Switch Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Patricia Beard
Review Date: Friday, November 28, 2008
Release Date: Monday, March 31, 2008

Volume 1 won't bowl you over, but there is potential.

Creative Team:
Writer/Artist: Naked Ape: Saki Otoh and Nakamura Tomomi
Translation: Paul Tuttle Starr, Translation by Design
Adaptation: Paul Tuttle Starr, Translation by Design

What They Say
Kai Eto may look like a squeaky-clean kid, but the Greater Kanto Narcotics Control Division's new investigator hides a violent alter ego and a dangerous past. Together with his stoic partner Hal Kurabayashi, Kai is assigned to track down and stop the distribution of a dangerous new drug: dragon speed.

The Review!
Naked Ape shows their sense of drama and purpose with cover that has Hal Kurabayashi aiming that pistol right at the reader while an alarmed Kai looks on.  Print quality is good with no smudging or moire patterning.  There is a one page author/artist afterword and a bonus comic.

Nakamura's art has a nice black and white graphic sensibility, only sporadically relieved and highlighted by tone work.  Overall, the page layout looks balanced with only the occasional panel that looks underdeveloped and hurried.  Character designs are distinctive enough, but suffer from the confusion that occurs from going off-model and from poor panel organization and flow.

Sfx are translated and replace the original Japanese sfx.  There is quite of bit of sotto voce or undertone conversation and these are also translated and replace the Japanese, leaving the artwork cleaner and less cluttered than subbing the Japanese text would do.  The text reads well enough, however, there conversations that are fairly oblique, making things seem disconnected. 

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kai Endo has just joined the Greater Kanto Narcotics Control Division.  He's youthful, energetic and  with a sunny disposition that drives his new partner, the low-key Hal, to distraction and threats of violence. 

A fortuitous coincidence marks Kai and Hals' first case involving the drug, Dragon Speed.  A young boy assisted and befriended by Kai turns out to be the son of a person of interest in the dealing of the drug. The confrontation with the father leads to accusations, recriminations and ultimately a demonstration of Kai's heretofore unseen violent side. Surprisingly, Hal is unfazed.

The second case shows Hal and Kai observing some deals out on the street.  Spying the rival Muguro police who are waiting to make a bust, Hal comes up with a plan that only the NCD can legally pull off. 

The volume closes out with the cliff hanger of an episode that has Kai going undercover as the assistant to a rock star whose relationship to Dragon Speed is unknown.    

This is pretty much the usual introductory volume.  The story begins with some small cases that allow us to see just who Kai and Hal are and how they interact  with each other.  Kai seems to be the more open, honest and caring character, but he does have an interesting flaw in the rage and anger that can erupt under certain conditions.  Hal is more of a puzzle and not the "stoic" that the back cover blurb states. He's confident, accomplished and not terribly tolerant of Kai's open and honest demeanor.  The mystery with Hal is why he is classified as a "rookie" with all his obvious cop skills.

The story run along in fits and starts.  Much of the problem lies with panel contents and organization.  Sequential art does not have to be cinematic to be sensible; it must, however, maintain its own visual logic and flow. This means that elements need to coordinate within the panel, between the panels, and even in the actions that are perceived in the white space.  The problem with many of the panels in Switch is that elements are introduced somewhat haphazardly and are often not placed to optimize visual or narrative flow.  The reader often has to reorient or correct perception.  This does not make for a smooth read.

In spite of the stumbling introduction, Switch has potential. There are interesting characters in a genre not seen very often - the police procedural.  It remains to be seen whether the second volume can even out the rough spots.

Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translation Rating: C
Age Rating: 16 and Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 184
ISBN: 9781421517643
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left