Chikyu Misaki Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, October 05, 2006
Release Date: Thursday, September 01, 2005
Translated by:Jonathan Tarbox
Adapted by:Jonathan Tarbox
What They Say
Schoolgirl Makishima Misaki's life is about to get a lot more complicated in this first volume of an exciting new title! She has inherited the house that belonged to her maternal grandfather, in a small, quiet, snowy town that boasts its own local legend, the Hohopo. Moving into the house with her klutzy widower father, she soon makes new friends " including one very unusual friend: the Hohopo itself, a shape-shifting creature who looks like a small Loch Ness Monster...when he's not masquerading as the boy next door!
Chikyu Misaki isn't so much a hidden gem as it is an undiscovered island of gold. Yes, you need to read this manga.
Like all of CMX's older releases, this one also features the CMX banner across the cover, although it is much less pronounced than what I've seen with other titles. The colors on the cover are quite sharp. Inside the book, this is one of the better productions from CMX: color pages are included, the print reproduction is crisp, and the binding is not stiff like some of the other releases. Very nice overall.
As much as Iwahara Yuji's story snuck up on me, even more so did his artwork. I admit to assuming that based on the moe-inspired cover that this book would feature static, empty panels that were for pandering rather than storytelling. How wrong I was.
Iwahara's artwork features a wonderfully detailed line work that reminds me of Eyeshield 21 or even Calvin and Hobbes. Backgrounds are rich and his characters are filled with personality. If one aspect could be improved, it's that the panels can feel somewhat cluttered at times, but his clean lines more than makes up for it.
SFX are translated, using overlays but not always removing the underlying Japanese SFX. While I love the effort with SFX translation, leaving the Japanese text underneath the new SFX isn't the most appealing. The English script is solid, doing justice to Iwahara's great writing abilities with this story. There are some honorifics left intact in very appropriate places.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Coming out exactly one year ago, Chikyu Misaki is a title that has been buried under CMX's battle with TenTen and their burgeoning shoujo library. At first glance, it's easy to understand why. The undeniably cute cover with doe-eyed characters matched with a fairy tale story about shape-shifting creatures doesn't necessarily make it stand out amongst a crowd. However, one thing that creator Iwahara Yuji proves with this first volume is that you definitely cannot judge a book by its cover.
On paper, a premise mixing a coming-of-age modern day fairy tale with a sinuous kidnapping suspense story sounds like a mismatched bucket of cats and dogs. Perhaps then what is most rewarding and the greatest strength of this book is Iwahara Yuji's ability to work with this multiple layers and infuse it with a cast of characters that are instantly memorable, breathing life into them with their own distinct personalities. Topping the cast is tweener Misaki, a young heroine who tackles problems head on, speaks honestly, and has a personality which is invigorating and humorous.
After immediately discovering the legendary Hohopo, a Loch Ness type of creature which transforms into a saucer-eyed little boy when kissed by a girl, her first thoughts are to keep its whereabouts a secret from the public in order to protect the Hohopo, which she has named Neo. This part of the story follows the basic steps with Misaki and her friend keeping Neo a secret from their families, while at the same time engaging in humorous attempts to house train Neo, including toilet training. By itself, this animal rights morality tale isn't the most original, but it's Yuji's gentle pacing and feeling of wonderment that makes it work.
Layered between Misaki's tale of discovery is a separate, much more suspenseful storyline about a group of kidnappers whose getaway plane crashes nearby in Lake Hohoro. In contrast to Misaki's story, this is darker and foreshadows a world of danger coming to this small rural town, endangering the well-being of the Hohopo. It works as a nice metaphor for the cruel adult world in the coming-of-age aspect of the story, but it also adds a nice layer of mystery to suck the reader in and balance out the more slice-of-life happenings in the Makishima household.
At the end of the book, I found myself completely enamored and wrapped up in this twisting storyline and its great cast of characters. I've only mentioned Misaki and Neo, but who can forget the bumbling father and his swooning lawyer turned potential housewife. Then there's the mysterious bearded nomad who lives next to Misaki who is taking care of the busty, scheming survivor of the kidnapping plot, who now turns her goals into recovering the ransom money now buried at the bottom of Lake Hohoro. Iwahara Yuji surprises you with an unfolding storyline that is going somewhere and you can't help but want to find out where all these twist and turns will lead.
I love hidden gems. Whether it's dusting off the cover of some long forgotten title sitting abandoned on a comic shop's shelf, or receiving a secret nugget by a friend with the always tempting words, "You must read this", when I find one it is a real treat. The feeling of discovering something great and unknown invigorates me and my love for this hobby. I want to run from hilltop to hilltop, recommending all the titles in my bag of hidden gems with youthful enthusiasm and geeky abandon. Chikyu Misaki isn't so much a hidden gem as it is an undiscovered island of gold. Yes, you need to read this manga.
Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: CMX
Orientation: Right to Left