Ratman 3

February 11, 2012

Sekihiko Inui – Tokyopop – 2011 – 9+ volumes

Ugh. I’m still not over the death of Tokyopop. I had forgotten I hadn’t written up the second half of this series here, which is an oversight I plan to rectify immediately. It absolutely deserves to be read.

The first storyline in the volume continues from last time, where Shuto is fighting Ankaiser and is horribly disillusioned about professional heroes. He is also completely outclassed by Ankaiser, a professional hero. Good thing that the Ratman suit has its own innate, and really terrifying abilities. Seriously. The mouth on that thing gives me nightmares. The abilities aren’t particularly benevolent, or something that Shuto would be happy about, but they do get the job done.

There’s a bit more about Shuto being on the fence on the Ratman situation, too. Crea tells him he’s basically at the point of no return, but Shuto chooses once again to be a hero-villain, complete with awesome line. The post-fight Ratman discussions take place at the hospital, and involve both of the girls from Shuto’s school as well. The whole hospital scene is a bit of a character-building moment, and is nicely handled.

There’s a short story after this, mostly silly, about Shuto finding a limited edition hero collectible and getting it stolen by rampant thieves in Akihabara. We get to meet the holy maids that patrol the area, and see that they’re a kind of hero, too. Best of all, we get to see Shuto and Rio geek out about hero collectibles again, which is always a treat. Later, we’re introduced to the hero Fatman. He’s a mascot for a Pizza chain, and a hero. Shuto gets to meet him and his sister, and they have a nice little hero adventure together. There’s another Rio story in the back, too.

Mostly, it’s the sense of humor mixed with the inherent silliness of heroes and the story’s ability to still make them look cool at the right time that endears me to this series. It’s hard not to laugh at all the strange heroes, but it’s even harder not to get caught up when a serious fight is going on. Things never get too terribly serious, but it’s just enough to enjoy what’s going on.

I haven’t really done this book much justice, but it really is an enjoyable read. I’m crushed that we’ll never get to see the rest of it, but in the meantime, the first four volumes are more than worth your time.

Ratman 2

February 20, 2011

Sekihiko Inui – Tokyopop – 2010 – 7+ volumes

The second volume did not disappoint. I love nearly everything about this series. The plot, the sense of humor, the fact that the silliness can sometimes be incredibly cool, the twisted moral message I know it’s building up to, and I even like the main character learning by trial and error how to be a good bad guy in a world of super-corrupt heroes.

The second half of the book focuses on a story where Shuto goes to a hero awards ceremony and gets to meet all the people he’s been idolizing. This, of course, goes wrong when he has to transform into Ratman and break up an extremely destructive fight between a drunk sentai team, then tough out a fire set by a character that did it to make himself look good and Ratman into more of a villain. It’s a great story, and it shows the balance between humor and drama perfectly. There are lots of silly heroes running around doing silly things, and Shuto reacts appropriately. But ultimately, it’s a story about how Shuto, a “hero” outside the organization and supposedly working as a bad guy, is way more of a hero than any of the guys that do it for a living. He’s also just a short high school kid, which drives it home that much harder.

The first half of the book looks more at Shuto trying to do good as Ratman. Strangely, this book is devoid of “evil” tasks that Ratman performs for his organization, but Shuto doesn’t help Ratman much himself as his do-gooding often turns into compromising situations. The fact that Ratman is really sinister looking also doesn’t help any, and many people actively resist his aid.

I don’t have that much to add that I didn’t say last time. This is a wonderful series. It’s nothing too amazing or flashy, but I love sentai stories, and this is exactly why: they are absurd while often spinning a wonderful story amid all the humor. This and Heroes Are Extinct are the best in English (and yes, I will plug Heroes Are Extinct any chance I get). I wish they were more popular.

Ratman 1

February 1, 2011

Inui Sekihiko – Tokyopop – 2010 – 7+ volumes

I think the record will show that I love sentai series. Heroes Are Extinct, Duklyon: CLAMP School Defenders, Dokkoida, and Imperfect Hero are more or less the only ones that have been published in English, and I’m probably the only person that read Imperfect Hero. There’s something about the way a sentai series absolutely has to goof off and use bizarre, self-referential humor to point out the ridiculousness of the situations that appeals to me immensely. I think the humor doesn’t translate well, which is why we don’t see more in English, but their utter weirdness comes across nicely, and I tend to love them regardless of whether or not they wind up being good. I did not realize Ratman fell into this genre, or I would have been waiting at the head of the line to pick it up. I’m late to the party on this, and I’m sorry for that.

Strictly speaking, on a geek level, neither this nor Dokkoida are sentai, but are more single costumed hero-based, where sentai work as a team. I think the difference is that sometimes you can make a serious single hero series, like Kikkaider, whereas sentai are just too silly. It’s all the same to me, and if the main character realizes that dressing in a suit to whomp other guys in suits doesn’t make any sense, it’s done its job as a proper sentai manga.

Anyway. Shuto is a serious hero otaku. In his world, heroes are real, and they dress in costumes not only to do heroic things, but to do the Booster Gold-type endorsement deal stuff, too. He wants to be one when he grows up. Badly. But he’s a runt, and not a terribly heroic person. Luckily, he’s given a suit and the power… you know where this is going. He gets turned into a hero and gets to fight an enemy. Except not quite as he had planned. And yet, things might be a lot different than he thinks they are, too.

Vague enough for you? I don’t really want to spoil any of the surprises, because I was very entertained with the various twists this volume had in store. It treads a well-worn path with both a sense of humor and with enough divergence to make things interesting. There’s a pretty standard cast of characters, including the heroic spunky girl that Shuto looks up to, mysterious girl that Shuto winds up becoming friends with, maniacal older sister, some strange elderly types, et cetera. Actually, some of those aren’t all that standard, but none of them are more than introduced here, so they are little more than faces at this point. The chapters are more than one-shots, and it’s clear that the plot is going somewhere fairly soon. I’m surprised to see that it’s seven volumes and continuing, because while the idea of Shuto becoming a hero and the theories that appear to be behind his motivation are good ones, I can’t see any as ideas that would bear up for any length of time.

The sense of humor is bizarre and appropriate to such a series. It’s a little more serious than these usually are, but has plenty of jokes to suit my taste. Ratman is accompanied by silent skeleton minions that are anything but subtle that are simply called “Jackies.” I have no idea why. I loved the reasons behind choosing Shuto as Ratman, I love watching Shuto geek out over the heroes, I love the strange organization Ratman works for, and I love the way that the fights are completely serious and somewhat grotesque, in that Ratman tends to fight with his… uh, teeth.

It’s good stuff, funny, and I’m happy I picked it up. Sentai series like this are rare as hen’s teeth in English, and I’m willing to support them through any means. Especially when the first volumes are as appealing as this one was.