Baron Gong Battle Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Friday, June 10, 2005
Release Date: Sunday, February 01, 2004



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Taguchi Masayuki
Translated by:Yuri Yoshino
Adapted by:

What They Say
An Ancient Terror... REBORN!

The worst living weapon was a super creature from ancient times... the Neo Hume, and the Nazis have brought it back. Only one man has ever encountered the Neo Hume and lived... Baron Gong! The stakes are high. Their power is incredible. The destruction will be terrible. The battle to save humanity begins NOW!

The Review
Packaging:
Media Blasters is starting to impress me even more with their presentations. They have done some good ones before, however Baron Gong Battle almost seems to be designed with every one of my personal preferences. First, they used the cover art, featuring lead character Baron Gong and a random naked chick. Yup right there on the cover! AWP has placed this image under a new logo with is simply the title in bold Arial font on a black background. The opposite cover has a mosaic of panel images above the short volume blurb. All of this is done on a matted cover and in its original shinsho size, just for added measure.

Inside the printing is superb. I believe this title comes from the original Japanese printer films, so the printing is very clean. They have included the original volume header and mangaka bio at the start of the GN, with a history of BGB and a preview for volume two at the end. There are a couple character bios tossed here and there as omake bumper pages and an ad for rareFlix on the inside back cover.

Altogether, this is easily one of the better releases I have seen in a while. Right size, the original cover art, all of the extras and great printing.

Artwork:
The art of BGB is about as extreme as the plot. Characters tend to run a bit more to scale than Taguchi’s other designs (Battle Royale). Faces tend to have a lot more detail than most designs. Tons of shading and because of Taguchi’s overuse of close-ups the expressions are often comical looking but rather detailed. Characters tend to be on the beefy end. Humans are big – women have big bosoms and long legs, men are ripped with huge upper bodies and huge hair. Neo Hume on the other hand are lean, with tiny reproductive organs and long faces. Strange!

Backgrounds are very good. They are always present and paint a good picture of the terrain that is all around them. The layout is pretty active as well. All sorts of sizes are used and the perspective is all over the place. It can really give that paranoid feel that this story is all about!

For those who care there is graphic nudity (areolas and Neo Hume genitalia).

Translation/SFX:
BGB has to be the easiest title AWP has had to translate. No sexual innuendo or Latin to translate; just straight up shonen aggression. Sounds good, though a bit corny at times.

SFX are not translated. This is definitely surprising in this age, when fans have voiced their displeasure over the lack SFX translations from a few publishers in the past few years. This manga does not have a lot of SFX, but I really wish they could have been translated in some way.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Get out of the way! Shut up and get out of the way, Baron Gong is coming this way and he is tearing up the city!

Actually, Baron is fighting the battle of his life and he does not have time to spare to explain his situation right now. The "person" who is actually tearing up the city is not even human - it’s a Neo Hume! What exactly is a Neo Hume? Well, they are the next generation of human beings. They are the genetic leap in human evolution that was created by mankind as the bio-weapons for the wars of the future. The future is now and the secrets of these beings are starting to unravel. Unfortunately, as more become aware of their existence, the Neo Humes are begin to engage in plans to stake their claim on humanity.

While governments around the globe continue to cover up the existence of Neo Humes. Deferring to a position of containment instead of internment or eradication, these nations are placing their citizens in constant risk of death or injury by the hands of the few dozen mutants out on the streets. The public has no clue of the existence of Neo Humes, and their human body structure completely camouflage them.

There is one man who is fighting a personal battle against the Neo Humes. Chicago bar owner Baron Gong's life has been heavily impacted by these beings. He has seen their monstrous abilities first hand and now he is on the hunt the rid the world of them. What he does not know is that the Neo Humes are searching for him as well.

Comments
Nazi war machines, aliens, Egyptian tombs, full frontal nudity and big beefy bruisers packing major heat - that type of line-up might sound old and tired, but it usually ends up with a decent adventure and some good action. Well in BGB none of these aspects except the nudity (which is strictly of male Neo Humes) and the beefy bruisers matters. Taguchi-sensei just does not seem to think any of the other concepts are critical to this story. What could have been an adventure turned into a tournament manga and one with empty characters. Moreover he does not want to even pursue scientific logic to progress the sci-fi element of this series; instead, he moves forward with ideas that are so ludicrous they are almost comical.

I guess my biggest complaint is how shallow the lead character is. Readers are lead to believe he was a generous man, who was sympathetic to the problems of others. He was a bar owner who was a model citizen looked up to in his community. One would think his motivations for revenge would be complex. Perhaps he is saving the world for the betterment of humanity. Perhaps he revenge is only a part this reckless attack against the humanoid monsters that no one else dares confront. If this is the case, Taguchi is doing a good job hiding all that. Gong is reckless, reclusive and not at all calculating. He has a single track mind, and Taguchi even makes fun of that. Unfortunately, Gong is just that an uncontrollable monster capable of causing as much destruction as those he is hunting down.

The world this is set in is unbelievable as well. For such a big threat the Neo Humes are simply allowed to roam the streets as they please. Given the destruction and death they cause it seems illogical that no one has attempted to contain or destroy these monsters. I understand how this is a major plot theme, however Taguchi takes this idea too far. I mean Baron Gong a bar owner from Chicago is the only person against a battalion of walking talking killing machines! Where are the cops protecting civilians? They are after Baron Gong! Where is the government? Every official, everywhere is sitting back watching this go down. Where are the others also looking for revenge? At home crying with their teddy bears or they are being ignored by BaronGong himself, who is too selfish to think of anyone but himself.

It is the world versus Baron Gong. That alone could be cool, but Gong just does not have the right personality. Moreover, I honestly feel Taguchi does not have the talent to do better either. Battle Royale suffers from some of this, as it tends to shock more than captivate and the characters are not developed as well as the novel. Too many factors against this series at this point and not even excellent packaging can save it. However it is early, so I'll give it another shot (possibly a good idea cause Gong might go after me if I didn't).



Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: B-
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: AW Productions
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 1-58655-576-6
Size: Shinsho
Orientation: Right to Left