Reviewby John Jakala,
By this point you probably know what this anthology is about. (If not, please see the reviews for the first two issues.) The third weekly issue of RAIJIN COMICS shrinks a bit more once again (now down to 210 pages, not counting the covers as Gutsoon inexplicably does), but also adds another series, bringing the total count up to seven features per issue. Starting with the newcomer:
GUARDIAN ANGEL GETTEN: A magical female spirit-being (Shao Lin) appears to a young boy (Tasuke) and insists on being his bodyguard. When I first heard about this series, It reminded me of OH MY GODDESS! and since then I've noticed others on the net making this connection. So far, the first two chapters are mainly set-up - the first establishing Tasuke's loneliness, the second demonstrating Shao's unfamiliarity with the modern world. There were some cute elements, like the one Ulin soldier reminding the other of Shao's orders not to injure people, but overall I found myself a bit bored with this story and thinking that OMG has done it better. (One question: Is it common for fourteen-year-olds to live alone in Japan - or anywhere else for that matter? That detail bothered me throughout the story, and it was only compounded by the revelation in the "Story Introduction" end-piece that "Shichiri Tasuke has been living by himself since he was a child.")
SLAM DUNK: A great melodrama issue! I don't think I've ever seen the feeling of being "bowled over" by someone's remarks depicted that way, but for some reason, it totally works. I want those three panels on page 80 as a poster for my room (and I want that line "No God or Buddha exists in this world!!" as a bumper sticker for my car). As for the story, yeah, it's all soap-opera stuff, but it features some interesting twists, and I thought the way Inhoue created tension among the three players in the love triangle (quadrangle?) was interesting. Looks like Sakuragi isn't such a nice guy after all.
FIST OF THE BLUE SKY: Once again, I found myself surprised by characters taking unexpected turns that still seemed consistent overall. I really enjoyed the showdown between Yan Wang and Puyi, but to say more would spoil things.
CITY HUNTER: A much more focused story, as this time the only character engaging in inappropriate lecherous behaviour is the serial rapist. The art also seemed stronger, perhaps because the more painterly shading gave figures more form and depth. (Looking back at previous chapters, episode one and the first few pages of episode three also used this wash technique, but for some reason it didn't strike me as much there. Were these pages originally published in color? If so, the shading reproduces very nicely in black and white. I actually prefer the black and white art to the bright, garish colors used for the first four pages of episode one.)
BAKI THE GRAPPLER: I was impressed to find that the flashback in this story not only didn't destroy the tension of the fight scene, it actually heightened it. I also found myself much more interested in Suwedo due to the information imparted in that scene. Even though I think I know what's coming next, I'm very anxious for next issue to see what happens after that last panel. A perfect point to freeze the story, because it slows down the action so that we feel (as Suwedo must) the strange distortion of time as we wait for the impact.
BOMBER GIRL: I was going to go through and count all the panty shots once again, but even that seemed unamusing and unappealing at this point. Instead, I decided to pick out some of my favorite bad lines from this chapter. "How do you spell 'sex'?" "But feel free to show us your panties!" "My customized tonfa, 'Yashamaru.' are invincible, cuz all I need to do is beat the crap out of people with them." Yes, Emi, but I still doubt that even your customized tonfa could inflict as much pain as your series does.
THE FIRST PRESIDENT OF JAPAN: The first actual on-screen appearance of Sakuragi probably would have had more impact if we hadn't already seen his face on the giant Jumbotron at the end of the previous chapter. Still, it was a cute bit, with two young voters unexpectedly bumping into the newly-elected Prime Minister of Japan. Based on two events in this chapter, I'm wondering if there's going to be some sexual scandal mixed in with the political crises we've already seen unfolding. (Do Japanese politicians even have or worry about sex scandals? And was Sakuragi's "To the Prime Minister's residence!" line supposed to evoke memories of Adam West's "To the Batcave!"?)
Overall: As the number of featured series increases, so too does my rating for this book. (If they ever work their way up to eleven titles per issue, my rating system is in trouble.) I'm curious about the new series, REVENGE OF MOUFLON, debuting next issue, but I wonder if the description of terrorists hijacking a plane, combined with the line "No!! Not New York again!!" shown in a sample panel, will make American readers skittish.
NOTE: Gutsoon also publishes a companion magazine to RAIJIN COMICS. Titled RAIJIN GAME & ANIME, it covers "the top three forms of entertainment in the land of the rising sun" - manga, anime, and games - with an obvious focus on the latter two. RAIJIN GAME & ANIME is free to RAIJIN COMICS subscribers, or an additional $0.99 on newsstands, and contains 16 color pages of articles.
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