by Rebecca Silverman,

Jaco the Galactic Patrolman


Jaco the Galactic Patrolman
Dr. Omori, a retired scientist, lives alone on an otherwise abandoned island with the ruins of his career in time travel and the grave of his wife. One day his peaceful life is interrupted by the crash-landing of a small spaceship, from which emerges Jaco, a proud patrolman of the Galactic Police Force. Jaco has been sent to Earth to monitor the expected arrival of a dangerous alien and to destroy the planet if necessary. But while he's here, he will find a new calling – a hero of justice!

You've got to hand it to Akira Toriyama – he's still got it. Viz's release of his 2013 single-volume title shows us that the man behind Dragon Ball is still capable of telling a fun, entertaining story that can reach beyond its intended audience of little boys to provide a nice diversion from everyday life for anyone who cares to pick it up. While Jaco the Galactic Patrolman isn't particularly deep or detailed, it does provide both an unexpected insight to Dragon Ball as well as an interesting commentary on idol worship in contemporary Japanese pop culture. More importantly, it has an alien cop who has an unusual way of peeing.

Jaco takes place in the same world as Dragon Ball and its spin-offs, one divided neatly into East and West. In the East lives Dr. Omori, an elderly scientist who once worked on a top-secret governmental project to build a time machine. When the experiment went awry and killed most of the other scientists along with Omori's wife, he decided to stay alone on the island where the project was housed, living on in the ruins of his life. When we meet him, we do get the feeling that he's fairly content and no longer wallowing quite as much in the past, if only because he seems to have become the Kitty King of Science Island. He is leading an insular life, however, until a spaceship plummets from the sky and lands on his metaphorical doorstep. In the ship is Jaco, an alien policeman who had been sent to investigate a rumor of an evil alien landing, or about to land, on Earth...but he got distracted and crashed into the moon, causing his ship to plummet to Earth. None of this shakes Jaco's belief that he's a super awesome elite, however, and he'll happily strike a series of poses and tell anyone who happens to be within earshot how amazing he is. With just Omori, that's fine. But when the two go to the city to buy supplies – both for food and to make an attempt at fixing the spaceship – this gains Jaco unwanted attention and a series of misunderstandings land him a spot on the most wanted list.

While all of this is going on, the space agency is making preparations to launch a popular idol singer, An Azuki, into space on a rocket whose safety is in question. While this plot seems less important than Jaco's crazier one, it proves to be intertwined with the main storyline, creating an interesting commentary that you might not be expecting. It is at first played out very subtly, with Omori scoffing to himself about the foolhardy plan and Jaco trying to figure out Azuki's nonsensical lyrics. When they meet a girl from the West named Tights, however, readers will immediately notice a similarity between her and Azuki, leading to a revelation that ultimately redeems pretty much all of the characters. That no one thinks that sending an idol into space on an unsafe rocket is a good idea - and the way her producers work around it suggests that they don't either – certainly makes a statement about popularity, the need for visibility, and how little the ordinary guy matters in the celebrity world and feels particularly interesting in light of the fact that as of this writing, each new season of anime brings us at least one new show glorifying idols.

Social statements aside, Jaco succeeds as a goofy adventure story. Jaco himself is amusingly egotistical but always pulls through when it matters, and the relationship between he and Omori, and later between Omori and Tights, becomes a true friendship, with each helping each other out. The final chapters are tense and exciting, partially because that's when we as readers really figure out what Toriyama is doing with the story, but also because the threat to the characters is genuinely compelling. All told Toriyama introduces ten separate characters in-between chapters,and doesn't really get the chance to develop most of them, giving the impression that he might have originally intended to make this longer than one volume. Despite that, it doesn't feel incomplete. His artwork is as clear and enjoyable as ever, and while he stays mostly away from scatalogical or sex-based jokes, the few that he throws in are still funny in a third-grade sort of way, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.

Jaco the Galactic Patrolman combines space cops and science with idols and Earth cops to provide a story that mixes adventure with a little social commentary. It's a fun book and definitely a must for Dragon Ball fans, but those who are looking for an easy introduction to Toriyama's works should check it out as well. It may have a clear feeling of being intended for little boys, but there's still plenty for everyone to enjoy when one of the masters of shounen manga puts his story in motion.

Overall : B
Story : B
Art : A-

+ Good combination of “kids' stuff” and things for older readers to notice, clear, clean art. Book gets progressively better as it goes on.
Bit of a slow start, definitely feels like it was meant to be longer. Parts of the ending feel rushed.

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Story & Art: Akira Toriyama

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