Knockout Makers Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Ron Quezon
Review Date: Thursday, July 31, 2008
Release Date: Wednesday, January 30, 2008



Creative Talent
Writer/Artist: Kyoko Hashimoto
Translated by: Jerimiah Bourque
Adapted by: Jerimiah Bourque

What They Say
There's an urban legend buzzing around about a mysterious group known as The Knockout Makers. As legend has it, these individuals accept commissions and requests to make your average to pretty girl a knockout! Here are the true stories of the Knockout Makers endeavors to achieve beauty, and the trials and tribulations teenage girls must endure.

The Review
Packaging:
The front cover has the Knockout Makers against light blue and light red stripes on a white backdrop.  Toshihiro and Nobuo are in uniform on the cover, and sandwiched between them is a shirtless Ryouhei.  The TOKYOPOP logo is on the top right side in bright fuchsia and there are stars and stripes running down the side.  Top center has the Knockout Makers title and the author’s name and a big, white Roman numeral one is lower left. 

The back cover has a smaller version of the title and an easy to read summary.  TOKYOPOP’s “Leading the Manga Revolution” tag is to the right in bold fuchsia.  The Knockout Makers are beneath the summary with a make-up brush, a mirror, and a pair of scissors.  At the bottom is a fuchsia rectangle with the Comedy genre rating, UPC symbol, and ISBN label.

Overall, the packaging could be improved on many levels.  The white, light blue, and fuchsia color scheme looks more like an American flag theme than a makeover comedy.  The front cover doesn’t give a good indication of what the title is about (especially with a half naked Ryouhei).  The pages don’t stick to each other, but feel thin and might easily tear.  The printing is muddy and some of the details are hard to make out (i.e. the pocket on Nobuo’s vest).

Extras include short character profiles between the chapters, a thank you note from the author, and a two page “Bonus Arrange” side story.  There is also a table of contents listing the chapters.  Please note, the pages themselves are not numbered.

Artwork:
The three Knockout Makers are drawn like models with slender and handsome features.  Nobuo is exceptionally tall and has dark hair.  Ryouhei is the one with blond hair, the ever-serious face, and longer arms and fingers than the other two.  Toshihiro is the youngest and has the boyish cute face.  The author likes to use chibi and dream sequence versions of the K.O.M. (the angelic Ryouhei, Nobuo wandering in the desert, etc.) to highlight comedic effects through out the manga.  These parts of the manga (especially the demonic fitness instructor Ryouhei) fit in well with the storyline.

The clients of each story look unique, with various body types and facial expressions.  The clients and background characters are drawn with realistic proportions (no oversized breasts or biceps here).  Unfortunately, I am a bit disappointed with the clients’ makeovers.  They do come out looking much better than before, but not exceptional.  It’s more that they look homely before the makeover (i.e. acne, chubby, bad hair) and the biggest changes are with the newly styled hair and improved wardrobe.  There’s not an overkill of flowers and stars drawn for each makeover either.  That really surprises me as the makeovers scream for more frills.

The backdrops and the background characters have minimal detail.  The Rainbow Bridge looks like it came out of a photo, but most of the scenes inside classrooms, salons, or the K.O.M. hideout are light on details.

Text/Translation:

Dialogue and narrator bubbles are not cluttered, but are easy to read.  They have bold and varying font sizes for emphasis.  The manga reads right to left, but there are a few confusing panels that don’t adhere to this flow.  I counted at least three to four typos, but nothing that interferes with the tempo of the story.  As a nice surprise from my previous TOKYOPOP experiences, most of the signs and sound effects are translated.  Most of the signs and labels keep the same style as the artwork, such as flowery letters or stripped words.  A few exceptions creep in, such as “Flower Times” is translated in one panel but not the next.  The sound effects are not consistently translated.  Some sound effects are left in Japanese and the translation is incorporated into the bubbles or tied to specific characters, like “Gasp!” or “Nyah!”  Other sound effects that have no real English equivalent (bell ringing or stomach rumbling) are left in Japanese.

The dialogue reads smoothly.  Most of the characters are teenagers and the language reflects that.  There are a few cultural references and at least one with an asterisk explanation (see Catch Host definition).  TOKYOPOP keeps Japanese honorifics such as chan, kun, and sama.  Though K.O.M. does not define the Japanese terms, the lack of definitions do not detract from the story.  As with other manga, it is assumed that the reader will already know the meaning or pick it up elsewhere.

Content:
Want the confidence to confess to the one you love?  Want to win that beauty contest?  Want some revenge on that ex-boyfriend?  If you have nowhere else to turn, the Knockout Makers may be your saviors.  Their website is only accessible at midnight for a few minutes.  But if they do select you for a makeover, the treatment starts immediately.  So you’d better be ready for 5 days of transformation and luxury accommodations.  They’ll bleach your hair, help you work off the fat, or just make you feel good looking in the mirror!

The Knockout Makers (K.O.M. for short) look like movie stars themselves: Nobuo is the tall, playboy hair stylist.  Ryouhei is the blond, ever-serious, fashion expert.  Toshihiro is the youngest and the make-up rookie.  The K.O.M. may all be young, but don’t let their ages fool you.  Toshihiro already has an art degree from Columbia.  Nobu moonlights as an escort and is well versed at treating women like royalty. 

Told primarily from the client’s point of view, this manga is broken up in to five separate stories.  Each client is different (i.e. the jock, the chubby one, etc.) and the reasons for needing a makeover are just as varied.  The makeover process is fast paced and overwhelming, but it helps that the K.O.M. dress impeccably and could easily pass as idols.  It’s enough for a girl to fall in love with any one of them.  Fortunately, the Knockout Makers are professionals and maintain strict boundaries with their clients.  Most of the time…

Comments:
If you are looking for a fun read, Knockout Makers should be on your list.  The female clients include an idol wannabe and an androgynous-looking client cursed with a boy’s name.  The stories are fast paced and as much about the K.O.M. as their clients.  The makeovers progressively reveal more background material and why they believe “each client must shine as brightly on the outside as on the inside.”  Though they come off as the A-Team of the fashion world, they are an amusing trio-- with the typical playboy, rookie trying to prove himself, and the cool, stoic one.

As far as affirming self-esteem, this manga sends mixed signals.  On the one hand, the K.O.M. make a point of emphasizing the importance of each girl’s inner beauty.  On the other hand, the girls still end up losing weight, putting on make-up, or dressing up in revealing clothing.  I would like it a lot more if they told just one client that she looks fine just the way she is.  To be fair, the manga does touch on the causes of each girl’s low self-esteem.  Whether it is becoming content with herself or realizing who her true friends are, the Knockout Makers play a pivotal role in turning them around.

I do find it a bit odd that none of the families or schools have a problem with teenage girls being gone for five days at a time.  Additionally, you would think that one of the famous K.O.M. could tell if someone is male or female.  Then again, it wouldn’t make for interesting comedy if he could!

This manga is targeted to the teen market, and is rated accordingly.  Caution!  Reading this manga may bring on high school misfit flashbacks.
(Yes, I was a chubby one.



Mania Grade: B
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: C+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: TOKYOPOP
MSRP: 9.99
Pages: 192
ISBN: 978-1-59816-824-2
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Faust Anthology