Testarotho Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Jarred Pine
Review Date: Thursday, December 15, 2005
Release Date: Thursday, September 01, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Sanbe Kei
Translated by:Akira Tsubasa
Adapted by:

What They Say
Converting heretics to the church of Arsenal is a difficult and sometimes deadly task, and Inquisitor Garrincha is the best Neo Arsen has to offer. It's no wonder the man has scores of enemies among non-believers and those faithful to his church. When an entire village of heretics is found dead, Garrincha and his entourage are brutally captured, and he's charged with the massacre. Now, freeing him and clearing his name is up to his fiercely loyal Rotho, led by the gun-slinging Leonedus — but what if he doesn't make it in time?

The Review
Set in a fictional world in the middle of rampant inquisitions, Testarotho is a flashy action title featuring stylish characters with a decent bit of substance to chew on.

Packaging:
The cover features a color illustration of Leonedus and Capria with good looking printing, but the CMX logo and cover effects add a bit of clutter. There are 8 color pages included at the beginning of the book. The print reproduction is good, looking sharp with no fading or major tone distortions. Extras include a 3-page manga commentary from the creator and a 4-page preview of the next volume.

Art:
The artwork reminds me of Nightow’s Trigun or Itoh’s Pilgrim Jager, although slightly less angular than both. Character designs feature a lot of bearded, brooding men and curvaceous women wearing stylish costumes, giving the story that fantasy appeal. The backgrounds features a good amount of detail and the action sequences are quite flashy with very fluid panel direction.

Text/SFX:
SFX are translated by placing imitating English text in the panel with the original art in place. I’m not a fan of this method as I believe it just creates more clutter, and having English text on top of JP SFX in places just looks messy. Some of the SFX are completely retouched with blocky text. The translation reads clearly and the adaptation is done very well, the tone of the dialog matching the inquisition setting.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Even though I do not practice or believe in any religion, I have always found myself very much entertained by stories that are set in quasi-religious periods or steeped in its themes. This is especially true with stories that highlight the darker and more fantastical aspects of Catholicism or the real-life conflicts like the various inquisitions. More often than not, the stories are vast and epic with lots of interesting characters with lots of possibilities for good conflict.

The story of Testarotho is set in the fictional nation of Neo Arsen, where a group of selected individuals, called Rotho, carry out the suppression of heresy against the Arsenal religion under the orders of the feared Inquisitor Garrincha. Capria is the newly assigned Rotho who is fresh out of the nunnery, the first in three years and rare woman to be promoted. She is in for a shock at the horrors and carnage that surrounds the inquisitions and is the wet rookie on the team. In her group is the doctor/priest Socrates and the sulking, man with a dark past named Leonedus. Together they travel town to town eradicating all Corinthian heretics, especially ones from the sect called Materia.

Even though the first character we meet is Capria, it is pretty evident early on that most of the focus of this story will surround Leonedus--he’s got the most scars, the bad attitude, and of course the big gun. Capria is a useless rookie who spends most of her time as kidnap and fanservice bait, which is in contrast with the rest of the team who are quite the skilled professionals (and of course, male). Leonedus stylishly swings around his gigantic gun as he mows down heretics in order to protect his master, Inquisitor Garrincha, and the Arsenal belief that unification of all under one dogma will result in peace. He carries a lot of emotional scars, both mentally and physically (evidently he’s a cutter), executing his orders with both pain and pride. He makes for an interesting character that, along with everyone else in this world of oppression, is just fighting for what he wants to believe is the truth. If you like dark, sulky, macho men with secret, painful pasts and big weapons, chances are you’ll love Leonedus.

As the story progress, more history is brought to the table surrounding Leonedus as a childhood friend from his past catches up with him in the form of the scantily clad assassin Sabati, a who fled Arsenal and turned traitor with Materia. My only worry after each action sequence is that a lot of the interesting undercurrent with the religious conflicts and themes like truth, belief, and self-righteousness will be washed away by the stylish gun blasts and flying sharp objects. The inquisition is a pretty grim setting with a blurred line between right and wrong, but I couldn’t help but think a lot of that was put on the back burner in order to showcase stylish action sequences. There is some good potential here that I hope is not just wasted on aesthetics.

Comments
Part action, part historical fantasy, Testarotho so far presents an enjoyable story that possibly relies a bit too much on flashy violence rather than really exploring the conflicts of the heretic inquisitions. Leonedus is a typical brooding action hero, complete with a painful past, who makes the story interesting as well as the action sequences exciting. The story has potential, but I wonder with 4 volumes how much it will execute on that. In the meantime, enjoy the big guns and violent setting of the inquisitions.



Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 17 & Up
Released By: CMX
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 172
ISBN: 140120743x
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left