Monster Collection Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Connie Zhang
Review Date: Monday, May 14, 2007
Release Date: Wednesday, March 09, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Sei Itoh
Translated by:Alexis Kirsch
Adapted by:Jake Forbes

What They Say
The girl who can deal with magic monsters.

Kasche Arbadel is the most gifted yet reckless summoner in her school. When an artifact of immense power is stolen, it's trial-by-fire when Kasche is sent in pursuit!

He who controls the most powerful monsters can control the world.
Kasche may have a talent for controlling beasts, but she's got a lot to learn about self-control before she can become a full-fledged Summoner. When disaster strikes, her principal chooses her to avert it. Joined by allies both human and not, Kasche must recapture the relic from an evil Summoner before he can use it to unlock the Encyclopedia Verum, and call up the most powerful monsters ever seen!

The Review
No, it has nothing to do with Pokémon. Yes, it's a magical fellowship on an epic journey led by a spunky, clumsy heroine. But don't write this one off just yet.

Packaging:
For once, I actually like CMX's use of frames on the cover. Since the Japanese tankouban cover wasn't that great to begin with, their selective cropping of the art doesn't bother me. If anything, the imitation is better than the original since they wisely erased the golden chains that crisscrossed the original art. Luckily, the navy blue frames and the dark orange logos mesh well enough that the title stands out without clashing. The art on the back cover " an orange Griffon " complements the color scheme while still drawing attention to itself and, coupled with the white text, makes for a great presentation. Inside, I was pleasantly surprised to see six full-color pages that more than makes up for the lack of a "wow" factor in the cover art. The attention to detail in the colored pages was especially noteworthy, as even the creases in clothes was perfectly rendered.

The print reproduction is very clean, and considering the liberal use of shading, does a fantastic job in keeping the lines sharp. The only extra is a page of commentary from the creator.

Artwork:
Itoh's art suffers from only one flaw: crowding. There's so much crammed into each panel that it's a lot to take in all at once. When it's just dialogue, there's too little detail and the backgrounds are empty. But when it's a fight sequence, the page is overflowing with flurried movement, motion lines, background, etc. Fortunately, that's really the only flaw in an otherwise imaginative and detail-oriented work. Despite the content-heaviness, the art actually does flow well once you get used to it. Since it's a fantasy, there's a lot of emphasis (and rightly so) on eccentric clothing and otherworldly beasts. Thus far, Itoh's breathed new life into canonic monsters (i.e. Griffons, snake-women, angels) and created a land reminiscent of Europe in the Middle Ages.

The character designs are very attractive, especially the two women, who thankfully don't have coconuts for breasts (and oddly, the male lead resembles Edward Elric). The comedy scenes (particularly the faces) need some consistency, but there's no question that Itoh has good comedic timing. Surprisingly, nudity (and other things) is weaved into the story in a scene-enhancing (and gut-busting) way. It earns Monster Collection an M for Mature rating, but it's not needless fanservice.

Text/SFX:
Error-free, the text is fairly straightforward, if not somewhat cheesy and uninspired ("Don't worry anymore. Go to a brighter place."). Especially in the summoning spells, Itoh falls back on overused Romance languages ("Abra la puerta!") and uses laughable attacks like, "Double Slice Power Attack!" To make matters worse, some slang doesn't even make any sense ("I'm going to call in the big guns!" when they're living in a medieval world), though the run-of-the-mill dialogue does manage to get the point across. SFX is inconsistently translated, but it's actually not distracting. Being an action-oriented work, translating most of the SFX was a smart decision.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Summoner-in-training Kasche Arbadel attends a school of sorcery where she has a reputation for being slightly more trouble than the average sorcerer. In fact, she's nearly bankrupted the summoning department through the sheer number of times she's destroyed school property in summons gone awry. Fortunately, she has the requisite redeeming qualities of any hapless heroine: talent, empathy and morals. When Kasche discovers the theft of an ancient and priceless relic, it's up to her to retrieve it (since every other student is injured, depressed or otherwise occupied). This stolen treasure " the 'Guardian of Knowledge' " supposedly leads to the legendary Encyclopedia Verum, which contains the true names of every beast (required for summoning).

Calling in wolves to track the scent of the thief, she stumbles onto him in an abandoned cabin wherein a frenetic battle ensues. Due to a complete accident (where she falls on his face), Kasche actually captures the thief for interrogation. But he turns out just to be a hired gun. The real enemy is his client, a ruthless (and not quite human) summoner from the land of Wallace, whose ruler intends to rebel against the reigning monarch. Later that night, this nameless summoner unleashes a Lamia (a snake-woman) to kill his only witness, Cuervo " the unexpectedly decent mercenary-for-hire. Luckily, Cuervo is also lethal in combat and, with Kasche's help, releases the Lamia (named Natasha) from the evil summoner's control, gaining her as an ally. But the trouble's not over yet! The party of three is next confronted by a Necrogolem, a vile skeletal creature that kills and absorbs the living into itself.

As it happens, Cuervo is actually made of heroic stuff. Despite being hopelessly outmatched, he entreats the two women to escape and prepares himself for a fight to the death in their place. It's here that Kasche takes the spotlight and proves that she's not all talk. Through a coordinated group effort, she buys enough time to summon a fearsome creature of her own. But even if she does win this battle, it's only one of many. There's a war brewing and the true face of evil lies in wait for Kasche in the distant land of Wallace...

Comments
Itoh takes a trite, overused premise and transforms it into a story worth tuning into. Granted, it's unfortunately titled and the synopsis sounds like an RPG on paper, but it has so far exceeded my expectations. In particular, Kasche and Cuervo are a comedic dream team and despite their cliché packaging " the hapless, overeager female summoner and the good-at-heart mercenary " manage to make a killing together. Best of all, Itoh isn't afraid to be gutsy in the humor (be it Griffon droppings or dirty thoughts). In fact, the only unnecessary character so far is Natasha, who exists to look adorable (which she does) and give Kasche a female companion to confide in. But I have hope that she has a story worth telling. Happily, the rest of the cast is equally brimming with potential.

Monster Collection introduces two likable leads with great chemistry and creates an intriguing, dynamic world to house them in. Highly recommended.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: CMX
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 174
ISBN: 1-4012-0650-6
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Monster Collection