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.