robot Vol. #02 (Mania.com)

By:Matthew Alexander
Review Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Release Date: Monday, May 01, 2006



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Range Murata
Translated by:Duane Johnson
Adapted by:

What They Say
Deep within the shifting dreamscape of ROBOT 2, old selves shed their skins to reveal new fantasies (and personalities) awakening just beneath the surface. In twisting tales that range from the gory to the shimmeringly gorgeous, femme fatales smash up the urban cityscape and skipping Lolitas ruffle their skirts and giggle flirtatiously. A rare blue diamond captures the imagination of a remote mountain village, and a wise-cracking sparrow saves the day with his "special" powers of prediction! Can a couple of lost young adventure-seekers find their way home? Will a sick little brother be saved by his adoring kid sister? In ROBOT 2 things are rarely what they seem, but the parade of stunning visuals is guaranteed to leave you gasping for breath.

The Review
Each story in this book has different strengths and weaknesses, but the grades for each category are an overall grade for the entire book. Contains nudity.

Packaging:
Robot volume two has a wraparound cover with a young girl sitting on a couch beside an older man that is taking a candid photo of her. The girl is on the front cover and the man is on the back along with a list of contributing artists. Keeping with Murata's theme for his girls, the cover girl is wearing a short dress, knee high leather boots and leather gloves. The print reproduction continues to be of high quality with nice glossy art book paper and vivid colors that pop right off the pages.

Artwork:
Robot contains short, colored stories with artwork as beautiful as it is diverse. All of the artists are very talented and incorporate their own concept for implementing the use of color to enhance their stories. In fact, I found Yasuda Suzuhito's art as one of the most striking, although it was drawn in black and white with only one or two colored items in some of the panels. This effectively pulled my attention to not only the item itself but also the lack of color in the rest of the characters' world.

The artwork ranges from the familiar manga panels with dialogue bubbles to stories consisting of a few full-page illustrations with no dialogue or narration whatsoever. Most of the art is easily recognizable as being drawn by Japanese artists with backgrounds in manga or anime, but a couple of stories look like they could have been drawn by western contemporaries and pulled from a publication like Heavy Metal. At the very least, I believe everyone should be able to find at least a couple artistic styles to appreciate in this book.

Text/SFX:
Not every story in this volume has SFX, but for those that do, the Japanese SFX remains with a smaller translation positioned nearby. The translation reads well, especially considering how many different authors contributed to this book. In the Table of Contents each author has a small comments section next to their name where they provide their thoughts for Robot or to promote one of their own projects. The authors' comments read well and I would like to give the English translator a big thumbs up for giving this section the attention it deserves. Personally, I get annoyed with translators that do a good job with the manga itself but then just kind of throw together a poorly translated letter from the author at the end of the book, making it torture to read.

Contents: (Oh yes, there may be spoilers)
Robot continues the short storytelling format with new self-contained stories and continuations of many stories from book one. The artists delivering part two of their stories in this volume do a good job of sharing more background on their worlds and characters, which helps build suspense for volume three. As for the one-shots, Flowers is an interesting and well drawn story about a young man taking the plunge to voice his love for a mystical woman worshipped as a goddess. Another love story, in an interesting water-color art style, is Stars and Blue, where a bluebird introduces a young angel boy to a lonely angel girl. House of Fish reveals a day in the life of a young restaurant waitress and "Velvet" Monochrome Version is simply a centerfold style drawing of a sexy topless woman spanning two pages. In contrast, Eventyr, What the Diamond Discovered is a fantastical tale spanning nine pages with copious amounts of narration. The diamond in this story is a large capsule containing a sprite forced to view the ugly side of human personality as she passes from one owner to another.

Shin Nagasawa delivers an anticipated background to the disease-stricken Princess of Sedouka. The Princess had resigned herself to a life of luxury, hidden in the shadows of her look-alike until death would claim her at a young age. But her faithful servant Kotarou refuses to accept her fate and begs her to travel with him in search of a cure. She accepts and once outside the palace, Juujirou makes his appearance and enters into the Princess' employ.

Shigeki Maeshima continues the air of mystery in Dragonfly. However, some of the ruling parties and information about the strange world wherein the deadly Shinigami resides are revealed. Shinigami was once an assassin trained and employed by the Clergy, but something caused her to turn against her organization and one of her former cohorts has sworn to take her down for her betrayal. But it remains unapparent as to whether or not she has sided with the enemy or simply had her fill with the Clergy.

The dungeons and dragons style Wasteland, by Yoshitoshi Abe, continues with Miu's companions searching for her. Unfortunately, Zeum and the sword-wielding Giselle are the only one's still alive, barely. But neither of them can remember who they were or why their memories were erased before they entered the dungeon maze. The blood soaking their nightmarish world slowly grows deeper as they venture into hell's bowels, but will this lead them to Miu?

Comments
Robot is a dynamic explosion of color across the normal monochrome world of manga and Robot 2 continues to impress both in style and content. Unfortunately for Murata fans, the front cover, and the pictures on the first and last pages of this book are the only illustrations done by the editor himself. But I believe there is still more than enough stunning artwork contained within to wet just about everyone's appetite. Most of the artists from the first volume reappear and continue their tales or share new ones, but there are also some new artists debuting with their own exciting styles.

The three continuing stories mentioned above are by no means the only multipart stories, but they are a few of the tales I'm enjoying the most. These and many of the other stories remain somewhat cryptic and buyers looking for strong storytelling without as much interest in artwork might want to look elsewhere. But for art fans, this series is a must buy for its' amazing visuals and variety of style.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: A
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 18 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
MSRP: 24.95
Pages: 160
ISBN: 1-56970-898-3
Size: A4
Orientation: Right to Left