Harukaze Bitter Bop Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-4278-0328-5
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Harukaze Bitter Pop

Harukaze Bitter Bop Vol. #01

By Ben Leary     April 11, 2008
Release Date: January 30, 2008


Harukaze Bitter Bop Vol.#01
© TOKYOPOP


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Court Betten
Translated by:Christine Schilling and Kereth Cowe-Spigai
Adapted by:Christine Schilling and Kereth Cowe-Spigai

What They Say

Chiyoharu used to be the leader of the troublemakers, until one day an innocent prank results in a major fire at the school. When his three cohorts take the blame and are expelled, Chiyoharu tries to go on with his mundane life, beating himself up with guilt. Then he meets the mysterious, muscle-man Souza of the North Wind and a ditzy self-proclaimed detective who are trying to solve the mystery behind Souza's amnesia...It's nonstop comedy and action from there!

The Review
Packaging:
I certainly didn't know what to think of this book from the cover, but otherwise it's a decent piece, with an outsized Kaede posed uncharacteristically between the two male leads. The back features the three friends in a goofy marching formation. Something I continue to approve of from Tokyopop is back, viz. the list of objectionable content next to the age rating. The mint green lettering on a white background gives the book a nice fresh look and helps it stand out on the shelf. Inside we have Tokyopop usual decent paper and printing, and a short but nice selection of extras: character profiles and a guide to the Kinnikuman references. The one problem is that the pages don't have enough of a buffer, so text near the spine can be difficult to read without stretching the book.

Artwork:
The art style is a good match for the over-the-top goofiness of the material. The character designs stick to a round-headed cartoonish look for most of the regular characters, but when bad guys show up they can look as menacing as they need to. SD is heavily used - in fact, it's difficult to flip through the book and find a page that doesn't have at least one instance of it - but used to good effect during the gag-driven episodes that make up the bulk of the volume. Consistent, professional work here.

Text/SFX:
The obvious and repeated problem in this category is off-centered text in the dialogue balloons. This happens at regular intervals all through the book, and knocked the score down quite a bit. But if that kind of thing doesn't distract you, there's little else to find fault with. Fonts are appropriate and readable. Sound effects are of course untranslated. The translation reads quite well: dialogue is appropriate to the characters, and the comedy comes through loud and clear.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If I go into a bookstore and browse the manga aisle, one of the things I notice is that there's no shortage of comedy as a whole, but that comedy nearly always occurs in hybrid form. You know, action comedy, romantic comedy, that kind of stuff. If you look for a pure comedy title, something that doesn't do anything other than try to make you laugh, it'll take you a while to find one.

The thing I like best about this first volume of Harkaze Bitter Bop is that I did find plenty of pure comedy inside - and good comedy, at that. Sure, there are a couple of other elements, such as occasional bursts of action and a character with an aura of mystery, but even these are treated as grist for the gag-mill. At any rate, until the final chapter.

The story opens with good, old-fashioned nonsense. Our ubiquitous normal high-school hero is on the way to school when he sees a giant of a man get clocked by a speeding train. As he stares in horror at the body, a detective comes along, puts two and two together, gets the wrong answer, and claps on the cuffs. To make matters even weirder, the detective in question is apparently a crazy high-school girl (she claims, via internal monologue, to be a valkyrie who has devoted herself to justice, but her imagination is on the hyperactive side, and it's unclear at this point whether or not this is the truth.) But then the dead guy gets up and is apparently all right, except that he doesn't know who he is apart from his name. He was just using the train to try and jog his memory. It all snowballs from here.

Yes, it's silly gimmick comedy. But the gimmick is in expert hands. The author knows exactly what he needs to make it work. He gives us enough normality, in the persons of the hero and a couple of supporting characters, for the craziness to bounce off of. He knows the story won't stand up to five minutes thought, so he doesn't give us five seconds to think. But he also knows that velocity can't work by itself, so he throws in a few quieter scenes to vary the pace, just enough to properly set off the breakneck speed of the comedy. You don't often get to see pacing as good as this.

So much for the first four and a half chapters. The final scenes of the volume put a different spin on the dynamic of the series. Instead of the man with the mysterious past being one more surreal obstacle for the hero, it seems like he's going to be getting his own, perfectly serious, plotline. It's handled well, but it may spell the end of everything I liked so much up to that point. On the other hand, it could be just a red-herring twist to keep people reading, after which the story will return to its bread-and-butter. Or it may even turn out to be an improvement for the series. Whatever the case, I want to know what happens next.

Comments
Harukaze doesn't look to be a series that's going to do anything new, but it has the ability to make it all seem new, which is in some ways even better. While I'm not sure I like the apparent turn-away from the pure comedy that the book does so well in the first chapters, there are signs that it may be able to substitute something equally good. I can certainly hope so. This looks like a series to keep an eye on.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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