Category: Freaks Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Thursday, August 18, 2005
Release Date: Friday, July 01, 2005



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Gokurakuin Sakurako
Translated by:Lindsey Johnston
Adapted by:

What They Say
The world is occupied by evil spirits preying off human weaknesses and desires. But what mortal can resist possession by these "freaks" when they make dreams reality? And what price is there to pay for the wicked union of those spirits and their human hosts? Enter Nanami Paranormal Investigations where director, Asagi Nanami, utilizes his own talents and supernatural aid to keep these spirits away from the folly of human weaknesses. But can they succeed when the fruit of evil is so sweet?

The Review
Packaging:
One thing I have noticed about DrMaster is how they have improved the presentation of what were already nice looking titles from ComicsOne. Category: Freaks is a great looking manga. Presented in a B6 sized book in right to left format, this manga looks good inside and out. The front cover has an image of the main character Nanami Asagi, wearing his cool suit Izumi. His white hair and black suit really jump off the red background he stands before. The opposite cover has mascot character/freak hunter Tokiko-chan wearing a white dress with matching white stockings standing outside Nanami's office door.

Inside the printing looks very nice. DrMaster appears to have improved on the b/w printing of color plates for these pages look clean and sharp on their nice yellow paper. I will say the print is a little dark, and that is clearly seen on the bumper art on page 104 where the logo bleeds into the dark background. Nevertheless, tone looks good and lines are pretty sharp (though they can be improved).

DrMaster includes a pair of nice extras. First, there is the original conceptual story Gokurakuin drew for another publisher four years before she formally began the series for Gentosha. This extra chapter is 50 pages long and it introduces much of the cast when they were younger. Then there is the ato-gakis, one at the start of the extra chapter and one at the end of the GN. SD Izumi should not be missed.

This title is rated 18+ and has parental advisory warnings on the front and back covers. It is shrink-wrapped and appears to be uncensored. Thank you, DrMaster.

Art:
Gokurakuin's art is very stylish and generally just plain cute. Her lines are very thing, long and sketchy. Her lines tend to give her characters a very lean look to them. Costume designs are pretty cool but unless there is a cover or chapter header, the cast is usually in their school uniforms. If there is anything I do not like about her character designs, it is her eyes. They look so empty, even though the irises have a lot of detailing. They look weird. The background art is not great. Actually, when they are drawn in they look okay but Gokurakuin does not draw them much.

The layout is solid. There is a lot of variety in perspective and point of view. Some panels even help with setting up mood and pacing, which helps a lot as this title does not have a lot of dialogue.

Text/SFX:
My history with DrMaster titles has been hit or miss - horrid in one title and excellent the next. This title happens to be one of their good ones. I did not notice any glaring typos or punctuation issues, and the translation was smooth from start to finish. Personalities came out well from the start. This is important for some of the characters tend to have to act, schmooze and manipulate their ways through their investigations showing differing persona to achieve success.

SFX are translated with subs in this series. Generally, DrMaster does this better than most studios and this series is no exception. What makes them unique is their use of smaller subs, so they rarely compromise art in their smaller sized GNs. The use of small subs also gives readers a chance to take in all of the artist's work - character art, background art, layout and writing.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Whenever humanity exhibits its weakness, spirits in the dark gather to feed on the fear, hatred and greed. Hidden in the recesses of humanity theses spirits called "freaks" prey on the downfalls of mankind and use those feelings to strengthen their contract. Violence, destruction and murder escalate as the freaks’ strength builds, while the host has his/her aggressions or suppressed needs fulfilled through the harming of the innocent and their own destruction. Eventually, power overwhelms them and these freaks often devour their hosts.

Nanami Asagi knows all too well how the freaks work. He as the director of Nanami Paranormal Investigations has seen these spirits in their various stages and forms. He makes a living hunting freaks down. With his young assistants, he uses investigative deduction, forensics and supernatural abilities to not just track down freaks but destroy them. Some might question his methods, especially since his staff appears to consist of spirits. They are “stands” beings that are between human and spirit. However, it is the stands nature to not harm humans. They are to leave humanity to its own vices. Instead they live solely to hunt down freaks.

Nanami has no reservations as to how he gets deals with freaks. He plays with them. He teases them. Sometimes he simply sends his own spirits to sniff them out of their hidden places. Ultimately, if he is paid the freak will be found and devoured, for he is also a stand - the natural enemy of the freak. Who feeds on what and why is up to him and his whims, his only requisite is to leave humanity to the humans. But he also knows that as long as there is a human race there will be freaks. Hopefully, there will be stands waiting to hunt them down.

Comments
Some people would argue that individuals often must fight the demons within them to survive. These personal demons are the root of their evil. Green eye-monsters and gluttons are two of the spirits that could grew inside us.

In Gokurakuin's Category: Freaks those demons, called Freaks, live among us. They are like the vermin and insects that live around us but tend to stay hidden until nightfall. They are not usually a problem until their numbers grow out of control or until they begin to harm the community they dwell in. Often it is mankind’s own lack of foresight that brings on the outbreaks, but humans rarely see things in that light. Freaks feed on the downfalls of man. They need humanity to live but only come out when they see those who are vulnerable and those to weak to solve their own problems. This relationship appears to be mutual at first, but eventually Freaks, like vermin, often overwhelm their hosts and therein begin the true horrors of the Freaks.

Many people deal with pests by going to an exterminator. They leave the hunting, trapping and killing to someone willing and capable of crawling in the dark where these creatures leave. People deal with Freaks by going to paranormal specialists like Nanami Asagi who not only loves the dark, but also was born to hunt down Freaks.

Gokurakuin changes the attitude of the demon hunter by creating a cast that straddle the line between human and demon by creating Stands. Nanami, a Stand, was born to hunt down Freaks and his crew, outside of Amano-kun, lives off them. So are they humans? They work for humanity and do not harm them. Are they Freaks? Alternatively, are they something beyond either of the two?

Whatever they are Gokurakuin has them using detective work and supernatural talent to solve their cases. She also infuses comedy into each case by challenging her readers’ ideas of what an investigator should and should not do or be. When was the last time you have seen a bunny-eared assistant show up to a crime scene with silverware?

Category: Freaks fills a void for investigative manga and horror manga and it does it with style, humor and eclectic cast. I hope we get to see a lot more of Nanami and his crew cause this looks like a good one.



Mania Grade: A-
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A_
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: DrMaster
MSRP: 9.95
Pages: 188
ISBN: 1-58899-300-0
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left