First President of Japan Vol. #04 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Sunday, June 12, 2005
Release Date: Monday, December 01, 2003
Writer/Artist:Hidaka Yoshiki/Tsugihara Ryuji
What They Say
Can the new Prime Minister of Japan prevent the destruction of his country? The fate of Asia hangs in the balance in the exciting conclusion to this political thriller!
Top manga artist Tsugihara Ryuji and political analyst Hidaka Yoshiki have come together to produce a work that seems torn from today's headlines.
In the near future, the Japanese go through a political and social upheaval. Fed up with ineffective bureaucrats and politicians, they vote for a new leader - Sakuragi Kenichiro. Before he can even take office, Asia erupts into chaos. War breaks out in Korea and in the Straight of Taiwan. The United States terminates the security treaty with Japan and allies with Russia. And Sakuragi's own political enemies try to assassinate him at home. Now the new leader of Japan and his crew of supporters must prevent Japan - and all of Asia - from sliding into anarchy!
Gustoon! does a decent job here. This volume has Sakuragi looking authoritative in front of the White House on the front cover. It's a wierd cover but this volume does have quite a bit of both so it works. The back cover has a rather smug looking Sakuragi on a gold background next to the large blurb. Gustoon! does something unique with this series by presenting the manga in B6 form despite the fact that the actual pages are in a Tall B6, so every page is sitting under a header of "First President of Japan".
Logo Check (by Megs 2003)... Its pretty nice but I still think that the logo is too large, but to honest the original Japanese covers had a large font and was busy as heck so this is not too bad.
Tsugihara really presented this series in a nice way. Backgrounds are very detailed and the occasional use of news photographs really gives the realism a step up. Personally i do not like the character designs too much (the slightly real style doesn’t really work for me especially with the extra large foreheads Tsugihara is known for.) His sense of style is pretty good, though, so it’s not all bad on the eyes.
Layouts are pretty amazing for a drama. And while there is a good amount of action in this series the layout gives a sense of tension and a fast pace through even the most dialogue filled pages. Action pages are also well done but stylized. So while the action is okay its not as detailed as say City Hunter.
Presented in right to left format this series does not have most of its SFX translated (which is typical of Gustoon! titles.) This series does not have a lot of action so you can go pages without an SFX but when you do run into them some readers could be left in the dark.
The translation for this series is possibly my favorite from Gustoon! The politics and humor mix well with the heavy drama and tension that Hidaka wrote up and Gustoon! does not miss a beat.
The GNs are also a little different from the magazine version as some of the text that was left in kana and translated in the gutters have now been overlaid. In my opinion its a good idea cause the gutters here are obviously smaller and on top of that the pace can be kept high as readers do not have to search for translations.
Contents (Watch out potential spoilers ahead):
As negotiations go on in East Asia, China itself is going through a time of discussion and reflection. Different people in power have varied views on their foreign policy and in the end a coup ends up taking control and thrusts China deep into the war in Asia. The new players in this game have a lot of influence but no political savvy and even less knowledge in regards to foreign intelligence. Soon China decides to take on Taiwan, Japan and the US to increase their power in the region and reinforce the concept of a strong communist state to its citizens.
You know what the results will be.
China has stretches itself out too thin and underestimates the abilities of America, the determination of Taiwan and the new force that is Japan behind Sakuragi Kenichiro. It has to resort to whatever means possible to keep the country under one flag but even that (nuclear attack) is thwarted by their lack of intelligence. But when things seem lost for the current Chinese administration, they send a surprise to the biggest power in the world.... They assassinate President Carradine and they literally bring in a new world order.
In Washington, old friends, Sakuragi and Spider, meet again but not as friends. The new president and the new prime minister have come together to discuss the way they see the world and how their countries fit into those ideals. Sakuragi tells Spider it will not be easy but they will have to do this as mutual partners for Japan will move foward to become independent of the United States of America.
Volume four wraps up this series with a fury - lots of action, lots of political chaos and even the deaths of a few major characters. The pace is very fast and in my opinion this series could have gone for at least another volume with all that was going on here. With the first three volumes literally setting up Sakuragi as an individual and as a politician, this volume just dives into political action. At times there is more of the supporting characters than Sakuragi as the pace is just really fast and new issues come up in every chapter. At times I felt there was just too much happening and too little Sakuragi. With disasters occurring left and right there really wasn't much time to get his perspective on everything but the drama from the other side was still pretty good.
Personally I would have liked a better ending but this one leaves the reader with their own interpretation of Sakuragi and his Japan. You can either see hope in what he aspires to do or you can see his ideals bringing ruin as there is to much chaos around him for reform. I also felt that there were a few strings left untied. You really do not get back to Sakuragi's relationships with characters in volume 1 & 2. You also do not get to see the results of the war in Korea but that could have been resolved as China appeared to have been defeated.
For those looking for a change of pace with a political seinen drama, this is one of the few you can pick up in English and its a solid one. Its not perfect by any means but where this series is good its very good. The character development of Sakuragi is intense. When you see him at the start of the series looking gruff and spent you might not imagine a man that will bring Japan close to World War III. Hidaka's story telling needs some work but his perspective as a political analyst really adds another level to the drama. You kinda have to wonder if he is serious or not as some of his situations are almost too real (ie: Darryl Salinger. ).
For those looking for less drama and more action go else where. The war scenes are decent here but they really do not dominate the storyline. So you'd end up better suited with something like RED Prowling Devil in that situation.
When I first found out that First Prez was going to be in Raijin Magazine I was really surprised. A political drama in a weekly magazine? Didn't Eagle flop?? Well it really worked. And for the few times that this was side to side with Revenge of the Mouflon I was in heaven! First Prez in some ways is like Iron Wok Jan! It's a solid manga from a genre that is not represented enough outside of Japan. It tells a decent story with a lot of tension and style and it really pulls in its readers if they accept it for what it is and not peoples' ideas of the genre. This isn't a must have for everyone like a City Hunter or a Maison Ikkoku but for mangaphiles looking to round out their collection this is one that will definitely raise a few eyebrows, make a conversation and entertain readers.
Good but not worth a full recommendation.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: Gutsoon!
Orientation: Right to Left