Saturday, April 6, 2013

Monju, Vol. 1 Review

(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.)

I used to read Sunday GX fairly regularly, when I could find it, because of Rei Hiroe's Black Lagoon and Akihiro Itoh's Wilderness. Every so often, I'd look at the other manga, but not with very much interest. There was one that I could never figure out, featuring a big police officer that everyone kept abusing. The character didn't seem to talk much, so I assumed it was a voice-less robot, but that was about it. Then Wilderness went on hiatus, and I'd occasionally flip through GX in the hopes of seeing it making a come-back. Naturally, that never happened, but again, there'd be that robot cop and I'd wonder what the story was about.

(Back cover, with Shino, Monju and Junpei.)

Fast-forward to a month ago. I was at the Book-Off used bookstore, and they were just starting a 3-day sale where all manga marked at 105 yen would go for 85 yen. This was as good a reason as any to buy more manga, and as I was going through the shelves to see what I could find, there were the first 10 volumes of the robot cop. I picked up 1-2, as well as some other books that were part of a series that I hadn't finished yet.

Seigi Keikan Monju, vol. 1, by Hiroki Miyashita. Grade A
"Justice Policeman Monju" starts out as a sitcom featuring the prototype robot police officer Monju, and his long-suffering superior, Junpei Yamagishi. Monju is an elite cop that had been happy with the attention it got ridding Tokyo of crime. But, after a while, for some reason it got demoted and posted in a rural backwater. Monju spends much of its time at its desk bemoaning its fate. Junpei grew up in the sticks and pretty much knows the town like the back of his hand. Which is kind of a problem because he's a big womanizer, and his knowledge of the less-traveled roads comes from a childhood of staring in girls' windows. His biggest concern is that he's going prematurely bald. In the first chapter, Monju is getting picked on by the locals, and any attempt to act more friendly just causes people to laugh at him more. Until one woman accidentally slips her car's stickshift into neutral and the car rolls down a hill, taking down a power line before slamming into a wall and cracking the gas tank. She gets pinned inside, and the powerline sparks ignite the fuel before she can get out. People treat Monju a little bit better after he shields the woman from the blast.

In a later chapter, a police researcher in Tokyo, Shino Kamiya, learns about Monju's existence and invites "him" to her lab to help test out her latest robot design. The new robot, Shinyou, is faster and lighter, but needs to be plugged into a power cable. Monju's self-contained nuclear reactor makes him heavier and clunkier, but also allows him to travel around freely. (Junpei loses more hair when he remembers all of the dangerous situations Monju had been in recently where the reactor could have been cracked open.) Shino promises to get Monju reinstated to Tokyo if he wins, so he agrees to the fight. When Junpei gets the courage to enter the woman's lab later on, Monju has gone into berserker mode and shredded Shinyou apart. Monju is about to turn on Kamiya when Junpei talks him back to reality. Monju falls over on Junpei, and the 800+ pound weight lands him in the hospital with broken bones. Junpei loses more hair on learning that Shino is moving permanently to the village to study Monju more closely. (In the last few chapters of this volume, we see Shino using a karaoke club to report back to a mysterious superior in Tokyo regarding Monju's abilities.)

Overall, the artwork in the first volume isn't too bad. The joke setups are relatively tame and Monju's constant lack of self-confidence gets old kind of fast. But the stories move quickly and there are enough good jokes to keep me interested in reading on. Recommended.

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