Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Cherry Popped

I finally climbed on board the manga train. It took years of denials, ignorance, and reading samplers and tossing them aside for donation, but what the Hell. This past weekend, I cracked open my first volume and let ‘er rip.

It seems strange. Certainly for someone who defines their web presence as a graphic novel review specialist, I should have been here a long time ago. But like many, I was afraid of change, and afraid of the effort it would cost in order to train my eyes and brain to read the book correctly. But I’m here to say that it was worth the wait.

Battle Royale is certainly one of the more notorious series to hit the American shores. The story of a group of ninth graders kidnapped and sent to fight to the death on an island in the middle of nowhere, it’s a dark and disturbing look at the world’s growing trend to see real lives destroyed on television. You’ll certainly find few graphic novels that feel as timely and topical as this one. Essentially combining “Survivor” with “The Most Dangerous Game”, Battle Royale had me in its grip very quickly. We meet some of the children who will eventually have to participate in what is known as “The Program” when they are very young, establishing a nice rooting interest, as well as setting up some vicious and brutal surprises that occur earlier in the story than you would see in an American comic. The wonderful thing is that it all does seem to feel surprising, when if you consider the rules of the game the kids have to play, most of them are going to die before the final volume of the series hits the stands.

I only read volume one this past weekend, but I immediately put in an order for volume two, as I was so stunned by the quality of the storytelling, and so disturbed by the story itself, that I wanted more immediately. And I can definitely see myself picking up more manga series. It’s time to join the revolution, I guess. Luckily, it feels pretty satisfying. Long live the new king.

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