Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
When he was a little boy, Kaguya watched his father die at the hands of what he assumed to be monsters, though he could never convince anyone that they were real. Now in high school, he's about to learn that they are in fact very real, and that the reason he could see them is because he's not human himself. Kaguya is a Battle Rabbit, a race of rabbit people from the moon who have been watching over Earth since the beginning of time. Now he has to learn to use his powers to avoid meeting the same fate as his dad…or did the Battle Rabbits organization just trick him into signing that contract?
Seven Seas has made a practice of licensing Monster Girl manga series, so now it's time for something a little different – a monster boy. While technically this is not their first monster boy manga, it may be one of the strangest, mixing traditional mythology with science fiction and battles, all based around one of the least combative mammals: rabbits.
As many manga readers know, where many western cultures see a man in the moon or two children holding hands, Japanese mythology sees a rabbit on the moon's face, leading to the story of rabbits living on the moon. 07-Ghost creators Ameichi have taken that story and turned the moon rabbits into a civilization of rabbit people – humans with rabbit ears and tails – who protect the Earth from alien invaders. They have magical rings which allow them to wipe the memories of those who have seen them (and a lucky few can take on human appearances), and they can summon weapons from the “rabi-jewels” on their chests. The jewels are prized by Ogres, a specific type of parasitic alien that is drawn to people with darkness in their hearts, with different color gems having different values to them; gold are the most sought after, and of course the rarest.
Protagonist Kaguya, whose name readers may recognize as belonging to the moon princess from the traditional folktale “Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” thinks that he's an ordinary high school boy with a tragic past – his dad was murdered when he was little. Kaguya witnessed the crime, and he's never been able to shake the image of a monster in a mask doing his dad in, although no one believed him. As it turns out, Kaguya was absolutely right: his father was killed by an Ogre and Kaguya is actually a Battle Rabbit who was sealed into human form. He naturally also possesses a golden rabi-jewel, making him the long-lost Prince of the Battle Rabbits, all of which is news to him. He finds all of this out when he's on his way home from school one day and is mistaken for an illegal extraplanetary alien by Mao, one of the newest Battle Rabbits to come to Earth as its defender. Shortly after meeting Mao, one of Kaguya's schoolmates is possessed by an Ogre, and Kaguya finds himself transforming. He's both surprised and validated by this – it's a shock that he's not human, but it's also a confirmation that he's not crazy and that he really did see what he thought he saw when his father was killed. He also now knows who he needs to take down in order to avenge his dad, but of course it won't be that simple.
Battle Rabbits' first volume is a combination of utterly bizarre and very cliché. The Battle Rabbits themselves of course have a super-powerful organization on Earth disguised as a multi-billion yen corporation, and naturally the head of it is a lunatic who tricks Kaguya into signing up. Mao, the female Battle Rabbit who initially found Kaguya, of course ends up living next door to him, and Kaguya unsurprisingly has a special power that no other Rabbit has because he was raised as a human: the ability to touch people's hearts. (You may recognize this as a fancy name for the power of friendship.) According to the story's mythology, Ogres find people to possess by following the “dark sweets” that their corrupted hearts drop, and Kaguya can find those gaps releasing the sweets and fill them up with positive thoughts and feelings. It's actually quite touching in a few cases, particularly with the older girl he stops from killing herself and may be one of the better conceits of the manga.
As a first volume, this introduction to the world of Battle Rabbits is pretty fun, albeit the sort of book where you periodically ask yourself what on Earth you're reading. The mix of humor, development, and action is smoother than in Ameichi's previous series to be released in English, and there's a nice variety of character designs in the artwork. Pages can be very crowded, but they still read easily, possibly because gray space is generally limited to the backgrounds of panels. If you're in the mood for something that's a little off the beaten path but still firmly settled in the shounen action genre, this is a good series to check out – especially if you've ever wanted to see guys with rabbit ears kicking ass.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B
+ Bizarrely fun concept, reads easily. Some very funny scenes while others are surprisingly touching. Some fun pop culture rabbit references if you're looking for them.
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