Eiji Otsuka / Sho-U Tajima – CMX – 2004 – 5 volumes
If I’m not mistaken, this was one of the launch books for CMX. It’s also by the same team who gave us MPD-Psycho, and the writer also gave us Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service. That was the reason I decided to get this on a whim when a used copy came in at work.
I was pretty disappointed. Obviously, this is nothing like the other series I’ve read by Eiji Otsuka. I’m used to his psychological horror, and this is a more traditional fantasy story of a mid-90s vintage. It’s pretty generic, and the art… well, looks like a generic fantasy series from the mid-90s. I’m not the biggest fan of Sho-U Tajima’s art, but he’s definitely good at delivering pretty functional character designs and settings for MPD-Psycho, and he’s great at disgusting gore. That does come up a few times here (one memorable instance is when a crocodile man gets the top of his head knocked off, leaving the lower jaw on a bloody neck stump), but otherwise, functional 90s art just doesn’t work very well in a fantasy manga.
I got excited for a minute at the beginning, because the premise is very similar to Dororo. Madara is found floating down the river one day, a baby that’s been robbed of all its limbs and features, but with a strong aura. An old man named Tatara decides to build Madara a body made of “gadgets,” or artificial limbs, eyes, ears, et cetera. When the story starts, Madara’s peaceful town is invaded by the henchman of an evil king, and Madara defeats the enemy, but loses his grandfather Tatara. The defeat also grants him his ears back, and with his dying breath, Tatara sends Madara on a journey to defeat the eight generals of the king, each with one of Madara’s body parts, and also to take vengeance on the king that dismembered baby Madara in the first place. A girl named Kirin accompanies him on this journey.
As awesome as the “getting your body parts back” premise is, everything else is pretty generic. Madara is a ‘tude-filled hero, there’s a fairly uninteresting romantic comedy-type relationship between Madara and Kirin, the fights with the evil generals are rather boring (even with Madara’s limbs flying all over the place on cables and such), and… they’re little more than evil generals. Madara has beaten two of them by the end of the volume.
The characters aren’t that likable, and a boring plot ruined an interesting premise. My opinion of this also may suffer because I’m reading an actually good fantasy novel right now (The Name of the Wind by Rothfuss is AMAZING), and it probably made this look even worse in contrast. I won’t be picking up the rest, unless they just happen to come in at work and/or I completely run out of manga to read.
I should admit that parts of this book reminded me a little of Magic Knight Rayearth (especially the enemy crowd scene, where generals were dispatched from the group). I don’t know if that made this better, or MKR a little worse. Only Dark Horse’s upcoming reprint will remind me.