Lagoon Engine Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, January 15, 2005
Release Date: Saturday, January 01, 2005
Translated by:Alethea and Athena Nibley
What They Say
Yen Ragun, who tries very hard to be the smartest boy in the entire district, is constantly tied with Ayato Housui. He comes home from school one day to find that Ayato is his cousin and will be living with his family indefinitely. But he doesn't have time to worry about that, because he and his little brother Jin are constantly undergoing training to join the family business as Gakushi. Gakushi are people who take care of ghosts, evil spirits, etc. all referred to as Maga. For their training, Yen and Jin get orders from their father and must solve clues in order to complete their mission...
Cover artwork is the same as the Japanese release, featuring some of the characters inside of toy capsules in a really bright and colorful design. The original Japanese logo is still intact in the center of the cover, with the English title subbed below it. This is different than the images that I found online at the Tokypop website where the logo was changed. The right side has the white Tokyopop stripe and the top of the book has a black strip with the text ”From the creator of D.N. Angel”. The back cover features more of the same capsule toy artwork along with the Japanese logo and English volume summary. The volume and chapter headers all retain the original Japanese logo as well. For extras there are a couple of pages of fan art from Japanese fans. At the end we get a small glimpse at a page from the upcoming volume.
With the characters being mostly in elementary school, the cute, chibi-style designs are definitely fitting. The panels and airy artwork are more shoujo inspired, which mixed with the fantasy scenes gives the feeling of a magical boy manga.
I found a lot of the artwork to be too busy and not very clean. The action scenes are really chaotic but there really isn’t a lot of detail in them. I also think that Sugisaki overuses the SFX and non-bubble text, creating a really cluttered page that is a strain on my eyes. I also felt that there was a bit too much white space and the background artwork was stale.
A really solid translation job by the team on this title. Honorifics are used, which is good since there were a couple moments where this was needed. All the proper Japanese names are also kept in place, not just for people but also the terminology. One problem I had with Yen’s dialogue is that I thought he sounded at times a bit too old for an elementary school kid, using words like “pragmatic” and “billet-doux”. The SFX are untouched, which is a good choice as there are way too many and are an integral part of the artwork, but there is no translation which I found was needed on a few occasions.
Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Lagoon Engine gets off to quite a frenetic and confusing start as we are introduced to the Ragun brothers, Yen and Jin, who are opposite personalities but together they battle Maga, or spirits. The first chapter features a really jagged pace and a battle with a Maga, which there is no setup to at all, so I had a hard time following along and deciphering what exactly was going on. The busy artwork and cluttered text also made things that much more hard to follow.
The pace begins to settle down and details are revealed with the introduction of Yen’s scholarly rival, Ayato, who Yen finds out is his cousin and that Ayato will be living at the Ragun house for a while. Yen explains the role of the Gakushi, or Maga hunters, and how they are able to capture and defeat the Maga. It seems that the Maga and Gakushi cannot see each clearly unless their real names are spoken. This is why Yen and Jin are not their real names, but Omi names, so that the Maga cannot make them materialize during battle. There is a whole lot of other RPG type of jargon explaining other aspects, but what I found interesting about this was that it seemed to heighten the theme of isolation in this story. The toy capsules, Yen’s sick heart, the girl locked away in the hospital, Ayato leaving his mother, all these things seem to point to a feeling of isolation or loneliness. The calling of a Maga’s or Gakushi’s name is recognizing another’s existence. I found this all to be pretty interesting for what on the surface seems to be another ghost hunting manga.
The bulk of this first volume deals with a classmate of Yen’s, Kirishima, who he has never seen because she is permanently staying at the hospital. While the Ragun brothers are trying to solve a job given to them by their father, Yen has an attack and is sent to the hospital where he finally meets Kirishima. Yen finds out about the tragedy in Kirishima’s life and her telling reveals some information that helps the Ragun solve the mystery of the job. This story is pretty emotional in a very simple, childlike way, but even I found myself getting a little choked up.
After getting off to an extremely rocky pace, Lagoon Engine settles down by providing a nice little emotional story while providing some time for introductions into the world of the Gakushi. I found the whole Maga/ghost-hunting setup to be a bit generic, but I think there are some interesting themes of isolation and loneliness to be explored here. The artwork is too busy for my tastes, with the action scenes being really hard to follow and enjoy. If I had to describe this manga in a couple words, I’d have to borrow the term “mahou shounen”. It will be interesting to see what this title will accomplish in a mere three volumes.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
Orientation: Right to Left