Maniac Road (aka Manii Road/Road of Maniac) Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Thursday, February 03, 2005
Release Date: Friday, October 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kurihashi Shinusuke
Translated by:Joanna Schug
Adapted by:

What They Say
With the Maniac Road store now open for business, it soon becomes the high point of Akihabara as Takezou strives to make it the best otaku shop around. Things heat up when a formerly famous now-washed up sculptor shows up at the store and finds inspiration in Aoba, discovering within her form the perfect new sculpture! Then it's off to the Winter-con amateur comics convention, but when the shipment of comics does not show up on time for the opening, tempers flare and it takes a little fancy foot work by Takezou to smooth everything out.


The Review
Packaging:
Presented in a B6 this ComicsOne series is in right-to-left format. C1 uses the most of the original packaging used by Media Works. They have kept the original cover art featuring the entire main cast expressing this time wearing their favorite cosplay costumes. C1 also keeps the original theme of the Japanese logo. The title has changed slightly from "Road of Maniac" to "Maniac Road" but they kept the original design with kana. It's a good move from C1 as they have had some mixed results with original logos in the past. The opposite cover has a cute SD image of Itsuki napping in a snail costume above the large volume description.

The printing looks pretty good. Screen tone in particular does not suffer from the distortion present in other C1 titles. As this GN is practically the same size as the Media Works printing I did notice any alignment problems that would have come up when enlarging the scans. Inside ComicsOne includes the original volume header but in black and white instead of color. At the end of the GN there is a long ato-gaki and a few ads: Infinite Ryvius, High School Girls and Imperfect Hero.

Artwork:
Kurihashi's character designs are not very fancy but they look good and work very well for this genre. He has every base covered - short young genki girl, flat chested but long legged high school girl, tall young yamamoto nadeshiko type, glasses wearing girl, variety of otaku and then the pretty boy type. He designs all of these without much detail, using thin but sharp lines that look equally good when characters are far in the background or positioned in a close-up. What I noticed is that his eyes in particular rarely lose much detail no matter what the angle or position (some mangaka tend to simplify faces in certain angles but Kurihashi rarely does that). Ever so often he may even turn to a sketchier look. Eyes tend to get more detailing and his jaw-lines become stronger in these images. As cosplay plays a role in this first volume, Kurihashi has a good range of costumes. He admits that he did not design all of them, but the designs are an interesting mix of a variety of popular looks - succubus, bunny girl, robot cat-girl, commando - are all here and look really nice on his cast.

Kurihashi does not have great backgrounds. Actually his best happen to be photographs of Akihabara that he placed his character art over. But his layout is pretty impressive. He uses a lot of manpu to set a feeling of otaku passion, which is focused and very strong. Because of this there are situations where manpu will overpower the character and background art, filling panels with a variety of FX making readers focus on the FX instead of the rest of the panel.

Translation/SFX:
There are a few grammatical errors and typos here and there, which is really frustrating, as ComicsOne always seems to have problems with this. They have also been inconsistent with names and terms. I wondered about their research/editorial staff when they a manga publisher cannot get manga/anime fandom terms correct. SFX are translated with subs in this series. Generally ComicsOne does this better than most studios and this is no exception. What makes them unique is their use of smaller subs so they rarely compromise art in their smaller sized GNs.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The first volume of Maniac Road showed how many paths one can take to be an otaku. This volume shows just how diverse this world has become and how much it has evolved through the years.

-There was a time when otaku were happy just making models out of casts. There would be plenty of work put into creating a pose, coloring and detailing. That would eventually evolve into something far more expressive - doll making. Doll making meant a variety of poses, costumes and parts. Argh... the possibilities are endless! -Role playing games were once paper, dice and math. Then the math became harder and harder and then impossible unless you have degrees in mathematical theory. Eventually the hit points, magic defense and weapon agility were all calculated by video games.

There is no doubt that along the maniac road there are a large variety of directions an otaku can turn to fill their collectors need. But there are times that otaku forget that their passion is dependent on suppliers and their ability to continue to produce items that are up to otaku standards. There will be times when vendors must go to extremes to make a name for themselves in this volatile market. Then there will be moments where demand overwhelms the available supply, sending otaku off to new searches. Maintaining a balance is critical to retain and expand a market share. Takezou knows just how to keep his place in the market... by remembering the past, looking for the future and having as much fun with the present as possible.

Comments
What would you do if you had a chance to run an otaku shop? Would you focus on anime? Would you dedicate plenty of shelf space to manga? Would you sell doujinshi? What would you do about models? Do not forget about all of those games based on anime and manga? Oh and some companies are even doing novels now, what about them?

There is almost too much to cover if you want to make it all-inclusive, but if you want to make a successful otaku shop, you cannot forget any otaku no matter how smelly! Takezou wants to show his new business partners not just how to keep customers but also how to attract new ones. There are risks to be taken, and sometimes it means extraordinary amounts of work but the rewards can be very good. The girls, one by one, are learning this, but does putting in overtime mean Takezou can just forget about being a human being. If Aoba has any say: NO!

After reading this volume, I found myself worrying about the uncertainty surrounding ComicsOne right now. I know I have seen release dates for some of their titles moving over to Dr Master, but when there are titles like this (or Iron Wok Jan) involved I get a little anxious. ComicsOne found themselves a gem in Maniac Road. It really tells a tale of the world of Japanese fandom... the whole world of fandom. Many of us forget or do not realize how extensive it is. There is much more to it than anime and manga.

There is actual history around this culture many of us are fascinated with. There are games, models, crafts and other less tangible aspects to it that people do not even know about. What Kurihashi tries to express in this volume is how quickly it evolves and grows, as well. With technology and more tolerance being an otaku means accepting and creating as much as it can mean collecting and obsessing. Maniac Road is one of those stories every otaku needs to experience (right next to Animeigo’s OVA Otaku no Video), if only C1 could have not had all the typos. Now the wait begins.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: C-
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: DrMaster
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 204
ISBN: 1-58899-014-1
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left