Geobreeders (1) Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Release Date: Saturday, January 01, 2000
Translated by:Laura Jackson and Yoko Kobayashi
What They Say
Take the X-Files, mix in some Buffy and Baywatch, and you've got Geobreeders! Kagura Security is a group fo give beautiful women and one lucky man engaged in a struggle to disperse the Phantoms that lurk in the shadows of the human world. When large corporatations are menaced by supernatural forces, the call in the hot-headed professionals of the Kagura agency, who use the latest computer technology as well as ancient magic to battle poltergeists, demons, and their major nemesis, the ghostly Phantom Cats.
The company's president, Yuka Kikushima, is a fiery redhead who leads her employees into the strangest situations. She tends to leap before she looks and always lands the group in hot water. Maki Umezaki dresses like Tom Wolfe, talks like Clint Eastwood, and carries a big gun, but she's always ready to hop into a bathing suit and party - or do battle - on the beach. Takami Sakurai looks like a mild-mannered computer whiz in her big glasses, but she wields a mean pair of butterfly knives when the action takes her to the streets. Eiko Rando is the mechanic and munitions expert, and Yu Himehagi is the driver who specializes in white-knuckle rides. In this first book, Learning to Love the New Job, the hapless Mr. Yoichi Taba is hired by Kagura without knowing what they really do. At first he's ready to flee for his life, but soon he comes to love the action, the excitement, and the high-spirited women of Kagura, and you will too!
Yoichi Taba is a very typical salaryman, going to work for his new employer, Kagura Security. Finding the offices empty, he fears his new company has gone bankrupt, only to have a tiny redheaded woman crash through the plate glass window. It's his boss and the President of Kagura, Yuka Kikushima. Yuka is as insane as she is cute, and is in the middle of a life or death battle with a Phantom Cat. They are malevelant creatures able to change form between human and feline. They are also able to travel through phone and computer lines. Kagura Security is a private company that's in the business of ridding the world of these dangerous enemies of mankind. Kikushima throws a crossbow at Taba and tells him to head down to the lobby. When he sees the phantom cat, shoot it. Killing them isn't easy, though, especially when they're in human form. Special talismans are needed to "seal" the phantom cat up on a computer disc. The drawback is that four seals are necessary, and they must be set up in a square around the victim. With Taba's help, Kimushima is able to seal up the cat, even while Taba is screaming that he quits.
In the second chapter, we're introduced to Maki Umezaki. She's a gorgeous blonde who carries a handgun. She dresses in a white linen suit, white fedora, and a bolo tie around her neck. She's a tough-talking dame who loves old movies with famous Japanese tough-guy actors. She also insists on being called "Red Shooting Star." She and Taba take on a phantom cat on a train, with Taba showing a surprising amount of resourcefulness trying to form a square of seals around the phantom cat inside the rectangular train car.
The third chapter features Takami Sakuragi, the cute little glasses-wearing blue-haired computer expert of Kagura. When not hacking into computer systems, she's tossing butterfly knives and grenades at the enemy. She's also fond of rollerblading which gives her the speed necessary to keep up with the cats. Her downfall is her tendency to give up on reality and start gibbering whenever things get a little too desperate. She and Taba are chasing a cat at an amusement park, which leads to the destruction of a large Ferris Wheel, as well as much of the rest of the park. The end of the chapter also introduces two more important characters. Irie, the mysterious yet smarmy young man who works for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and a young girl who is also a phantom cat.
Next we meet Eiko Rando, the statuesque lavender-haired beauty who is Kagura's accountant. She's also an expert at hand-to-hand combat, always carrying a pair of brassknuckles with her. She's been sent to the sewers to fight another phantom cat. She hooks up with the luckless Taba and the two of them work to lure the cat into a place where they can seal it up. The rest of Kagura are supporting them, but Maki is stopped by a cop when she pulls her gun. The cat is successfully sealed, and Maki escapes from the cop. The end of the chapter has a meeting between Taba, the young female cat we saw at the end of the previous chapter, and the Black Cat. He is an imposing older man in a black overcoat and fedora with a request of Taba. He wants him to stay with Kagura. The phantoms that Kagura have been fighting are a different faction from his. The Black Cat has a plan he is implementing, and it's important to him that Kagura be a witness to it.
Finally, Yu Himehagi makes her entrance. She's the awesomely endowed green-haired driver for Kagura. There are only three things she cares about. Driving, sleeping, and smoking. And not necessarily in that order. She's driving Taba and Kikushima somewhere when they're spotted by the phantom cats. The battle on the highway is another Kagura destruction-fest, and highlights Himehagi's brilliant driving. To complicate matter further, the Hounds, a paramilitary group under the Ministy of Welfare, are also after these cats. Also, Kagura doesn't have Umezaki at their disposal. She's been forced to go underground after the events of the previous chapter. The Hounds get this particular cat, but Taba's leg gets broken in the process.
With Taba stuck at home with a broken leg, Sakuragi comes by to cook and clean for him. Outside his apartment, the young female phantom cat that works for the Black Cat is standing in the rain, just watching. Sakuragi brings her in, but Taba is suspicious of her. Meahwhile, the Black Cat and female cat take over a nuclear powerplant. Irie is monitoring their movements, but he's also monitoring the goings on inside Taba's apartment, which he's somehow bugged. When Sakuragi leaves, Taba's left alone with the young phantom cat. The chapter ends with Irie showing up at Taba's apartment.
Akihiro Ito is a great fan of famed Hong Kong action movie director John Woo, and it's evident in not only the homages included in the story, but also in the pacing and intensity of the action. This is one of the best, more exciting action mangas ever published in the US. The cute girls and constant humor are what will draw a reader in, but the grand scale of the destruction and the plots within plots are what will keep the reader coming back for more.
Ito's art is solid and dynamic, with action sequences that flow smoothly. His women are attractively drawn, with distictiveness that extends beyond simply having different hair and clothes. The women all find Taba attractive and constantly bicker over who gets him, but whenever a dangerous situation arises, he's always the first one they volunteer to do the job. The translation by Laura Jackson and Yoko Kobayashi is excellent, and includes cultural notes in the gutters between panels, especially useful with all the old tv and movie trivia Umezak is contstantly reeling off.
Geobreeders was originally published as a monthly comic book by CPM, and the graphic novel retains the flipped left-to-right art and full sound effects retouching into English. The graphic novel also retains the large 8x11.5 inch size of the original comic book release. Unfortunately, the art is let down by the art reproduction, which is simply terrible. Blurry images, poorly reproduced screentones, and muddy blacks conspire to bring this title down. Included in the back of the book is a cover gallery of the monthly comics, but they're in black and white rather than color. There is also a biography about Akihiro Ito written by himself. The cover is a nice shot of Taba at the bottom aiming a crossbow at the reader as the women of Kagura fan out behind him. Since the original Japanese logo is the word Geobreeders written in Romaji with the name spelled in katakana over it, CPM simply removed the katakana and retained the Romaji logo. The back of the book is rather bland. It's just the logo and a whole lot of writing about the book on a pink background. And the character descriptions are only occassionally correct. It would have been better served by using some of the great back cover art from the Japanese tankoubans and a lot less writing.
Geobreeders is an exciting action manga with plenty of cute girls, big explosions and comedy that is actually funny. Unfortunately, CPM's poor art reproduction holds this title back. Also keep in mind that Geobreeders is an ongoing series at the time of this review with 9 volumes out in Japan. CPM only published the first 5 books and then put it on hiatus. As much as I love this title, I can only recommend this release if the poor art reproduction doesn't concern you. Hopefully CPM's rerelease of Geobreeders in a new format will address this issue.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: D
Age Rating: 3 & Up
Released By: CPM Press
Orientation: Left to Right