Project Arms Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Writer/Artist:Ryoji Minagawa and Kyoichi Nanatsuki
Translated by:Katy Bridges
What They Say
From the creators of SPRIGGAN comes a new tale of nano-machines, cybernetic assassins, powerful telekinetic opponents, and a secret organization dedicated to bring forth the next evolution of man. The story centers around Ryo Takatsuki, who thought himself a pretty normal high school student, until he learns that his arm has been secretly replaced with a powerful nano-machine driven weapon called ARMS by a mysterious organization. Ryo is quickly ripped from his ordinary life into one of mayhem where he must face those who try to obtain his power by any means possible.
Cover art is from the original Japanese volume which features Ryo and Hayato in sort of an action scene with what looks to be silver claw marks across the book. It's pretty bland, but the cover definitely lets the reader know that this is an action title. Viz's "Project Arms" logo is presented at the top of the page with the Japanese title above and the English volume subtitle underneath. A small black bar with the Viz action logo streaks the top while another black bar streaks the bottom with the creators' names and volume number. There is a volume header that is just a black page with a scary little picture of Ryo with the Viz logo again on the page along with the subtitle. There's a tiny table of contents that is crammed onto the book info page. Each of the chapter headers feature the chapter number along with the title, which is integrated in with the artwork. There are no extras in this volume.
The characters in Project Arms are ugly. I don't see anyone reading this title for the attractive characters. However, I believe that the designs fit well with the grotesque artwork of the ARMS and fits the dark mood of the story. Character designs seem to be a mix between Otomo's Akira and Yoshida's Banana Fish with extra ugliness thrown in. Heads can sometimes look a little misshapen and Ryo has quite possibly the worst hair I've even seen. Imagine a helmet head blended with a mullet lined by the most supreme of sideburns.
While the designs may be ugly, the facial expressions are done very well and match the dialogue and situations, breathing some life and personality into the characters. Each of the main ARMS are distinguishable from each other. I especially like a lot of the close-ups they do during the dramatic moments, as the artwork on the faces has a nice detail to it and adds to the emotion of the scene.
Backgrounds for the most part are quite detailed. The action scenes have less BG detail, but the scenes really pop right off the page. There were times where I swear I could hear the crack of bones after a vicious punch. There’s a lot of blood being splattered during the action scenes, which adds a certain intensity without it feeling overused. The panels during the action scenes are really interesting in that it makes the reader feel like the action is going into slow motion, and then usually explodes into a two page shot, adding a nice flare.
The volume is printed right to left in the B6 size. SFX are left as is with a glossary in the back of the book with page number followed by the romanji text and the English translation next to it. There aren’t too many SFX, so constant flipping isn’t an issue, but there were times during a few scenes where the SFX mattered and it would have been nice to have them on the actual page.
Solid job done by the translating and adaptation crew. I never once felt lost or confused with the flow of the dialogue. There was a small error where the ‘K’ was left off of ‘Katsumi’. Most of the dialogue also fit each character’s personality really well also. Hayato is always talking like a hot head, Takeshi is unsure of himself and is the insecure one, while Ryo is trying to always rationalize with everyone in a calm, logical voice. When the characters were not in panel, it was easy to distinguish who was talking based on the tone of the dialogue.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
While reading Project ARMS, I found myself going down a familiar path that has been traveled many times before. A secret organization is trying to capture a few select young kids that all have some sort of strange power. In this title, the secret organization is the Egrigori, and the kids are called ARMS, a select few who had nano-machines implanted in their body that allow an appendage or two to transform into a highly specialized weapon.
The first ARMS that we meet is Ryo Takatsuki. He is an average high school kid who is very laid back and is called a “lazy lump” by his mother. However, Ryo’s vast knowledge of survival and hunting skills (that were taught to him by his father who is currently not present) and the strange ability that allows his right arm to heal almost instantly, definitely does not make him average. Ryo has a good friend in Katsumi, a young girl who knows Ryo quite well and may play into a romantic role later on. For now though, Katsumi is nothing more than kidnap bait and she does provide some semi-humorous one-liner observations.
We then get to meet the second ARMS, Hayato Shingu, the transfer student who is the clichéd hot-headed shounen character that is out for revenge. His arrival triggers some strange sensations in Ryo’s ARMS, which is due to the fact that they are resonating. Hayato mistakes Ryo for one of the Egrigori, and of course their meeting starts off on the wrong foot and they start to fight. In fact, all of the character introductions in this volume seem to involve fighting somehow. Hey, it is an action title, right?
Hayato and Ryo find out there are two more ARMS out there, and unsurprisingly one of them gets transferred to their high school, Takeshi Tomoe. Takeshi is different from Hayato and Ryo in that his ARMS are actually on his legs. Takeshi is a kid who has been bullied his whole life due to his insecure personality. However, he’s been transferred many times do to violent behavior, which was usually the result of Takeshi unwillingly unleashing his ARMS onto the unsuspecting bullies. His introduction is done once again via a bully fight, albeit this time in protection of his sister, but I thought it was the best action sequence in the book. There is some pretty nice panels of Takeshi spinning around like he’s break-dancing in Brooklyn, delivering roundhouse after roundhouse to the bullies.
It becomes quite apparent by the end of the book that there is some sort of puppet master behind the scenes pulling all the strings, and the three ARMS are nothing more than marionettes for the Egrigori. The Egrigori seem to be an all powerful organization that controls a lot of the local, and possibly national, governments and institutions. They are the reason all three ARMS are in the same high school together. As the Egrigori start to close in on the school, putting the lives of the other innocent high school students in danger, will the three ARMS rise up and take control of their powers and fight? Or will the Egrigori be too much for them to handle?
Even with the clichéd shounen sci-fi storyline, I found myself enjoying a lot of what this first volume had to offer. The three ARMS character really balance each other out, instead of being a crew of fight posing hot heads looking for the next fight. Ryo tackles situations with logic and reason, and it’s fun to watch him use his survival skills to get out of situations without killing anyone. Takeshi comes off as a bit too whiny, but I hope it’s just insecurity that will allow his character to grow later on. Seeing Katsumi turn into nothing but kidnap bait in this first volume was a bit disappointing, as I’m hoping the relationship between her and Ryo can be flushed out a bit more. In fact, the titles could use a few strong female types.
Project ARMS is under Viz’s Action label, and deservingly so. The action scenes really jump right of the page, and the nice stylized slow-down panels before each big action scene really add a nice dramatic effect. The action is probably the big selling point of this first volume as it’s not very clear as to what is going on.
There does seem to be a lot of promise with the Egrigori controlling everything behind the scenes. As they continue to close in on the three ARMS, it becomes pretty easy to root for them to come out on top, especially with Ryo as he is a likeable character. The sci-fi aspect still isn’t very clear, but I hope that begins to be explained a bit more.
Project ARMS so far is a nice dark and moody sci-fi manga, filled with conspiracies and mysteries, that I believe can find a nice home amongst fans of this type of violent shounen action. In a market that is getting more and more dominated by SJ and shoujo titles, Project ARMS finds a nice little niche and I hope it stays there.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
Orientation: Right to Left