Cowa Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Ben Leary
Review Date: Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Release Date: Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A fun and charming one-shot from the man who gave the world Dragon Ball and Dr Slump. What more do you need to know?

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist: Akira Toriyama
Translated by: Alexander O. Smith
Adapted by:  Alexander O. Smith

What They Say
Paifu, a half-vampire half-werekoala, is always getting into trouble. With his trusty sidekick, Jose the ghost, he's out stealing watermelons, befriending murderers and causing a ruckus. But not everything is fun and games when the contagious Monster Flu sweeps through town. If the sick monsters don't get some medicine within a month, everyone will die!

But the only one who has the medicine is a witch who lives high atop Horned-Own Mountain... 750 miles away! With the help of a former sumo wrestler, Paifu, Jose, and tagalong Arpon are off on an adventure! But will they get the antidote in time or will they become victims themselves?

The Review
Packaging:
The real standout in this category is the colour pages: the entire first chapter is printed in colour (on normal, not glossy, pages) and so is the title page for the second chapter. This image doubles as the cover, with the Shonen Jump logo added to the top and the author's name at the bottom. The paper is about the usual quality for Viz; the printing adequate for the most part, though some of the blacks could be a little more solid than they are. However, there are some pages that I think used to be in colour but look so good in black and white that I had to do a pretty close comparison to notice. The only extra is a brief afterward from the artist.

Artwork:
This is the simplest style I've seen Toriyama use. It's a style I would associate more with a gag strip than a chapter manga, but it suits the light and uncomplicated nature of the material well. The monster faces are all noseless or nearly so, but as simple as the designs are, the characters are still as expressive as they need to be. The early chapters show a lot of Toriyama's apparently endless imagination in the design and setting of the monster village. Later on we get to see some of his trademark martial arts fighting, all as impressive as you would expect. I wouldn't rank the with his greatest work, but it's still a lot of fun to look at.

Text/SFX:
As per usual for a Viz title, the sound effects have been retouched and translated into English. Text is clear and easy to read while fitting the bubbles neatly. The translation is on the simple side, as I presume the original script would be, but the comedy scenes are handled well and everything comes across the way it needs to.  The money has been changed into dollar and cents equivalents, but, hey, this is a book for children, and they're not likely to know the rate of exchange.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Batwing Ridge is a small community of monsters that is similar to a human village in a lot of ways. The inhabitants shop, go to school and work their farms; but they do it all at night, and houses that aren't haunted are avoided. The first chapter introduces us to Paifu, a fun-loving and somewhat mischevous half-vampire child and his ghost, ghoul and goblin neighbors. Paifu is a nice kid in a world where he isn't supposed to be nice (you know, because they're all monsters, and they're supposed to be mean and scary and stuff). This topsy-turvy view leads to some amusing vinettes, and also lets the author's inventive mind build a cute Haloweeny world for his characters to run around in. But before long it comes out that all is not well in Batwing Ridge. A monster flu epidemic lays low most of the town, and it's up to Paifu and his monster-kid friends to save the day.

But the medicine they need is a long way off, and being children they can't drive. So through a little subterfuge they enlist the help of a human ex-wrestler, a man who has exiled himself from the human world and is hiding out on the outskirts of town. He's not exactly the social type, and the children get on his nerves quite a lot by things like squabbling, mispronouncing his name, and especially by wrecking his truck.

Their journey isn't a long one, but a good amount of content has been packed into the 14 short chapters that make up the story. The interaction of the kids and the wrestler generate a lot of comedy, and some scenes where the wrestler has to dust off his fighting skills meet the action requirements to a T. Of course most of the fun comes not so much from the situations themselves as they way they leap to life in Toriyama's hands. This book has the funniest guardian riddle I've seen outside of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and it's all thanks to his incredible timing.

As simple as the plot is in outline, and often in execution, there are still some great little twists, especially near the end of the journey. Indeed, the last couple of chapters have some of the best moments in the book. The ending is surprisingly sweet, and sends the book off on exactly the right note. You'd have to be a monster yourself to put this down without a smile on your face.

Comments:
Cowa! is a short book, but one full of light-hearted entertainment. Likeable characters, gentle humour (including some outright guffaws), bloodless fights with as much slapstick as fisticuffs, a warm story - and all for a bargain price. It may not be one of Akira Toriyama's finest works, but it's certainly worthwhile on its own terms. This one will fit the bill for anyone looking for good, clean, simple entertainment. With Halloween around the corner, there's no better time to pick it up.



Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: All
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.99
Pages: 200
ISBN: 978-1-4215-1805-3
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Cowa