Shadow Lady 1

November 12, 2011

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.

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