Metro Survive Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, May 22, 2008
Release Date: Thursday, February 28, 2008
Translated by:Stephen Paul
Adapted by:Ailen Lujo
What They Say
Mishima is your average spineless pushover, working as a repairman for the Exopolis Tower, Tokyo's largest and hottest high-rise business and entertainment building. He promises to come home in time to celebrate his son's birthday, but when he lets his pushy boss saddle him with overtime, the task takes him all night.
On the morning subway train heading home, a massive earthquake strikes and collapses both Exopolis and its underground train lines. Now Mishima is trapped deep underground with the other passengers of the train, some of whom are less than cooperative. Will he be able to take the initiative for once and lead them all to freedom, or will they starve in their underground prison?
Have you ever found yourself wishing that your encyclopedic knowledge of construction safety laws would save the day in the face of complete disaster?
Poor Mishima; despite all he's been through in his job, he can't even manage to secure the front cover position in his own manga. Instead, we're greeted with a drawing of a slightly-bloodied Sachi in front of a bare white backdrop, with Mishima's ruffled portrait relegated to the back cover and crowded out by the story summary. Things aren't looking much better for him in the manga's opening pages: the introductory pages, which Mishima features so prominently in, have been reduced here to a dark and barely-readable black-and-white mess.
The good news, though, is that DrMaster's packaging is respectable throughout most of the rest of the book. This release uses DrMaster's standard glossy cover with French flaps, which adds a classy touch to the package. Those opening pages aside, the black-and-white artwork is generally sharp and clean, with good contrast during the many dark subway scenes.
There are no extras, unless you count a couple of ads for DrMaster's other manga properties.
Most of the action in this volume comes in the form of structural collapses, and Fujisawa clearly put a lot of focus into this aspect of the artwork. His industrial and architectural designs -- and their subsequent destructions -- are appropriately detailed and menacing, and they set a suitably dark tone for the story. The occasional cross-sectional and force-diagram views are silly, and the character designs are sometimes a little exaggerated and stereotypical (you can pick out the two otaku before they even say a word); but in general, the art is attractive enough and does what it needs to do.
I have no complaints with the translation, either in terms of grammar or in terms of readability. DrMaster sticks with a couple of basic comic typefaces throughout the manga, which keeps things legible.
Japanese SFX are translated inline, while honorifics are either removed or converted to English equivalents ("Mr.", "Miss", etc.).
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Despite working in the newest and most modern office building in Tokyo, Shogo Mishima's life is about as far from glamorous as you can get. As a member of Expolis Tokyo's woefully understaffed and overworked maintainence crew, Mishima has been forced night after night to work overtime, much to the detriment of his family life. It doesn't help that Mishima is completely spineless and unable to turn down his boss's orders; Mishima is even willing to miss his child's birthday at his boss's request.
All of these problems fade into the background, however, when a sudden earthquake hits the train that Mishima's riding on his way home. After Mishima and the frightened passengers scurry from the train, Mishima discovers that his worst fears have come true: in the rush to open Expolis Tokyo as soon as possible, the construction crew cut corners in every way possible. The construction crew's shortsightedness has left the train's passengers stranded below the tower in a crumbing station, without even the structural reinforcements and emergency exits that are supposed to be mandated by Japanese law.
The group's only hope for survival is Mishima, who's familiar enough with the ins and outs of train stations to know how they can escape to safety. Because of the massive safety violations in the station's construction, this turns out to be easier said than done: before the group makes it to the surface, they have to deal with such deadly obstacles as rising water and collapsed ceilings. And even if they finally get to the surface, there's no reason to believe that the Expolis Tokyo tower itself has fared much better than the subway beneath it...
If there's one cliché that manga plots return to time and again, it's wish fulfillment. Countless titles dump their faceless heroes and heroines in unlikely situations that their respective audiences can only fantasize about -- usually involving members of the opposite sex who throw themselves at the hapless protagonist in waves. But safety inspector wish fulfillment? That's a new one to me.
And that's effectively what the first half of Metro Survive turns into: a contrived series of events strung together to point out that you -- yes, you, lowly and underappreciated Japanese salaryperson! -- could save the day during a total disaster, if you're only willing to apply your mundane workplace skills to the unlikely obstacles that await you. (That, and don't ever promise your wife that you'll absolutely make it home for your kid's birthday; if Hollywood has taught us anything, it's that promises like that always end in fatal tragedies.) As someone who's not exactly in this target demographic, I can't really say I got much enjoyment out of the manga's elaborate setup sequence, except for a few unintentional laughs. If I ever find myself having to act as an impromptu hero, I'd sincerely hope that my special powers turn out to be more interesting than knowing how to operate emergency exits.
Things fortunately take a turn for the better once Mishima and the group make their way out of the train station and into the office complex. The group gradually develops from a faceless crowd of victims into a slightly more diverse cast with actual personalities, fears, and inter-personal conflicts. Sure, Fujisawa lifts heavily from Lord of the Flies here; but if you're going to borrow plot points from something, that's not a bad choice to go with. And for what it's worth, I was at least entertained by these later chapters.
This volume of Metro Survive isn't a particularly deep or intelligent read, and it sometimes takes itself more seriously than it really deserves to. But for readers who're looking for a basic, high-concept disaster story and can overlook a rocky start, this release should fit the bill nicely.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 15 & Up
Released By: DrMaster
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Metro Survive