Reviewby Theron Martin,
Louis, a 14-year-old “mecha-geek” who specializes in computers and all manner of hardware, adventures around a post-apocalyptic wasteland in a Dreadnaught tank along with the android-girl Mamet and teenaged ladies Liza, Wooty, and Mill. Though the Great War happened more than three decades pasts, the remnants remain everywhere, and the threat lingers that those who escaped to Mars might return to Earth to remake the planet anew, regardless of whether or not the remaining inhabitants agree. One of the greatest current problems is the atmospheric conversion system Z.P.T., which has gone out of control, but while seeking a solution to that problem there are war robots to be fought, treasure to be hunted down, lost tech to be recovered, and a sexy operative of the Anti-Martian Earth Self Defense Force to be dealt with.
The Junk Force novels are derived from online novels, which are themselves the novelization of the three-volume manga release of the same name (released in the U.S. in 2004 by ComicsOne). The third novel is a short one, clocking in at a mere 192 pages, which include 11 pages of illustrations. It is divided into five chapters, each of which consists of a stand-alone story: one is a reflection back on Great War battles through recorded memories retrieved from a wrecked battle tank, another is a treasure hunt which takes a strange twist, a third deals with the sexy operative and a rogue combat android, a fourth finds the crew dealing with an automated factory left over from the war, and the last involves automated battle tanks attacking a town built around a still-functioning underground power station. Although there is supposedly an overarching plot line about dealing with Z.P.T., it is only mentioned a couple of times in this novel and does not have a significant impact on the events herein.
Most of the stories center around geeky Louis, the only guy on the female-dominated team, which consists of a rough-and-tumble type (Wooty), a leader-type (Lisa), and a third girl who may be on the timid side but it's hard to tell because she doesn't do much to demonstrate any kind of personality (Mill). The android-girl Mamet also lacks any real character definition, and all of the individuals they meet on their journey also have very basic personalities. In fact, the Who's Who page at the beginning of the novel tells more about the main cast than anything described in the stories. The lack of detail about the characters reflects a broader fault in the overall storytelling; the only time anything is described in much detail is when future tech is involved. In such cases the writer gets very enthusiastic about extrapolating the military technology of the next century, but the rest of the writing was done with an “extreme minimalist” philosophy.
Although the content (including some racy bits) and age of the cast suggests that the stories were written with 13-17 year old male sci-fi devotees in mind, the writing level is more reflective of something aimed at an even younger audience. The stories being told aren't bad, but the lack of sophistication in the writing is quite evident even by Young Adult standards. Things are told to the reader which should have been brought out through characterizations or actions taken by the characters, and bits of wording one wouldn't normally expect in a professional publication abound. The novel also has a bad habit of having conversations involving three or more characters going on without sufficient identifiers to indicate who's saying what, which can sometimes make the dialogue hard to follow. Some of this could have resulted from translation flaws, as DrMaster is a company which normally deals more with manga, but it's more likely that the flaws are carried through the translation.
The assorted illustrations look like they were taken straight from the manga, or else were replicated in a very stereotypical manga style. The same goes for the front and back cover illustrations (the only color pictures in the whole production), which in this volume feature Mill. Some of the illustrations get quite racy and do include near-nudity and/or undefined nudity. The only other notable feature, beyond the cast intro page, is a two-page afterward by the original author, who describes his writing technique and comments a bit about the overall storyline. He claims that he typically finishes one of these novels in only a month and a half, and that's easy to believe from what one sees here.
Junk Force is called what it is because it is about a rag-tag group of teenagers traveling with salvaged equipment and living hand-to-mouth rather than being an organized military unit with proper support. The writing is similarly rag-tag. Although the stories it offers are mildly entertaining and full of energy, it's not a production likely to much excite a typical anime or manga fan above the age of 15.
Story : C
Art : B-
+ Stories are short and lively, good extrapolation of future military tech.
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