Masakazu Katsura – Dark Horse – 2001 – 3 volumes
I’m not sure how I forgot to cover this months ago, but the recent kaitou article made me realize I was lacking. Here you go!
What started off as a light comedy gets serious here as the demons are unleashed and it falls to Shadow Lady, a character who steals from museums in order to rile up the police, to save humanity. It’s not the best turn of events, admittedly, but it still works pretty well in the context of the series, and it’s also nice to see some of the loose ends get wrapped up. There’s still the whole Bright loves/hates Shadow Lady thing, and Aimi’s secret identity, and some other stuff. Well, not that they make for particularly thrilling loose ends.
Most of what happens here is action, as Shadow Lady has to fight demons in order to get relics to seal them. It’s pretty epic stuff, and it leaves her looking quite evil when the demons murder people and pin it on Shadow Lady. She may be a thief, but she’s no murderer, and people begin to turn against her when it looks like she’s killing innocent people. Even when those innocent people were actually demon slaves, or whatever.
It has a suitably epic finish, too. Aimi’s compact gets smashed, so she can turn into Shadow Lady one more time. She does so when all hope is lost, then gets it back. You know how these things work. I never get tired of these epic scenes when done right, and it was certainly thrilling in here, despite the… quality of the rest of the series. I mean. It’s mostly just an excuse to draw Shadow Lady in skin-tight costumes, showing off as much t&a as possible and making innuendo-filled jokes to the police force. But I like it anyway. And I liked the ending.
I also liked the short story at the end, which seems like the prototype story for the series. Same characters, same plot, slightly different circumstances. Bright is especially great in the short story.
Overall, this isn’t going to be worth the hunt for most people. But I loved it, and hopefully there are a good number of Masakazu Katsura fans out there that love it, too.
Masakazu Katsura – Dark Horse – 2000 – 3 volumes
Okay, okay. This is honestly kind of bad, but I like it anyway. Lots of action, and this time there’s a rival character for Shadow Lady that gets just as much page time, doing all sorts of backflips through skyscrapers with crazy gadgets in a skimpy costume. It’s awful cheese, but it’s self-conscious, and a lot more fun because of it.
The rival character, named Lime, is introduced in the first chapter. She starts off as a romantic rival, having chased Bright to the big city and insisting on being his girlfriend, but Lime and Aimi get along rather well for rivals. Later, we find out that Lime is Shadow Lady’s newly introduced rival, and there’s a chapter or two of them fighting. Somehow, Lime knows Shadow Lady’s weakness, and that becomes a rather dire point of contention, especially when both ladies insist on having the media involved. Either of them revealing their identities in front of the cameras would be… bad.
Later, for whatever reason, a serious plot involving demons is introduced. We find out, in about a two page flashback, how Aimi became Shadow Lady, and in order to stop De-Mo from getting executed, Shadow Lady has to recover some gemstones with Arch Demons sealed in them. This doesn’t even make sense, but Shadow Lady is not a series for serious, thought-provoking plot. The fact it took a volume and a half to get to the part that explains why and how shy Aimi transforms into Shadow Lady says a lot.
But really, you read this for the panty shots, don’t you? There’s one particularly impressive page that crams three very natural-looking ones into only five panels. It’s incredible. It’s what Masakazu Katsura is best at.
Masakazu Katsura – Dark Horse – 1999 – 3 volumes
Oh, Masakazu Katsura. I am inordinately fond of his work. He mostly writes in the shounen romantic comedy genre, and while I can’t stand anything mediocre, I like really good shounen romantic comedies. It’s hard to find better than Katsura’s I”s, which sets the standard for the genre, in my opinion. If only they all had teenage twister games in them.
Shadow Lady… is sort of a romantic comedy. It ran in Shounen Jump, apparently, but the main character is a girl, which is very unusual. Shy Aimi puts on makeup to transform, magical girl-like, into Shadow Lady. Outgoing, rambunctious, and the best thief in town, Shadow Lady is everything that Aimi is not. Soon, a new cop comes into town to bust Shadow Lady, the eccentric and mechanically-minded Bright. Aimi falls in love with Bright, but finds out that Bright is actually after Shadow Lady because he’s in love with her. Shy Aimi can hardly get two words out while around Bright, but also doesn’t want to pursue him as Shadow Lady, since that’s not really her. What to do?
This is a very strange series. The setting is somewhat ambiguous and fantasy-themed, a world where Brights strange robots and mechanical marvels can exist along with an outrageous and scantily-clad thief that baits and flirts with hundreds of police officers without getting caught. Aimi and Bright’s ages are left ambiguous, but it’s not really a factor. Their personalities are left relatively undeveloped in favor of the humor surrounding Aimi’s shyness, Bright’s mechanical screw-ups, and Shadow Lady’s… personality.
Yeah. The thing about Shadow Lady the character is that… well. Among the things that Katsura does well, he’s like the Rembrandt of panty shots, an old master when it comes to framing Shadow Lady’s butt just so, or having a peek of panties at just the right time. He’s both more subtle about it than most while simultaneously doing it way more than he should. The result is more funny than it is offensive, and some panels are worthy of double-takes. The cover, for instance. My roommate pointed out that Katsura’s skill was apparent right off, when he noticed there was juuuuust a bit of underwear peeking out from Shadow Lady’s skirt. Linking a scan of the cover won’t help, because it’s not apparent unless you look very closely.
But Shadow Lady herself is rather outrageous. Her initial transformation is a very tight miniskirt suit with a breast window that would make DC Comics proud, and a diagram tells us that most of the “features” of this outfit are to “cloud the minds of men” with her legs, breasts, butt, et cetera. Shadow Lady has additional transformations into various, more outrageous costumes, including bunny girl and cat girl. She goes from skirt to panties in those. They do offer additional practical powers, like making her faster or more agile. They have their use in the story, but… we know what the costumes are there for.
Her dialogue is also outrageous, helped out by the adaptation by Studio Proteus (I miss them terribly). Frequently, while confronting police, she will exclaim that something will “make her hot,” and she escapes in the most provocative ways possible. She doesn’t really steal anything of value, so most of the enjoyment comes from the comedy elements of her dodging police and working through her shyness as Aimi.
I kind of like it, despite myself. It’s definitely my least favorite of what I’ve read by him, but I really, really like I”s and Video Girl Ai. One of my favorite things actually happens within the first few pages, when the narration blows off any sort of explanation of why Aimi is Shadow Lady in favor of showing the reader what they came here for. I love that the story knows its audience. One of the other unusual things about it is that it has narration, a lot of it, which is passing strange in a manga.
I’ll keep reading. I don’t love it, but it’s definitely amusing. We’ll see where it goes in three volumes.