Like so many other middle-of-the-road manga series, Bogle's biggest failing is its mediocre writing.
Writer/Artist: Shino Taira and Yuko Ichiju
Translation: Christine Schilling
Adaptation: Brynne Chandler
What They Say
There's nothing harder than starting fresh at a new high school... unless you also happen to have a secret identity as a cat-thief! Asuka is just your ordinary girl, except for her tendency to steal from evil-doers as a midnight vigilante!
Bogle is packaged and printed like most other mass-market manga releases, with sharp black-and-white line art and minor problems with dark scenes -- maybe a little disappointing considering the $1 higher MSRP than most other such releases, but decent-looking otherwise. The full-color cover, featuring three of Bogle's four thieves in a street-level scene (what, no love for Reijiro?) looks good as well, although again it's nothing out-of-the-ordinary for releases in this price range.
A couple of smallish but neat extras are included for good measure: there're a few pages of artist commentary about the evolution of some of the character designs, followed by a page of translator's notes.
After being spoiled by some of the beautifully drawn titles that I've reviewed lately, Bogle's artwork is a little underwhelming by comparison. Sure, it looks fine for the most part, but it's a very functional and uninteresting looking: neither the drawing style nor the character designs will do much to change the minds of people who feel like all modern computer-assisted manga artwork looks like it's been polished to a self-similar dull shine. On the positive side, the chapter introduction pages (which look like they existed in color at one point, but are presented here in black-and-white) are a little more detailed than the artwork in the story's body, at least enough so that they stand out visually from the rest of the artwork. On the not-so-great side of things, the action sequences have a stiff feel to them that detracts visually when they pop up here and there.
The English adaptation reads fine. The script preserves honorifics along with a few untranslated Japanese terms like "onii-chan", the latter of which are explained by translator Christine Schilling's footnotes -- always appreciated -- along with various Japanese cultural points relevant to the story.
English translations of Japanese SFX are presented in the pane alongside the original lettering. Signs are replaced with English text, although it's done a little haphazardly in a couple of places: the replaced text doesn't always conform to the shape and perspective of the objects it's displayed on, which can be distracting.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Bogle's opening chapter introduces the reader to the sixteen-year-old Asuka Hamuro, who recently moved to Yokohama in support of her older brother's detective career. In keeping with the high school manga tradition of rushing around on her first day at a new school, Asuka quickly meets three eccentric guys who leave a big impression on her: the Kendo club president Ryoma Munakata, the popular kid Masato Ogami, and her academic advisor Reijiro Wakaki. Later that day, Asuka also forges a friendship by chance with a young boy named Keita Kishimoto, whose mother has been having problems related to her late husband's contested inheritance.
When Asuka overhears that a beloved heirloom doll has been stolen from the Keita household to be used as leverage in the inheritance dispute, she reveals a second identity to the reader: at night, she takes the persona of the legendary burglar "Cat". Intending to steal the doll back for Keita's mother, Asuka is beaten to the punch by a rival gang of thieves with similar ideals -- who turn out to be none other than Ryoma, Mastao, and Reijiro. The three are less surprised by Asuka's presence at the scene than you'd expect, and in fact they offer her a place in their well-meaning band of thieves, the titular Bogle. She accepts their offer, officially putting her at odds with her brother, who ironically moved with Asuka to Yokohama specifically to solve the Bogle case.
Surprisingly, once Bogle moves past this introductory phase, it isn't really about Asuka or her extra-curricular activities. Each of the three remaining chapters follows a different heist job that Bogle performs on the behalf of different clients; and these clients' stories are really what the manga really focuses for the rest of the volume. Although the trinkets that Bogle secures for them are of questionable monetary value in and of themselves, they each form a sort of catalyst for a more complex backstory. When Bogle recovers a seemingly worthless pen for one of Asuka's classmates, for example, we're told how it ties into a familial feud that's gradually escalated to full-out bullying at school.
Having said that, there're signs near the end that Taira and Ichiju could be planning to have upcoming storylines revolve more around Asuka and Bogle. Whether they'll actually carry through with this in future volumes still remains to be seen.
Even though they couldn't appear more different on the surface, Volume 1 of Bogle strangely reminds me of the shoujo manga adaptation of Hell Girl: both use their central protagonist-that's-not-a-protagonist character as a hub for episodic stories of similar flavors (though Bogle's stories feature more upbeat endings, for obvious reasons). Unfortunately, Bogle also shares Hell Girl's penchant for dull characters and writing that needs some serious tightening up. There are pacing problems throughout the volume -- the introduction is really bad about this, dawdling about Asuka's school for a while before rushing through her backstory and introduction into Bogle -- and all too often their clients' situations are unintentionally silly. I'm willing to stretch my sense of disbelief pretty far, especially when I'm dealing with shoujo high school dramas, but not far enough to buy that a single photo and an impassioned speech by Asuka would reunite a broken family and drive a corporate villain to renounce his ways within the span of a few pages.
I'll grant Bogle that it's turning out better so far than I'd expected (the preview pages on Go! Comi's Web site don't leave a flattering impression), partly because its episodic approach caught me by surprise ... but the plotting still needs a lot of work before I'd be comfortable recommending it to most readers. With that in mind, people with a higher tolerance for overdramatization than me will probably have a better time with this release.