Manga Mishaps

After my lukewarm experience with American Manga I decided I needed some more of the real stuff and settled down with the first volumes of two new series. I was trying to find something similar to the now-finished Planetes, something sci-fi. What I got were two books that made me seriously question my ability to read solicitation blurbs.

The first was Planet Blood from Tokyopop, written by Kim Tae-Hyung. Here’s what Tokyopop’s page says about it:

After the 5th World War comes to an end, 46% of humans have been wiped off the face of the earth. Because of contamination, the survivors of this war colonize the moon and Mars with plans to move back to Earth after they purify the planet.

Planet Blood begins when humans return to Earth in an attempt to find the best piece of land to colonize… but will it unleash an all-out space war?

They’re not wrong. Planet Blood does indeed begin there. However, about 12 pages in, you can forget about the Mars and Moon stuff, because our main character, Sinan, gets mysteriously transported to a strange world with a medieval flavor. Yes, it turns into a fantasy book. Swords, horses, castles, the works. Although Sinan does use some of his high-tech equipment, and there’s hints that other people from the Mars/Moon war have wound up in this place, for the most part it’s Yet Another Fantasy Epic. Talk about bait and freakin’ switch.

The solicitation copy for Volume One continues with the real story:

An explosion catches him off guard and Sinan wakes up to find that he has been mysteriously transported to an entirely different world called Horai, with a civilization similar to that of Earth’s middle ages. There, Sinan ends up rescuing a girl named Mayi from a group of thugs lead by a burly thug named Pantera.

A grateful Mayi introduces Sinan to Noodles, a leader of a rebel group that is trying to restore him to the throne of Pratria …

Either this wasn’t up when I ordered the book, or I failed to read it, because I would have definitely cut and run at the words “middle ages”. (And yes, the bad guy is named Pantera and the good guy is named Noodles. Noodles Python, to be precise.)

Now, this is not to say that Planet Blood isn’t a good book. It’s not bad. If you like and want to read fantasy, it’s certainly got all the trappings. But my friend Matthew tells a story of someone he knows who went to a restaurant famed for its sundaes. He ordered one , took a bite and instantly his eyes grew alarmingly wide. “What’s wrong?” asked his companions, who had been the ones touting the deliciousness of the sundaes. “This is supposed to be caramel, right?” he asked. It was gravy. Someone had screwed up preparing it.

Was the gravy good? It probably was perfectly fine gravy. But when you’re expecting caramel and get gravy, you’re not really in a position to comment on how good the gravy is.

Such it is with Planet Blood. To me, it read like by-the-numbers fantasy. A princess, twins on opposite sides of the battle, a guy from outside suddenly thrown into the highest levels of the conflict, etc. Between getting gravy instead of caramel and being sick of gravy to being with, I really can’t tell you how it was, I guess. Nothing about it made me want to read more, and it’s on the “sell-back” pile.

The next book, Infinite Ryvius is from ComicsOne and is by Hajime Yatate, Yousuke Kuroda, and Shinsuke Kurihashi. And there’s a number you should know before I go any further: 61. That’s the page number I finally gave up on (out of 194). Again, this is an allegedly science-fiction book, and that much turns out to be true. The story is about cadets on a training station who get “lost in space” after a disaster. Okay, sure. Once again, though, either something was missing from the original solicitation copy or I failed to read it correctly.

Although the story does indeed involve the above elements, the cadets in questions are teenagers. After meeting about a dozen of them, we need to then find out who likes who and then dwell on their teenage romances at length. The fact that they have all been involved in a tragedy that killed all their instructors doesn’t have any effect on them at all, and when someone risks his life to rescue a girl, the main comment is that she’s cute.

Appropriately the suggested age for this is “13 and up” but I really think there should be an upper cutoff on that. I realize that the success of Dawson’s Creek and The O.C. prove me wrong, but not being a teenager myself, I’m really not all that fascinated by the emotional dramas of teenagers, especially ones who can’t seem to turn it off to deal with a very real crisis situation. So I think I’m just not the target audience here. It’s possible that Infinite Ryvius gets really good after page 61, that everyone’s hormones settle down and we talk about something other than kissing and boobs, but I’ll never know. It’s on the sell-back pile as well.

Fortunately, all is not lost. Also in the to-read stack was volume 3 of Hikaro No Go, so the day was saved.

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