Challengers Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: A+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: DramaQueen L.L.C
  • MSRP: 12.50
  • Pages: 200
  • ISBN: 978-0-9766045-3-2
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Challengers Vol. #01

By Julie Rosato     August 07, 2006
Release Date: March 01, 2006

Challengers Vol.#01
© DramaQueen L.L.C

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hinako Takanaga
Translated by:Libby Maxim
Adapted by:

What They Say
Shinjuku at night is not a safe place. Therefore, young college hopeful Tomoe Tatsumi lucks out by bumping into Mitsugu Kurokawa, a white-collar worker with a heart of gold. Charmed by Tatsumi's naivete, Kurokawa actually finds himself being more generous than usual. In the course of helping Tomoe-kun find a place to live in Tokyo, Kurokawa offers to rent out his extra room. And thus, the two of them come to live together... but it's not the situation that Kurokawa had hoped it would be!

How long can Kurokawa keep from betraying Tatsumi's trust? Does Tatsumi's paranoid older brother really consider murder a viable option?

The Review
Like DramaQueen's other releases, this book boasts excellent packaging. Everything from the dust jacket and color plate to the printing and translation notes is done well here. On the cover is a playful image of Kurokawa and Tatsumi which uses nice, bright colors and features a cute, updated art style compared to what's found inside. (The cover art used is from the editions reprinted in 2004.) The logo, reproduced here in English, has been done using a very similar font and style so as to mirror the original release nicely. The author's afterward and a page of translation notes close up the book.

This is Takanaga's debut work and dates in part back to 1997, so the artwork is a bit rougher when viewed against her newer works (such as DMP's recent release of Little Butterfly). That isn't to say that it's poor, merely that her artwork has evolved a great deal since she started this book. It's interesting to see the roots of her current designs and although her technique is not quite as polished-looking here, the characters radiate personality, with emotions and humor easily conveyed through their expression. Backgrounds and white space are often utilized for comedic intent, SFX and side text so there isn't much extra art to speak of, although the pages are plenty busy in this manner. Dramaqueen's exceptional art reproduction also services Takanaga's line and tone work very well.

SFX and panel text are translated and overlaid using a variety of fonts and styles and honorifics are included. The adaptation reads really well with humor and personality coming across easily. My only minor qualms: There is quite a bit of text in the panels and sometimes it runs off the page or into the margin and there are a couple of instances where the overlays seem a wee more obtrusive than normal, but otherwise the production job is very good.

As a special note, given that accents and other peculiar speech patterns are often the bane of translators and readers alike, the manner of adaptation for Rick's speech is perhaps the most noteworthy aspect here. To convey a dialogue hindered by second-language flaws, he speaks a mixture of broken English and Japanese and slurs his L's into R's, which some readers may find a turn off. The effect may not be quite the same and the slurring is a bit overbearing at times, but I think, on the whole, the effort made to illustrate this character trait in a manner English readers could more easily relate to is commendable.

Contents:(please note the following contains spoilers)
Tomoe Tatsumi is an aspiring college student, come to Tokyo in hopes of studying under an engineering master with whom he's corresponded at W.U. Unfortunately, due to several adverse circumstances (not to mention he's a bit of a flake), he's become lost in Shinjuku in the middle of the night. Coming across a man named Kurokawa and his drunken friend at first seems to be another misfortune, but in the end sets the stage for his new life-to-be.

In need of a temporary place to stay (isn't this how naughty stories start?), Tatsumi finds himself lodging with Kurokawa. Though their time together is brief while Tatsumi's takes the entrance exam, Kurokawa is easily drawn to his genuine nature, and before he knows it, has fallen in love. When it's time for Tatsumi to return home, Kurokawa impulsively kisses him as the train departs, to both their surprise. A mix of angst and humor ensue as Kurokawa faces the thought of never seeing Tatsumi again, thanks to his mistake. But as it turns out, Tatsumi passes the exam and makes plans to move to Tokyo. And as all good, innocent boys do, he forgives (by way of misunderstanding) Kurokawa's advances.

Through another set of improbable circumstances found only in manga, Tatsumi decides to move in with Kurokawa " as merely a tenant, of course. This is much to the chagrin of his overbearing elder brother Souichi, who is convinced Tatsumi's purity is in danger. (Nah, couldn't be true!) But while Kurokawa is busy trying to survive both behaving as a gentleman and Souichi's terrorizing, a new obstacle to his love appears! Enter Rick, a (proudly gay) American classmate who's gunning for some "free love" with Tatsumi. Naturally, Tatsumi doesn't have a clue about what's really going on " at all.

Hi-jinks abound as our unlikely pair's not-quite-perfect homelife (not to mention Kurokawa's self-control) gets scrutinized and tested time and again by meddling friends and relatives. In the end though, Kurokawa manages to confess his feelings and though things are pretty confusing for poor, naive Tatsumi, he decides to stick around. For now though, their relationship must remain innocent " for Tatsumi's honor and Kurokawa's life!

If you took what the author says in her afterward seriously you'd think you were in for an awful read, but I found Challengers to be an amusing jaunt. Sure there are some debut-style flaws " minor directional changes, cliches or character traits that might drive veteran readers crazy, etc " but it accomplishes fairly well what it's intended to do. It's a mishap-laden love comedy; not only is it funny, but the characters have enough moxie to balance out their bumbling so that you end up rooting for them.

Tatsumi is flaky and almost ridiculously naive, so there'll be some who find him frustrating, and Kurokawa's characterization shifts a bit throughout the book so it's tough to decide whether one should sympathize or laugh at him. Either way they're not breaking any molds and they haven't quite found their groove as a pair yet, but they have potential and the secondary characters pull some surprising weight (Souichi's a great antagonist), so I found myself pretty easily sucked into their haphazard relationship. Rick is largely unbearable as a character, but he brings situational humor that plays out pretty well against Kurokawa and Souichi. It's also tough not to like Isogai's deadpan commentaries and barbs, too.

Although there are moments sprinkled with angst, there isn't much romantic pay-off yet so those looking for a lot of drama or sex will want to look elsewhere. The gems here so far really are the laugh-out-loud asides and site-gags (Isogai's "Besides, no one likes a killer" and the randomness of the "Where's Kurokawa Waldo?!" sign are among my favorites); this is just a fun relationship comedy and fans shouldn't hesitate to try it out.


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