WaqWaq 2

Ryu Fujisaki – Viz – 2009 – 4 volumes

I liked this volume quite a bit better than the first.  Now that I knew what to look for (the machines merging with the people in order to fight), it wasn’t as confusing, and it also helped that the fight with the fire guardian was wrapped up early on, since we no longer had to puzzle through battles where robots hit people with flame appendages.  There’s a later opponent that uses a plant machine, but his battle’s a bit easier to follow visually since he attacks with either his fists or vines, plus he fights a regular-looking human most of the time.

The plot of the series is unveiled too, which also helps clear things up.  We learn what the actual purpose of Kami is, but after that she fades into the background as Shio fights the other guardians for the right to make the wish associated with the red-blooded Kami.  The series turns into a battle royale as it’s revealed that the guardians are meant to fight each other until there is only one left, with their machines cannibalizing each other whenever there is a victory between a pair.  As conventional as that plot is, it’s made a little more interesting because… well, actually, it’s about what you would expect (the guardian robots all have elemental powers, so there are also Pokemon-like strengths and weaknesses in the battles).  The art is really the only thing that distinguishes it from similar series.

I mentioned this last time, but Ryu Fujisaki is an exceptional artist, especially when it comes to character designs.  Every single person in both this and Hoshin Engi has a very funky, out-there style to them that completely sets them apart from every other character.  They usually have a pretty unique personality to go along with that, but that’s not coming through so much in WaqWaq.  The robot designs are only so-so, but I love looking at the different characters as they clash and merge with the robots.  The weird designs were working against it last volume, but now that the action scenes have calmed down, the art carries almost everything.  And it actually does a pretty good job of it, too.

The plot isn’t terrible, and now that all the confusion has been cleared up and I can enjoy the simplicity that goes along with the awesome art, reading this has become pretty fun.  I still don’t think it comes anywhere near Hoshin Engi, and from what I’ve heard, it is one of Fujisaki’s weaker series, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

WaqWaq 1

Perhaps the most interesting thing about this series is its title, which I get a great deal of pleasure saying out loud as “whack whack,” which is wrong, but it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s written with a macron over the a, like “WĀQWĀQ.” WĀQWĀQ is the name of the world the characters live in, so it does get used every once in awhile in the book itself. The font used in the book doesn’t really allow for diacritical marks (the cap height/overshoot seems to be enforced rather strictly), so that the a in WĀQWĀQ shrinks whenever the word appears. It looks like “WāQWāQ” except the A is still capital. This made me smile, but I also sat through far more than my share of typography classes (fun fact: I also adore this layout because of the font, I love old style numerals dearly).

Based on the overly-detailed typographic analysis that I cite as “the most interesting thing,” you may have gathered that I didn’t really like this book, and you would be right. I was bitterly disappointed, because I really want to love it. It’s written by Ryu Fujisaki, who also does Hoshin Engi, a favorite of mine. If I’m not mistaken, WaqWaq was actually written immediately after Hoshin Engi, but you would never guess. note: it came a couple years later, and there was a 2-volume series between, but the coming after HE point is still valid.  Houshin Engi has its problems, mostly they have to do with a gigantic cast of characters and the way it throws around its own terms/Chinese terms for all its weapons and the spiritual power system. But Hoshin Engi has enough good qualities that it’s worthwhile to learn all that stuff in order to watch all that stuff work together and succeed.

Not so with WaqWaq. My biggest problem was that I frequently couldn’t figure out what was going on. This series’ thing is that the guardian characters fuse with robots and fight each other. It took me a long time to figure out how the fights were happening… if they turned into robots, if the robots were somehow on their person, if the robots were actually gigantic and floating up in the sky, or even if the guardians were fusing with the enemy robots in order to beat them. I was 90 pages and three robot fights in before it bothered me enough to pore over the first few pages and the first battle to figure out how it was being done.

The fights made me cry, too, because you honestly can’t tell what’s going on. The robots are very free-form and organic, and they have the ability to change shape (?) and use different powers. I just read these panels as “a fight happening,” and there really wasn’t anything important going on, but still. It was pretty ridiculous, especially given the fact that there was no confusion like this in the magical battles in Hoshin Engi, which were far more free-form than these robot fights should be. Even outside the action scenes, the sense of place is really terrible, and you frequently can’t tell where the characters are supposed to be, what they’re doing, and where they are in relation to each other. Again, these things are not a problem in Hoshin Engi, and I have no idea why it’s suddenly worse here.

The plot is also… somewhat lacking. A girl from our world is somehow pulled into WaqWaq, a world where small enclaves of humans are being attacked constantly by robots, and where they have a legend that a red-blooded Kami created the world and will eventually come back. Well, since the girl bleeds red, the main character, one of the seven Guardians in WaqWaq that protects the cities from robot attacks, assumes she is the Kami, and protects her as per his father’s dying wish. Other Guardians try to kill the main character in order to take her and make her grant their wishes, something the Kami apparently does. The themes are things like not wanting to fight, finding out your opponent’s motivation before deciding he’s a bad guy, um… tolerance, maybe? The story seems to be going in a fairly straightforward direction (all the guardians will be fought, and it seems that both the Guardian and the girl are on their way to being used by some sort of shadow being), and the characters are still pretty shallow.

The character designs and style to the artwork are still pretty fun though, something that Hoshin Engi actually excels at and I always fail to mention.

This is also only 4 volumes long, and I was always under the impression that it was canned fairly quickly from Shounen Jump. Now I know why. I can’t see this going any place interesting, but I’ll probably keep reading it anyway out of love for Ryu Fujisaki. I just… I can’t believe that no good can come of this after all the amazing stuff with plot and characters going on in Hoshin Engi. For now, just read Hoshin Engi.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.


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