by Carl Kimlinger,

Rose Hip Zero

G. Novel 1

Rose Hip Zero GN 1
Kido is a normal cop. He has a normal .44 Magnum automatic pistol, his prosaic interrogation technique involves wrestling expertise, like any good officer he celebrates his transfer by blowing up motorcycles, and he has a normal partner who is a 14-year-old female ex-assassin. He even deals with normal criminals, such as a band of murderous teenage terrorists-for-hire who have tagged him and his partner for permanent retirement. Yes, very normal.
Hollywood has done its best to exploit every possible combination of people in the "buddy cop" flick. Leave it to the wacky world of manga to not only find a new wrinkle in the formula, but—better yet—to make it work. Using opposites is often a good starting place, and what could be farther from a hot-headed, testosterone-overdosed cop than a cute, shy junior-high girl assassin? Buddy flicks live or die by their chemistry, and Rose Hip Zero is blessed with some fine chemistry. It takes a while for it to kick in, but by the end of the volume Kido and Asakura have formed a solid professional (and to a lesser extent, personal) relationship built on mutual respect, hardship, and understanding. The scene in which Kido and Asakura come to a mutual understanding of their respective places in each other's lives is actually quite touching, even if it does take them the entirety of the volume to arrive at that point. Kido does tend to be a little overbearing, especially during the more ridiculous moments when he pulls his gun (everyone's favorite magnum auto, the Desert Eagle) for no apparent reason, but he is more than balanced out by the hugely adorable Asakura. She's so cute in appearance, personality and demeanor that only her melancholy, violent edge keeps her from being unbearably so. The disparity in their skill levels (Asakura is by far the superior combatant) also leads to some fun twists on traditional gender roles, and there are (as of yet) no potentially creepy romantic complications.

The manga does, however, have its share of problems. Kido's macho posturing wears thin very quickly, and Asakura's idea of saving her comrades using plastic bullets is a juvenile fantasy that has no place in a gritty police drama. The first volume is also rather sluggishly paced for an action manga. Sure, there're plenty of shootouts and explosions, but there simply isn't any urgency. Rather, the action serves merely to demonstrate Kido and Asakura's skills. Only at the end of the book, with the arrival of the other members of the terrorist group Alice, is there any sense that the main characters are actually in any danger. The Alice members promise to be worthy opponents, even if one can't help but wish that the gum-chewing one would choke on his gum and die. Naturally the volume ends with their arrival, providing a nice little cliffhanger.

Tohru Fujisawa's artwork is thoroughly professional: smooth, detailed, consistent, and pleasing to the eye. He prefers simple rectangular layouts, emphasizing important moments and actions with carefully composed 1 and 2 page spreads rather than with unusual paneling. He draws his characters in a variety of striking poses, especially during the action scenes, which, while far from being a draw in their own right, are well-executed and promise to be powerful if used correctly (although Asakura's acrobatics and Kido's firepower do tend to stretch credibility a bit far). Fujisawa also has an unexpected touch with cuteness, evident in Asakura generally, and specifically in a scene involving Asakura and a box of stuffed pandas that's just so damn cute that you want to hug the book.

The book is extras-free, but Tokyopop goes the extra mile with the presentation, providing the introduction in all its glossy color glory. As is their custom, Tokyopop leaves the Japanese sound effects in place with no translations.

Rose Hip Zero is still in its introductory phase, so not much happens, but it has a well-paired couple of leads, some snazzy artwork, and—by the end of the volume—is looking to ramp up the action and the stakes. With any luck it will fulfill the promise shown in this volume and develop into solid action entertainment.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : B+

+ Super-cute female lead, good "buddy cop" chemistry.
A little low on plot and action.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Tohru Fujisawa

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