Tactics Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Julie Rosato
Review Date: Thursday, April 19, 2007
Release Date: Sunday, April 01, 2007

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Sakura Kinoshita & Kazuko Higashiyama
Translated by:Christine Schilling
Adapted by:Lianne Sentar

What They Say
Kantarou is a folklore scholar living in the Taisho period who moonlights as an exorcist solving the problems of ghosts and demons, all with the help of Haruka, the legendary demon-eating tengu!

The Review
TOKYOPOP gives new life to this once-aborted release...and there is much rejoicing.

Those people familiar with ADV's previous release of this series will recognize the key elements used by TOKYOPOP here. The original logo style (used properly with all lowercase letters) and cover art of Kantarou sitting in a tree is used again, with some minor design changes. The addition of a blue background doesn't work so well with the color scheme, but it does help to distinguish this edition. TOKYOPOP's redesign of the cover befits their own catalog style, but the similarities are enough that those who won't be replacing their earlier copies should have basic continuity in the packaging. Extras inside include a color plate and several translator's notes.

tactics' artwork is very fitting. It's attractive and incorporates well the flair of a fantasy title, a traditional sense of style, and humorous exaggerations. Characters are lovingly rendered, with plenty of attention to clothing detail and facial expressions. The creators make good use of panels and layout, keeping pages full but never too crowded. The art rarely feels flat; inks and contrasting tones give pages surprising dimension, and thankfully this is among the better reproduction jobs by TOKYOPOP.

SFX are handled in seemingly random occurrences and methods, as is becoming something of the norm for TOKYOPOP. Most SFX make the cut in some fashion, but as long as others are left out, I will continue to grade this category under an A.

There was considerable grumbling among the fan community at the time over the first adaptation of this volume; while I can't speak to their accuracy, in comparing the two versions there are virtually no panels that duplicate text exactly. The script here is a bit wordy at times, but conveys a clarity some might have found missing before (and we finally know the reason behind the title of the series!). It's free from major errors and has a decent flow overall. The sense of voice between the characters might have been a little weak early on but picked up towards the end of the book. Some honorifics have been retained, and the inclusion of Japanese terms like youkai, tengu or Amefuri-kozou (a rain ghoul) set this translation apart and helps maintain the cultural vibe inherent to the series.

Contents:(please note the following may contain spoilers)
Folklorist Kantarou is a one-stop shop for all needs supernatural. He's able to see youkai of all kinds and has befriended them ever since he was a child. He has long dreamt of finding the powerful demon-eating tengu (and naming him Haruka), and all the time spent searching has made him quite the expert in the field. But like any author worth his salt in a manga, Kantarou spends a lot of time avoiding his editor " solving supernatural mysteries and "exterminating" demons keeps him pretty busy (and it pays better)!

It's during the first case here, in which a young girl suffers attacks by her demon-possessed fiance, that Kantarou finally finds and releases the demon-eating tengu. With Haruka by his side, Kantarou's ready to take on any and all youkai troubles. When several local youkai go missing, Kantarou checks out a shady sideshow with the help of Haruka and Youko, his resident maid fox spirit. Finally, Kantarou and Haruka investigate a cultish religious group far out in the hills, to much silliness and a little bit of sentiment.

The supernatural occurrences are the main focus here, but are very nearly upstaged by the various antics and cajoling between Kantarou and his household of creatures. Things are episodic here in the beginning as the characters are introduced, but the friendship between Kantarou and Haruka, as well as their adventures together, look likely to expand into a greater storyline.

If you're like me, you first read this book back in 2004 and have steadfastly hung onto your two volumes, with hopes of seeing past them someday. We will, thanks to TOKYOPOP, but maybe you're wondering if it's worth double-dipping?

TOKYOPOP has clearly gone to some lengths to make this new edition new. The inclusion of the color plate is a nice incentive, (and one that I hope continues), but perhaps more important is a well-developed script and a feeling of greater authenticity for a story so rooted in recognizable cultural elements. The translator's notes are informative by TOKYOPOP standards and evidence additional folklore nods in the story. The complete revamp of the script will be a plus for some, but it's worth pointing out that no story elements are actually changed by the new translation.

If you missed this series the first time around, don't pass up a rare second chance! This is an enjoyable story that blends friendship and fantasy with cultural interest, crossing several genres at once. The characters are spirited (no pun intended) and Kantarou's devotion to the seemingly-aloof Haruka makes you root for their burgeoning friendship from this very first volume. tactics is easily recommendable as a light, fun read.

Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A-
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 1-59816-960-7
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left