  Kikuchi’s popularity dwarfs that of Ashibe’s, but Kikuchi neither wrote nor illustrated Bride of Deimos, which is what I’m most interested in.  This series was drawn in 1988, which would have been right after the conclusion to Bride of Deimos and right after Ashibe started Crystal Dragon, so the art still looks just as lovely as it did in Deimos.  Crystal Dragon is also quite pretty, and should probably be added to my most wanted licenses because, hey, celtic mythology fantasy series with gorgeous art.

Anyway.  I was very happy with the art, but disappointed by the story.  The volume itself is an omnibus-type volume, containing both published volumes of Darkside Blues.  No more have ever come out, but the story reads like the middle of a much longer tale.  We start with a terrorist who has just attacked world superpower Persona Century Corporation being punished, and we end with a woman joining the same terrorist organization set on overthrowing the stranglehold Persona Century Corporation has on the world.  The story takes place in Shinjuku, one of the only free areas left not under Persona Century’s control.

The problem is… that there are a lot of ill-defined powers at work here.  The family that runs Persona Century Corporation consists of a woman who enjoys torture, a brother who wears a mysterious mask that covers his entire face, a brother who escaped from some sort of prison in Africa, and a kind-hearted sister who is never shown.  The savior of Shinjuku is the mysterious Darkside, a dapper Deimos-looking fellow who appears and disappears mysteriously when the weak are struggling against The Man.  Persona Century Corporation chases a stray terrorist into Shinjuku, and the story follows him as he is sheltered by the local gang Messiah and we go through various battles and whatnot.

The ill-defined powers come into play in a variety of ways.  The leader of Messiah, Mai, seems to possess supernatural speed, at the very least, but… has an attachment to plants, so that might come into play as well.  Her assistant/partner is preternaturally gifted with electronics.  The nature of Darkside’s powers is never revealed, and we never really see how he uses them.  The same with the older Persona brother, who fights Darkside at one point.  The brother with the mask also appears to have some sort of supernatural aid on his side.  And yet, the rest of the story is firmly grounded in reality.  The magic feels unnecessary and out of place, and really complicates the story.  And I say that while holding the opinion that Darkside is the best part, even though he adds nothing and is confusing.  The story itself is not all that interesting or well-developed, and as I said, it cuts off right in the middle and there is no more coming.

There are two related stories, Demon City Hunter and Demon Palace Babylon, but I think they are only tangentially related and don’t involve the same characters.  Both other series were released by ADV Manga.  I’m happy they released this one too, because I love the work of Yuho Ashibe, and the artwork really is exceptional and strangely shoujo for such a gritty tale.  But it wasn’t a great series, and not really the best introduction to Hideyuki Kikuchi.

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