Gunparade March Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Friday, May 27, 2005
Release Date: Wednesday, December 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Hiroyuki Sanadura
Translated by:Javier Lopez
Adapted by:

What They Say
Continued victory is satisfying for Unit 5121, but when the realities of war fuel the pangs of hunger and the desire to live another day, will these battle-hardened teens have the strength to face failure and tragedy? Survival and triumph are not guaranteed, but count on the brave teens of the world to fight courageously in Gunparade March!

The Review
Packaging:
The cover is almost the exact same as the Japanese cover, complete with JP logo, with the exception of the creator names in the bottom right. It features a very slick looking color illustration of Mai, Hayami, and Akira. Inside there is a summary of the story so far, a volume header, and at the back a few words from Sanadura thanking everyone for buying the book. The print job is okay, although I felt that the tones were lighter than they should have been.

Art:
The artwork still feels a bit weak and generic. The character designs are for the most part androgynous, mostly due to the fact that almost every character has the same face and eyes. The awkward fanservice moments are not present in this volume, which could be either a good or bad thing.

There was a little bit more background art in this volume, which is very clean, but most panels lack the perspective that background would provide. There is plenty more action scenes here, but I found them to be a bit chaotic and hard to follow. I still find the Phantom Beast designs to be quite silly.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated and subbed next to the original text. I’ve never been a fan of this method, as I believe it creates panel clutter, which is the case here, even though it feels better overall. The dialogue translations feel a bit flat and stiff to me, with the dramatic moments feeling a bit cold. Of course, I have no idea if the original text was this way also. In the back of the book are translator notes, which is something I wish we’d see more of in translated manga.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
At the end of the last volume there was promise for an interesting take on a love story happening on the front lines of war, in fact, that was the only real interesting thing going on. The mech battles, comedy, and fanservice were all very average and unable to hold my attention. Unfortunately, it seems as though the relationship that was building gets put on the backburner, along with the comedy and fanservice, for more mech battles with the ugly Phantom Beasts.

The first couple of chapters attempt to set up the characters and their relationships in order for a future emotional climax. The base is out of food and the group splits up to search the vacant city for some. This would have been a nice opportunity to explore the settings and bleak world, but it was completely rushed over and the only thing accomplished was that Mai can’t cook. In the next chapter we are introduced to a halter-top wearing elite soldier who is supposed to be a bad ass. He ends up finding the base’s cats, who are hurt from the Phantom Beasts, which doesn’t make sense since I would think the soldiers would have known the monsters were on the base, but whatever, we move on. It ends up being an extremely filler-ish story that has ultimately no point and we never get to find out more about this elite soldier for the rest of the volume. Again, more opportunity wasted.

The rest of the volume has the kids dealing with the loss of one of their close friends. Hayami disobeys orders and is suspended after the incident, and he doesn’t return to the base after his suspension is over. Then we are thrown a complete curve ball that starts to crumble the already weak foundations of this story. Apparently Hayami was some sort of lab experiment who has escaped from captivity and killed hundreds along with blowing up the lab. He has infiltrated the Self-Defense Force, and even the Chairman knows, but he lets Hayami fight because they need soldiers. Hayami realizes that he doesn’t want anyone else to die and rejoins his friends at the front lines of battle. At this point, everything begins to unravel and focus is completely lost.

Comments
After a lackluster first volume, I had hoped things would pick up and explore more of the relationship side of things and the interesting possibilities of commentary about youth and war. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out that way. After a couple boring chapters that were meant to flush out characters, but failed, the story moves into constant action and a telegraphed climax that didn’t quite pack the emotional punch it was looking for. Also tossed to the side for the time being was the relationship between Mai and Hayami, which was very disappointing. Add in a strange turn of events surrounding Hayami’s past, and it is quite evident that focus and tight storytelling is what this manga is lacking. With only one volume to go, I’m having a hard time believing that things will take a turn for the better.



Mania Grade: C-
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: ADV Manga
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-4139-0141-7
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left