May 28, 2009
This is more of the same from the first volume, but I think the stories in this book work a little better because there’s more recycled critters running around. The first book got a little repetitive with all the stories about Pet stepping in and helping Noboru, whereas this volume is more about Noboru calling for help and multiple robots showing up and antagonizing him.
Some of the newcomers are pretty cute. For some reason, the others hate Tiny Tin, who is apparently a businessman. I don’t know why. My favorite so far is L’il Bagz, a recycled bag robot apparently designed by a youngster in Japan. L’il Bagz is in training and speaks in a cute little baby voice (conveyed through baby talk, one of the few times I’ve seen it used well in a manga). Also, I’m all about the continued dissing of P-2, the cool-looking robot who is actually too light to be of any use to anybody.
The stories are still only a few pages long each and are mostly full of cute gags. Several here are for introducing new robots, like the recycled cup robot with five different personalities, one for each cup that was recycled, or the Can Crew, two robots who belonged to a deceased old man and now hang around with Noboru. For whatever reason, PET et al also dislike these two, who are vaguely portrayed as bumbling bad guys. Noboru continues to have misfortunes he calls his robots in for help on, like dropping his Game Boy in a puddle, boys who won’t take turns at the arcade, or getting stuck on a fence.
Some of the chapter titles are… interesting. One of them is “I’ll Form the Head!” Another is “The Unbearable Lightness of P-2,” which I’m pretty sure will fly over the heads of most other people reading this, but I certainly enjoyed the allusion.
The book is still pretty adorably designed, with color pages and some activities and information in the back and throughout. The art and format of the stories are kid-friendly, and the humor is actually pretty decent for a kids’ series. It’s not something I would pick up for myself, but it’s pretty good stuff for the target audience.
This was a review copy provided by Viz.
March 22, 2009
This is one of the first books in the VizKids line, which are, as you might guess, manga aimed at youngsters. It’s a good idea, because it gets kids reading, they’re thick, so there’s a sense of accomplishment when you finish, and you don’t have to wonder if the content is inappropriate (though ratings sort of eliminate that worry for the most part, I think). They are definitely series written to appeal to children, though. I picked this one up hoping that there would be some facts about recycling in it, but… there’s actually surprisingly little of that, other than the initial bonus of the kid recycling a plastic bottle and getting a little robot in return.
Basically, the book is full of short chapters about Noboru and his little robot, PET, who starts following him around after he is made out of the bottle Noboru recycles. Something in the first chapter reminded me vaguely of Doraemon (maybe it was the Nobita-Noboru names, or the futuristic robot, or the fact that he’s supposed to protect and help Noboru, I don’t know). PET isn’t very helpful though, and usually winds up making small, comedic errors whenever he’s called upon or appears. Sometimes Noboru calls him to help, sometimes PET shows up uninvited, and sometimes the stories are about the eccentric life PET leads and Noboru running across it. The chapters are a few pages long, and are usually just a series of gags where nothing is really gained in the end. The humor is fine, but I think a little kid will get a lot more out of it than I did.
There are some tidbits about recycling, but mostly it’s just new characters that enter the series based on different types of recycling. There’s a little female robot who’s made out of a recycled can, a futuristic robot made out of a different type of plastic than PET, and a couple different robots based on metals that aren’t aluminum. I mean, the fact that Noboru recycles is emphasized again and again, and there’s some additional material in the back about recycling, and the series is very eco-friendly in general, but it’s not really about recycling like I thought it would be.
Amusingly, there are several bonus pages in the back that look like they came straight out of Highlights magazine. There are also a handful of arts and crafts tips throughout the chapters, though always noted that they need to be done with adult supervision (since most of them involve doing something with the plastic bottle).
It’s a pretty fun book, and I have to admit I liked the cartoony illustrations. I don’t know that regular readers of this site will get much out of it, but I do think it’s good for kids.