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Design, vol. 1, by Daisuke Igarashi (2016, KC Afternoon), Grade: B+
Daisuki is a fairly well-known manga artist, although I only read book one of his Children of the Sea (translated into English by Viz in the U.S.) and nothing else after that. I was given a copy of Design, which started running in Afternoon magazine in 2015, so I figured I might as well read it. It's pretty good, but after the 250 pages, I'm still not sure what the plot is.
(Cubel, on assignment in a jungle against rebels.)
The story is fairly straightforward, though. A bioresearch company is in the process of splicing animal DNA into humans, creating what's called HAs (human animals). They are currently attempting to contract with the militaries of different countries to lease these HAs as guerrillas, assassins and shock troops. Within the company, we have two competing researchers - Victoria and Okuda.
(Cubel, An and Babe in Africa. Shoe doesn't fit.)
Okuda is the more relaxed of the two, and he spends his time at his estate, where he's created the frog girl, Cubel Chul (my choice of spellings, since the names are never given in romaji) and the two tiger hound girls, An and Babe. Victoria is much more attention seeking, and has developed a 5-member team with dolphin DNA. The dolphins are stronger and faster than Cubel, and they have a sonar sense that acts kind of like telepathy. But, they're more emotionally unstable.
(Cubel and An play-fighting.)
The dolphin team can speak fluent Japanese, but Cubel requires a throat amplifier because she doesn't have vocal cords, and An and Babe are more animal that human - they just growl and grunt. In the first book, both sets of teams are given missions to wipe out rebel and terrorist bases, which they do very easily. However, there is a social backlash against companies that do bioresearch, meaning that the HAs have to live in secret.
(Babe is out looking for an easy lunch.)
Unfortunately, Babe has always been more feral than not, and she's taken to stalking the streets of Tokyo and killing civilians. When she's about to attack more prey, one of the dolphinoids rushes in and attempts to stop her. Plus, we have the introduction of a wild card - Jasmine. She's a normal human currently working as a maid in Okuda's mansion, but she's unable to escape her past as someone referred to as Brains Splash Licks.
Summary: Overall, this book was a very fast read. I did skip over the parts where the main characters talk about gene splicing, but I read the rest of it fairly easily. The artwork is very clean, with simple, thin lines. The character designs are a bit stylistic and cartoony, but the individuals are each distinctive and I can tell them apart with little trouble. The backgrounds are good, as is the pacing. As mentioned above, I don't know what the plot is, and I have no idea where the story is heading. I'm not sure if I'll continue the series when book 2 comes out, but I'd be willing to keep giving it a try. Recommended if you like combat adventure.