I’m Not Calling this “The Eagle Has Landed”

I’ve never been a huge manga fan, though I do like some manga titles, which is a big difference from a couple years ago when, like many people, I considered manga to be all panties and robots. The title that changed my mind was Planetes, which is still a great favorite. Planetes was a highly acclaimed book, and one of the things many said about it was that it was manga for people who thought they didn’t like manga. After I read Planetes I searched for other titles like it in tone, if not in subject matter, and wasn’t entirely successful…until now.

My friend Anthony loaned me book one of Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President by Kaiji Kawaguchi after hearing that I liked comics. I too it home and was almost instantly hooked. Within a few days I was begging him for the remaining books.

Eagle is about the 2000 Presidential election (it was written in 1999), which in Eagle’s world was much more interesting than watching Al Gore turn what should have been a landslide victory into a controversial narrow “loss.” In the world of Eagle, the Democratic field includes not only Albert Noah, the straight-laced vice president for outgoing president “Bill”, but Senator Kenneth Yamaoka (D-NY), an idealistic dark horse candidate. The Republican nod goes not to an inexperienced son of privilege but a Republican warhorse senator who’s been to the moon.

We see the election from just before the first primaries, when Yamaoka declares his candidacy to the inauguration (and hint: the book’s not subtitled “The Making of an Astronaut President”) We see this through the eyes of a young reporter from Japan, Takashi Jo, assigned to cover Yamaoka’s campaign. At first the choice of Takashi for this assignment seems odd, but he soon comes to realize he has more of a stake in this than he thought.

Along the way there is intrigue, scandal, murder, dirty tricks, power plays, satire, sexy sex, war, startling revelations, and cybernetic monkey pirates (no, there aren’t.) Of course the action is ramped up for the medium, but there are surprisingly few moments that really stretch credibility. Even Kenneth Yamaoka’s lofty ideals will appeal to anyone who enjoys the liberal porn of The West Wing. And where verisimilitude ends, a captivating plot barrels on.

Eagle is published by Viz, and I’ve seen surprisingly little mention of it in comics blogs. It appears that it came in 17 volumes, but was collected in five thick books. I quickly jumped from obscurity to one of my favorite comics series, and I highly recommend it. The artwork is rock solid, and the writing crisp. Yamaoka emerges as a very interesting character with multiple layers to him, and it’s not all sweetness and light.

You can read more about Eagle on Viz’s website. This one’s worth checking out.

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6 Responses to I’m Not Calling this “The Eagle Has Landed”

  1. Johanna says:

    I suspect the cost has something to do with it. For some reason, $20 volumes seem excessive, even though they’re thicker.

    Also, it’s more adventure-styled than I thought it should be, given the subject matter. Anyone interested in an exploration of politics is likely going to be put off by the manga-style declarations of determination that show up every so often, and vice versa.

    I’d truly love to read an adult-targeted comic about the machinations of politicians, but in my opinion, this didn’t live up to its billing.

  2. Lanf says:

    Johanna, try Sanctuary (also by Viz.) It may be a little dated, being more than 10 years old, but I remember liking it a lot. It’s about Japanese politics – from two sides: government politics and the politics of organized crime. You might like it.

  3. Johanna says:

    Thanks for the suggestion, but I suspect that would be much too violent for me. I’m a wuss.

  4. Dave says:

    I also think Johanna would have the problem I had with Sanctuary. I like the story and the two main characters are quite interesting, but the third main character, a female cop, is just aggrivatingly stupid and weak. I need to check out future volumes of the series, because I only read the first, and her character may well get better as the series progresses, but that was a big turn-off for me.

    Getting back to Eagle, I agree that it’s more actiony than a person interested in pure politics might like, but I don’t think it’s any moreso than, say, The West Wing, in which some reality-challenging things happen for the sake of the dramatic medium.

  5. Lyle says:

    I was reading Eagle when it was $6 smaller volumes and liked the story, but found the politics pretty badly done. Perhaps I brought along some personal bitterness but the biggest hurdle was that I wasn’t convinced that voters would accept the lead as the first Asian-American president. (Wasn’t there an incident in the late ’90s where a third-generation Asian-American congressional candidate was asked if he could manage his divided loyalties and focus on America by some clueless reporter? It would have been nice to see Yamaoka give a reporter like that a dressing down.)

    It was a very entertaining drama, however. The only reason I stopped reading it was that I moved and couldn’t find a shop that knew about the serialized version. I picked up the first collection but it’s so huge. I’m not used to manga volumes so heavy.

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