by Zac Bertschy,

Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo


Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo (manga)
It's the year 300x, and the cruel (and bald) emperor of the Maruhage kingdom has ordered a hunt on all who possess hair. Only one man can stop him: Bo-BoBo, the yellow, afroed master of the Fist of the Nose Hair technique. In this volume, Bo-BoBo and his sidekicks Poppa Rocks, Jelly Jiggler, Beauty and Gasser take on Halekulani, the final remaining member of the Bald Emperor's “Big Four,” a crack team of ultra-powerful warriors determined to bring an end to the reign of hair in the Maruhage kingdom.
Reading Bo-Bobo is a lot like spinning around in place with your eyes closed and then stumbling around and laughing afterward. It's mindless fun for a little while, but it's basically guaranteed to make you nauseous. This ruthlessly bizarre, over-the-top manga is wildly popular in Japan, having spawned a series of games and a long-running TV series, which recently saw its debut on American television. The first English volume (which is actually volume 9) is a one-shot by Viz, a test to see if the manga arm of the franchise has an audience in the States. Frankly, after reading a solid 250 pages of this brain-numbingly hyperactive parody, it's hard to tell if it will or not.

Rather than starting at the top of the story, Viz has elected to pick a choice volume from the middle of the series—which was probably a good idea, since this volume gives the reader a much better general picture of what this series is like and features far more action (and a lot less run-of-the-mill origin story) than the first volume would have. You're given a brief introduction as to what the heck is going on and then tossed right into the middle of the story. It's not very difficult to figure out exactly what's happening, since Bo-Bobo follows a very routine shonen storyline (intentionally, of course, so it can skewer genre conventions along the way). Honestly, though, the story doesn't really matter. It's a waste of time to discuss the characters, since they're written to serve the jokes, rather than the jokes serving the characters (not to mention we have no idea how they've developed, since this is volume 9). Bo-Bobo is all about the comedy… which is precisely what will make or break this title for most people.

Bo-Bobo is unique in that nearly every panel features a gag of some kind, be it slapstick humor, satire, silly parody, toilet humor, or whatever else you can think of. Comparisons to Excel Saga are bound to come up, but it's important to note that Bo-Bobo is even shriller than that series was; this is literally a joke a second, and if you thought Excel Saga was too much, Bo-Bobo will give you a heart attack. There is no subtlety. The humor isn't dry or sarcastic. There are occasional bits of self-reference—Sawai frequently criticizes his own skill at drawing—but mostly this is very straightforward humor on fast-forward. It's like being beaten in the face by comedy.

Virtually every frame in Bo-Bobo features someone shouting, spewing blood, overreacting to something, doing a wild take, or getting kicked, punched or otherwise smashed around. It's all done in the name of comedy. Imagine someone dancing around in front of you for an hour screaming jokes right in your ear and you'll get a pretty decent image of what it's like to read this thing. Either you can tolerate it or you can't, and you'll know which category you fit in within the first 50 pages.

Sawai's art style matches his tone very well; he's very good at drawing extreme expressions and rendering chaos. Overall, though, the artwork simply isn't very impressive. The characters are routinely drawn off-model and sometimes it all looks really sloppy and rushed. It'd be easy to chalk up the sometimes extremely rough line work to the tone and pacing of the series, but really, it comes across as being amateurish and unfinished. Still, more often than not, the visuals match the story very well.

By the end of this volume, Bo-Bobo has defeated the bad guy and presumably will go on to face more ridiculous villains, take shots at shonen cliches, make snot jokes, and beat up his companions. Viz deserves credit for choosing a later volume that manages to tell a contained story, one that doesn't require a lot of outside explanation and also gives the reader a very accurate representation of what the series is like. If you find yourself enjoying the series, then this is a particularly fulfilling installment, and might even encourage you to write to Viz and tell them you'd like to see more, especially since no future volumes of Bo-Bobo are currently planned for production. If you didn't like it, well, you'd have tossed this book out the window somewhere around page 38. Bo-Bobo is, without a doubt, something you're either going to love or hate. There's really no grey area here; it's a visual assault on the senses from cover to cover, a chaotic comedy storm that never lets up. If that sounds appealing, then you're going to love Bo-Bobo. Otherwise, you'll probably set it down before you finish it.
Story : C
Art : C

+ Occasional moments of comic genius, might appeal to fans of Excel Saga.
Feels like being savagely beaten by a clown.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Yoshio Sawai

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