Ikebukuro West Gate Park Vol. #03 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Friday, April 22, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Ishida Ira/Aritou Sena
Translated by:Duane Johnson
Adapted by:

What They Say
In IKEBUKURO WEST GATE PARK, chaos is still the name of the game. Lucky Makoto meets the beautiful and mysterious Asumi, and "actress" with a glamorous double life. Sure, she's your typical IWGP hottie, but she's also the top-rated model on the Fairy's Garden - a teen skin website. Asumi is no stranger to the affections of her loyal Web-following... but something wicked lurks behind the latest love letters, flowers and designer cloths. Now it's up to Makoto to help catch a vile stalker before Asumi's final curtain call.
Based on the phenomenally popular live action series, IWGP - IKEBUKORU WEST GATE PARK, is one high-action hip urban street drama that'll get your adrenaline running and your toes tingling.

The Review
Like Digital Manga's other title, Worst, IWGP is already one of the better manga presentations in North America. This series is printed left-to-right in an A5 size GN wrapped in a dust jacket. On the dust jacket there is an image of new character Asumi hanging out on in front of a row of Ikebukuro's restaurants. The image, which is as a pulled back version of the Japanese cover (that features a close-up of Asumi), is also on the cover of the GN, but in black and white (this is done by a majority of Japanese publishers). The opposite cover features a group image of the main characters in this first volume hanging out in Ikebukuro above the volume description. Nice. Inside the printing is very good with sharp inking, void of tone issues, and because of the size, it is free of alignment problems. DMP also includes ads for their Bambi and Her Little Pink Gun and Worst. While some people might balk at the $12.95 price, in my opinion it is worth the excellent packaging, especially when considering some studios charge the same for sub par presentations.

The art for IWGP is wonderful. Character designs remind me of Matsuura (Yawara and Monster) works. Characters have realistic qualities in regards to proportion and form. However, the detailing of faces and expressions is so comical there is almost a surreal quality to it. Aritou's art pretty versatile as well. At times characters are drawn with thick flowing lines giving characters depth. Other times the art almost looks like a street mural, with almost brush strokes inking the scene. Costume designs are good; as there is plenty of variety and fashion sense. Action scenes are very nice and they are often presented in a way to shock the reader as they experience the cruelty of violence. There is plenty of detailed violence and some detailed nudity as well as some sex, so as the cover says it is for ages 18 and up. Background art is pretty good. Some scenes were straight out of Ikebukuro but a majority of the time the art was rather ambiguous which was a little disappointing. The layout is really good, as it flows well with the action and really gives a sense of panic and rage at times. Active layout, nice background art, cool character designs and nice fan service equals: good art!

The translation for IWGP sounds really good. First, they have kept honorifics, which really helps define the interesting relationship most of the cast has with lead character Makoto. They have also kept cultural phrases in the dialogue, and they define those phrases in gutters and super text boxes. They have done a solid job with how personalities come through in the translation. With a large cast sometimes dialogue can be pretty flat but as DMP kept honorifics and did not abuse slang original context came through well. SFX might get some attention as DMP handled these in a unique way. They are all subbed using a small font as not to compromise Aritou's great art. However, the way they translated some of SFX might confuse some readers. Some of the translations are literal so in some situations the kana for "mogu" will be "mogu" instead of "chew." But the translation would be reversed in other situations. Readers familiar with raw FX might not have a problem, but having to translate a translation might annoy some.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
The excitement never stops in Ikebukuro. So when one caper ends there is always another one that is just beginning. Such is life for Makoto. It seems as if he is the living, walking talking heath of Ikebukuro West Gate Park and if someone needs help... well, trouble seems to find him.
Trouble comes in the form of a young lady who happens to have a job as an online living doll! Her hit numbers are the envy of the industry. She has fans in the thousands sending her email, presents and cyber love. Every move she makes in her apartment is there to be shared in the ether and as a doll she appreciates all the attention she gets. Recently, she has been getting much more than attention. There appears to be someone who is trying to claim this doll for his own. He has been getting closer and closer to this girl and she wants nothing of it, for good reason. Where Makoto comes in is via an old school friend (isn't that always the way?). Seems a tomboy, turned tom-girl, is love with this doll and Makoto owes her (/him) a few favors. Helping a friend in need is what Makoto is about. And if he gets to hang out with a stunning young woman, he can call that an extra perk. First, thing first though and he has to figure a way to stalk this stalker. But in Ikebukuro that is as easy as calling a few friends that have time on their hands.

After two volumes of sexy vigilante crime drama this series is starting to hit a rut. What made the first two volumes so entertaining was how unique the stories were. The strange series of prostitute deaths tied into a revenge plot from the least likely of persons and the caper amongst friends to save an old classmate and her lover from the clutches of a drug syndicate were straight out of the movies. They were complex on many levels and had the involvement of a great set of characters each bringing their personalities to the progression of the plot. In this volume Ishida-sensei does not shock as much. The story he wrote is still very entertaining, but it is not as surreal or shocking as the previous ones. There is plenty of what made the first two volumes so good - good characters, sexual tension, violence and drama - but this was too linear for my tastes. Once I knew there was a stalker involved, in knew stalking the stalker would be the answer. Once he was threatened, I knew he was going to ramp up his game and become more dangerous. It all played out to easily; the only twist was the ending, which Ishida always seems to do so well (always hilarious). Nevertheless, one average arc does not constitute giving up on this title, for the next arc is setting up rather nicely already.

One of things I like about IWGP is how it merges a few genres together so well. On top of all that Digital Manga appears to be proud of the fact that they are able to print this "RAW" without censoring a thing. At first I wondered how this would be received, but all signs point to DMP and their Ikebukuro West Gate Park being a success. I hope that continues, because adult manga does have a market out there and it’s waiting to be fully tapped into.

Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
MSRP: 12.95
Pages: 210
ISBN: 1-56870-984-X
Size: A5
Orientation: Right to Left