Arm of Kannon (aka: Birth) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: D+

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  • Art Rating: C+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 186
  • ISBN: 15918-1810-4
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Arm of Kannon (aka: Birth) Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     February 23, 2006
Release Date: May 01, 2004

Arm of Kannon (aka: Birth) Vol.#01

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Yamaguchi Masakazu
Translated by:Erika Jones
Adapted by:

What They Say
Mao's father returns home after disappearing for three years with a terrible secret... he has found the ancient Buddhist relic, the Arm of Kannon... but this cherished artifact contains a curse that could spell the end of humanity as we know it. As the demonic world attempts to squeeze its way into our own, the government wants to manifest this unholy power to create super-soldiers for the military. Only Mao, his sister Maya and a mysterious swordsman sent to protect them can restore the magical seal and save mankind.

The Review
I have to say one of the main reasons I decided to review this title was because of the presentation. Starting off with the cover which is actually stunning TP puts together a nice simple package. Speaking of the cover, it is simply a white on black image of the “arm”. I don’t recall seeing the arm actually in this volume, so it’s cool to see the beast in some way. The image is gnarly – there are snakes and faces and who knows what on that arm. The opposite cover has an image of the un-named character that ends up becoming the main character of this story holding his huge sword. TOKYOPOP changed the title for this Gentosha series from BIRTH to Arm of Kannon. I like the change actually and I think the ghoul font logo they used worked well.

Inside, the printing actually looks pretty darn good. Yamaguchi doesn’t use as much tone as other mangaka do, so the strong inking is able to really show of the line work and style very well. The alignment looks fine as well, so overall a strong job from TOKYOPOP. There are no extras but my copy does have a few ads at the end.

Yamaguchi's art is all over the place. I really found myself enjoying the layout and the unique perspectives that Yamaguchi uses for this title. There is a good amount of variety in regards to panel sizes and positioning. Yamaguchi also makes good use of negative space in all forms. So shadows and shading are occasionally used to hold manpu and asides to help create a mood. Backgrounds are a mixed bag. Sometimes they can look pretty involved, but for the most part they tend to be stale and do nothing for the overall product.

The character art is not so impressive. Yamaguchi has issues with form. His characters are extremely long and distorted. At times it seems as if he forgets humans have things like spines and hips. He cannot even make a naked women look appealing, as their designs have the worst of Saitou Misaki and Matsumoto Izumi (huge jaw-lines, messy style and huge loud hair).

Typical of TOKYOPOP, SFX were not translated. Given how this is a manga about manga this is ironic. Moreover, after a few years of doing this, I still question why TOKYOPOP still does this.

As I have not read this version of BIRTH in Japanese, I cannot say how accurate the translation is. TOKYOPOP still does a fine job with the translation. The slang would have normally been a problem, but considering the context and the overall style for this series I thought it was appropriate. This manga does not read very fast, but that is not the adaptation’s fault for the art and writing is pretty clunky right now.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Recently, something weird has been happening to Mikami Mao. He cannot explain of this very well, but has been experiencing a more than a normal share of strange dreams. He should possibly call them nightmare but they seem so real he has a hard time believing this is simply caused by coincidence (or bad eating habits). All he knows is that whatever the cause is, it is effecting him dramatically. His sleep is not at all restful. He ends up waking in heavy sweats and he keeps on repeating the same scene over and over - the slow grisly death of his older sister Mayo. He might be losing his mind and it is not because of puberty as Mayo theorizes.

No, whatever is inside of Mao is something even more powerful. It might be a lust or a hunger of some sort. He feels this might be a fact, for he is often overwhelmed by the same feeling whenever he experience violence. Maybe it is a hunger for a power which has always been out of the reach of his scrawny body. Maybe it is deeper than that. He might be lusting for blood. But Mao has never been that sort of person...

But he is not aware that this is in his blood.

Mao's father might appear to be a dedicated archeologist. He never spent much time at home or with his family. But he was searching for something. All that time he was searching for power. He obsessed over it. He could kill for it. And when the chance came he did all he could to obtain it.

As Mr. Mikami searched for that power, the Japanese "government" has moved forward to create their own vision of power. The goal is to genetically modify humans so they transform into killing machines when reacting specific stimulus. For the sake of "national security" the government is willing to use its citizens as test subjects as they research human weapons of mass destruction. Finding Mkami and the ancient artifact he discovered should greatly advance their research. Therefore it is paramount they find him before the "arm" of power changed hands. Whether or not they capture Mikami or not, this group is determined to be responsible for the evolution of humanity. But procuring the arm would provide them the knowledge of the gods giving them the power to protect or destroy life as we know it.

Arm of Kannon starts off simple enough. Yamaguchi introduces readers to the main characters –two siblings going to high school together - when they run into a demon slayer. One sibling is young, impressionable and weak, while the other is older sibling is independent, confident and a pacifist. The main difference is age and experience as the younger sibling resents his weaknesses and his beginning to lust for some form of strength. Kids pick on him, they beat him up and with a sister around (even an older sister) being seen as useless is embarrassing. So when they meet the incredibly strong and skilled warrior and realize that they are all about the same age, their feeling about strength - its significance and how to use it - began to influence the sibling. Sounds like plenty of other titles out there, right.

Well, actually a bit more of the manga sounds like it should make for an intriguing title, as well. Yamaguchi blends in sci-fi with anthropology, two concepts that often work very well, to create his setting for his action thriller. Concepts of Buddhism and the Japanese government factoring in a war against humanity should have made for at least a potentially thought-provoking title.

Well, Arm of Kannon surely made me think alright. I had to constantly think about why Yamaguchi had to be so gratuitous. I had to think about what happened to the manga once he introduced the Arm. I had to rethink what I was reading because the writing turned into a confusing mess. I still don't know the name of the hero (the cocky violent anti-hero) of this title. Fight scene after fight scene with characters we know little about. No concept of what the motivations are for most of the cast. When reading this, I felt Yamaguchi or someone must have thought they needed to spice up what was already a fine title. Tossing in the lowest common denominator Random rape scenes, hand jobs with a few really random battles ended up becoming overkill. Toss the writing aside, let’s make this as “cool” as possible.

After reading this first volume I literally tossed the first volume aside for a year before getting back to it.


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