Reviewby Theron Martin, Feb 12th 2007
Aki Clark is a normal (if rather curvaceous) high school girl who studies martial arts, lives alone while her father works overseas, and has a friend who enjoys giving her titty twisters. Her life is thrown into chaos when a teenage boy who claims to suffer from amnesia starts showing up wherever she goes, insisting that the two things he can remember are that he's a secret agent and he's been assigned to protect her. Aki initially regards the boy who takes the name Blank as a nuisance and horny freak (though, to her shock, most others buy his ridiculous schemes), but she starts having trouble getting him off her mind when events ultimately prove that there may be something to his claims after all.
Although classified as manga and sold in the same racks, Blank is actually yet another “manga-style” OEL (Original English Language) release Tokyopop is trying to sneak in with its legitimate manga releases. It is the creation of Pop Mhan, whom American comic fans might be familiar with from his work on a variety of different titles from Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and Image. His bio blurb credits several prominent manga-ka as influences on his work, and that influence is obvious in what is seen on the pages. It could almost pass as a flipped legitimate manga if it wasn't for the obvious fact that that the creator's name isn't Japanese, nor are most of the character names.
Quibbles about its origins aside, Blank is a fun read well worth a look by anyone who appreciates action-comedies flavored liberally with fan service and, ultimately, perhaps a little romance, too. It balances all of these elements quite well, never going too far overboard in any direction or losing step with its pacing. Some of its gags are very standard fare – characters getting bloodily bashed for behaving improperly, then looking fine a few panels later, for instance, and Blank is seemingly indestructible – but it also incorporates in some nice new gimmicks. Especially amusing is the way both aki and the reader see most of Blank's actions as being clearly inept, yet he seems to be able to utterly flummox almost everyone else. Also entertaining is the fact that, for all of Blank's grandiose and seemingly bizarre claims, most of them are actually true, but that doesn't prevent him from behaving like a hormonally out-of-control teenage boy.
Fun and interesting core characters also helps. Blank, who takes his name from leaving the “Name” line on a school application blank, tries to be slick, cool, and a badass but his hormones too often get the better of him. Female characters who can go nuclear on someone who offends them are a staple of anime and manga, but aki's abilities are actually justified by years of martial arts training and she does actually have personality beyond that. Big-chested new brunette Missy Streiber fills the obligatory bitch role, but she also has a little more substance, as does aki boyfriend wannabe Keviin, who may or may not ultimately be a bad guy. Add in some supposed anti-terrorists and a couple of secret organizations and you've got a fine brew that may not be the most original taste but never fails to be satisfying.
Pop Mahn's efforts to emulate manga styles are most evident in his art. While his character designs strongly indicate that this is not true manga (it's most obvious in the way he draws eyes), the way he frames scenes, employs chibi elements, and uses other typical manga visual gimmicks shows the love, as does his widespread use of the kind of panty and bra-flashing one would expect in true manga of the same nature. The quality and consistency of the artwork varies over the course of the volume, and Pop overemphasizes the numerous blood-splattering effects, but when he's in top form it's good enough for a reader to easily understand why he has seen such extensive comic book work. His best efforts can be seen in the widely-varied use of facial expressions, the nudity-free but still racy fan service shots, and the easy-to-follow action scenes. Backgrounds are occasionally detailed but usually empty.
Being an OEL production, Tokyopop has naturally presented Blank in standard American left-to-right format. The well-drawn and beautifully-colored cover art is a real eye-catcher, although it doesn't imply the heavily humorous side to the content. As one might expect, the sound effects are all in English but not heavily or prominently used. Closing out the content are a next volume preview, a page of illustrated author notes, a five-page deleted sequence, and some concept art shots of key characters done by other artists, with a brief bio file on the inside of the back cover.
Blank may not be true manga, and certainly won't make you think much, but it never fails to be entertaining.
Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B+
+ Excellent cover art, good action and humor, writing that's never dull.
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