Japan Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: A-
  • Packaging Rating: B-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 216
  • ISBN: 1-59307-332-1
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Japan Vol. #01

By Jarred Pine     November 27, 2005
Release Date: August 01, 2005

Japan Vol.#01
© Dark Horse

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Writer: Buronson / Artist: Kentaro Miura
Translated by:Kumar Sivasubramanian
Adapted by:

What They Say
Yuka Katsuragi, a beautiful TV news reporter, has attracted the affections of a Yakuza thug, Katsuji Yashima, who travels with his brother all the way to Spain to find her, only to have his affections rebuffed by Yuka. A terrible earthquake hits, and Katsuji, his brother, and Yuka, along with four high-schoolers in Spain on a field trip, all fall deep underground. While trapped below the surface, they encounter a mysterious old woman who reveals to them prophecies that the wealthy nation of Japan will meet the same demise as the once-prosperous city of Carthage. Katsuji and the others insult the old woman, who then sends them to see the world of the future with their own eyes, a future of desolation and death...

The Review
Attention people of Japan! Buronson wants you to stop eating those gold-sprinkled foods and begin getting back in touch with your true Japanese pride! This dystopian tale serves as an outlet for Buronson to shed some beef off of his chest, with the help of Miura’s fabulous artwork.

The cover features the original Japanese tankoubon artwork with Katsuji posing in his dystopian garb. It’s a pretty bland cover that is pretty monochromatic with the gold and brown colors. The English logo appears in block letters at the top next to the original katakana. The book is shrink-wrapped with an “Explicit Content” warning sticker on the cover itself. The print reproduction is fairly good although there are some alignment issues with the text on a couple panels. No color plates and no extras at all.

Created around the time just before Kentaro Miura decided to focus only on Berserk, there are a lot of familiar designs here that carry over from his hit manga. What interested me the most are his illustrations within the first couple pages of the “modern world” as it was in 1992. It’s the first time I’ve seen his work outside of the fantasy realm of material. The artwork is solid, featuring that great character art and nice detailed line hatching that he does to create a lot of depth. The title soon enters into his fantasy style of art, which is pretty much the par for his material although I thought backgrounds were a little scarce here. However, the amount of clean detail work he puts into every little piece of artwork still amazes me.

SFX are not translated, a trend that looks to be changing with Dark Horse’s more recent titles. Not being familiar with the original text, I can not validate any accuracy, but the translation reads quite well. The yakuza’s dialogue is peppered with quite a bit of profanity which definitely fits the part.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
In the mid-1980s, Japan's bubbling economy had ranked the nation very high amongst major industrial nations in per capita GNP. It was a time where much pride was taken in wealth, with accounts of people eating gold-sprinkled food and the land around the Imperial Palace at one point worth more than the state of California. This all began to change in 1992 when the economy gradually began to slide, which is about the time when Buronson and Miura create this lesson for the Japanese readers. It reads much like a fable directed to all of Japan during the current economic conditions--have pride in the Japanese people and not in wealth or power, or else calamity awaits.

The story starts off at the '92 Barcelona Olympics, where a Japanese TV reporter named Yuka is trying to do a special on what it means to be Japanese. Following her is a future yakuza kingpin named Katsuji, who is completely smitten with the young reporter after working with her on a special about the yakuza. After witnessing some embarrassing behavior by a group of Japanese high school kids towards some poor children, Yuka decides to take them to a place where they can look out across the Mediterranean where there used to be the ancient country of Carthage. The reporter begins to correlate the events that happened with Carthage, being overthrown by the Roman empire, to what might happen to Japan if they continue their materialistic and isolationist ways. Suddenly an earthquake hits and the group find themselves transported well into the future, where the planet has become a desolate land after years of acid rain and other environmental mishaps. The nation of Japan was blamed as one of the catalysts for the apocalypse, leaving all the Japanese refugees set to work as slaves or whores for Neo-Europa. The group must now learn how to survive being oppressed and rediscover their true pride as a Japanese people.

Buronson's apocalyptic short story reads like part cautionary tale and part personal opinion piece directed towards his fellow countrymen who had experienced a growth in wealth due to the economic boom of the mid-80s. Buronson definitely seems disgusted with how the culture of Japan shifted and had possibly lost sight of what he considered the Japanese people's greatest asset--their pride. Through the mouth of Katsuji, there are plenty of lines delivered to the other Japanese people about fighting back as a proud Japanese men. It is actually interesting that Buronson chose a yakuza boss as his main protagonist in delivering this message. Perhaps he saw that even though the yakuza are seen as the hated criminal element in Japan, they were the ones who kept in touch with the cultural identity of the nation while others were accumulating wealth without regards to others or their own pride. After all, once wealth and power are gone, it is the pride that will keep their people united and strong.

As with most one-shot manga, the story is very brisk and passes on most of the character development and other elements that you would find in longer running titles. If you are not interested in Buronson's views or his lessons to his fellow people, then you might become a bit disinterested. His point is pretty much driven home on what seems to be every other page. Lastly, one aspect which might bother some is that the women in this tale are pretty much reduced to nudity fodder as they wait for their strong men to save them. It is possible that Buronson's vision of this futuristic Japan was very much the same as its past, with women seen as subservient sex slaves who make their money with their body, but regardless there is a sexist vibe. In the end, this seems to just be a title where Buronson wanted to rant, and the weight of the rant is a bit too much for the story to carry.

Japan for me was not the fun, escapist one-shot manga like King of Wolves, but instead was a thick mix of Buronson’s opinion piece about his feeling towards his own countrymen during a time when Japan’s economic bubble was about to (or had already) burst. Through the mouth of a street-smart thug, the message that the Japanese should have more pride in themselves instead of wealth and power is pretty much beaten in the minds of the reader by book’s end. I definitely enjoyed experiencing his opinion and viewpoints, but I think the story begins to crumble a bit under the weight of his heavy-handed fable. Still, one cannot deny Miura’s fantastic artwork and for his fans, this is the last manga that he worked on before concentrating all his efforts on Berserk.


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