Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Manga Reviews: MAR, MAR Omega, MiXiM

I'm going to address these three titles all at once, just to get them out of the way. Anzai Nobuyuki is another prolific artist, probably initially known for his earlier work "Flame of Recca". I never really got into Recca, largely because I only saw it in the magazine one chapter every few years, and because the artwork was so dark and muddy. It was like Anzi was trying to see how much ink he could use at a time. But, I liked MAR, which I read when I could find it. His latest, MiXiM, is running in Shonen Sunday.

MAR, by Anzai Nobuyuki, Grade A-
MAR tells the story of a young boy, Ginta, who is transported to another universe where magic works. He learns that the same thing had happened to his (now missing) father a number of years ago, and that his father had been a hero during the time of the great battle between the forces of good and evil. In this world, magical beings are tied to ARMS (generally really artistic jewelry) and the number and power of the ARMs one can carry is dependent on the will of the user. Ginta finds himself the bearer of what had been the most powerful, feared, evil ARM during the last battle, now transformed into a suave gentleman in the form of a children's ball and string toy. Ginta trains to enter the tournament that his father had dominated now that the forces of evil have returned once more.

Yes, I said that I don't like titles like Bleach and Naruto for their use of big power-ups and secret moves, which is also a hallmark of MAR. The difference here is that the power-ups take the forms of wickedly badass monsters, and that I like the character designs. The artwork is kind of sloppy, and the characters aren't drawn all that well. But, Anzai is good at battle sequences, and again, I like the female character designs. There's never any real tension since we know that the hero's going to win in the long run, so MAR just ends up being harmless mind candy. Since Anzai also recycles his characters, if you liked the designs for Recca, you'll like MAR.

Summary: Ginta is a 14-year-old school boy summoned to a magical universe to help save the people there from the evil clutches of Chess, just as his father had 10 or so years before. Ginta wields one of the mightiest weapons on the planet in his quest for victory. Harmless fun. Recommended.

MAR Omega, written by Anzai, art by Koichiro Hoshino, Grade: C
The less said about this mess, the better. This is the sequel to MAR, and is set a few years in the future. Kai is a fan of Ginta's and wishes to emulate his hero. With the return of Chess, he gets his chance.

The artwork has been simplified and made more goofy, while the story rambles too much at the beginning. There's nothing really new here, and the series looks like it's just trying to profit off MAR's earlier success while being aimed at a younger audience. Not recommended.

MiXiM, by Anzai Nobuyuki, Grade: B
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Anzai's latest series is a raunchy "high school boys trying to get laid" series in the form of a fight of the week manga. Ichimatsu, Koume and Takezou are three losers doomed to remain virgins their entire lives. Then, they are visited by a girl from another star who tells them that one of them is actually the Prince of Polaris exiled to Earth to avoid being assassinated, and the other two are decoys. No one's sure who is which, though, and since the assassins have located Earth and are on their way to kill off all three of them (plus 12 mystical women associated with the zodiac), it's time to figure out which is the prince and which are the doubles. Unfortunately, the villains, Black Hole, show up and manage to kill one of the zodiac women (the title was originally MiXiM 12, it's now MiXiM 11). With the help of the star girl, our three heroes receive power-ups and start training to become heroic fighters.

Where MAR had jewelry-like ARMs, MiXiM gives Koume a dog suit, Takezou a magical PSP, and Ichimatsu animated finger puppets. While the sense of humor is similar to that in MAR (with the weapon constantly talking back at the hero), MiXiM's constant resorting to cheap sex-based humor gets old fast. The character designs are cruder now, and Ichimatsu is especially roughly drawn. Plus, the "let me show you the attack I've been sitting on until now" and "godlike power-ups", are completely out of control. I've relegated this title to the heap along with Bleach and Naruto.

Summary: Three boys that have been losers in love are in a fight for their lives to see who will get their own harem. Poor artwork, rough designs and a weak story make this a poor follow-up to MAR. Recommended to frustrated junior high boys.

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