Notebook of a Demon Killer, Taimashin Vol. #01 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: D+
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: ADV Manga
  • MSRP: 14.98
  • Pages: 304
  • ISBN: 1-4139-0036-4
  • Size: Tall B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Notebook of a Demon Killer, Taimashin Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     September 22, 2004
Release Date: October 26, 2004


Notebook of a Demon Killer, Taimashin Vol.#01
© ADV Manga


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kikuchi Hideyuki / Saitoh Misaki
Translated by:Brendan Frayne
Adapted by:

What They Say
EVEN DEMONS HATE DR. TAIMA'S NEEDLES OF DOOM!
With a strange plague of demonic possession slowly taking over the bodies of unsuspecting victims, there's only one man to call - the acupuncturist, Dr. Taima. His knowledge of the obscure ability to wield the taimashin - needles not only used to banish malevolent and lecherous demons, but that can control the flow of chi in all things - makes him a force to be reckoned with! Having found its way to Dunwich, Massachusetts, Dr. Taima and his lovely assistant, Maki Togetsu, make their way to America to combat this repulsive plague that turns people into rapacious monsters that devour anything within their grasp! When an ally joins Dr. Taima, how will these taimashin masters bait their prey into their piercing trap? Find out in the story that chronicles their campaign against evil, in Taimashin.

The Review
Packaging
As they did with another Kikuchi title ADV has decided to print the wideban version of Taimashin -Notes of a Demon Killer. Each volume should be around the 300pg mark in a tall B6 in right-to-left format, with a volume header (hopefully in color, as my proof is entirely in B/W) and translator notes. The printing is solid in this proof, so I would imagine it would look better in shelf copies. I did notice a couple alignment problems, but these have been much less frequent in recent ADV titles. On the cover of this volume is a more recent character design of the main character - Dr. Taima. I wanted to note that this is the cover art for the SP wideban from Gentosha, but since this is a reprinting the characters will look quite different inside. Here the cover artist caricatures Taima's features making him look more feminine than usual. His girlish looks are a running joke in this volume and the opposite cover appears to take that joke even further by having him in an out of character pose (he looks so genki with the wind in his hair). The logo used by ADV is pretty cool, it uses a bloody needle to underline the title. After seeing some of their nice logos I kinda wished they kept this one vertical instead of horizontal, though.

Art
Saitoh's art is not very pleasing to the eye. Actually it is one of the rougher styles I have seen in quite a while. Lines are not very tight, so Saitoh's characters tend to often have a messy look to them. Saitoh also has difficulty with eye placement. Not only are they often asymmetric but they tend to be positioned in strange ways distorting faces into ugly confusing expressions. Saitoh also does not use tone or inking much for detailing. Faces in particular often look really flat giving an impression of ambiguity. Costume designs are actually pretty boring and while characters have decent form and are to scale they just do not look very appealing.

Saitoh's monsters are uninspired and just plain ugly. There really is no originality in beings that just tend to be made of rotting flesh or numerous eyeballs. They do not cause much fear in their appearance, instead the designs bring forth feelings of disgust.

Fortunately, the layout is pretty good. On the surface there really does not appear to be too much variety, but Saitoh mixes up perspective very well. As there is a fair amount of action in this title, angles and depth can be pretty important in certain scenes and Saitoh does a good job with these. There are a few cases where the perspective hurt the pacing, but what really was a problem was how poor is Saitoh is at drawing action scenes. Characters do not move very well and instead of martial arts we get to see plenty of posturing, taunting and slapstick. There were also a few continuity issues that had me reading the scene over and over to figure out. I was also very disappointed with the backgrounds. I am not sure who to blame but someone did not research Massachusetts very well. In this manga it is a wide state full of prairies and ranches. Cowboys and old west ghost towns are present... well maybe in western Massachusetts out near New York State. This scene came out of the Dunwich Horror by H.P. Lovecraft but the rendering is more like New Mexico than a hamlet from 1928 New England.

Do not be fooled by the cover art, this is pretty awful stuff.

Text/SFX
The translation for this title is one of the better ones I have read from ADV. In some of their more popular titles they have at times Americanized the text and the explained the change in the glossary provided. In Taimashin, they keep the Japanese text and then provide a description of the term. I have always considered the former as a cop-out since it does not enhance the reading experience, so I appreciate the change for this title that has a good amount Japanese religion references. The adaptation sounds good, so all in all a good albeit strange read. I did notice a couple of typos but as I am reviewing an uncorrected proof those mistakes should be fixed before release. As is standard for ADV titles the SFX are all translated with subs. Good re-touching and the subs do not compromise art much.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Throughout the years there have been many ways answers to horrors of the occult. Monks, priests, vampire hunters, demon slayers, onmyoji have done the services that most mortals cold never accomplish. As the years passed, these professions started to disappear in favor of merchants, factory workers and programmers. But demonic possession will never go away. Nowadays there is only one person to call - Dr. Taima, an acupuncturist.

Taima and his needles are like a link to the supernatural. Like a ying-yang master, they feel and control the flow of ki. Like a demon slayer, they pierce and skewer beasts with speed and precision. Like a priest, they rid they body of spirits. Like a medic, they treat the sick and wounded. Together, Taima and his needles, are more than enough to handle any job; anyone else is pointless. In eastern Japan he is the sole Taima master, and it is his responsibility to protect his region from beings of the other dimension.

After a brief encounter with a lesser demon, Taima and his associate nurse, Miss. Togetsu, are requested to handle a very dangerous case. A scientist with a history of bioengineering appears to have been possessed. After suffering from minor symptoms for a brief period, the madness quickly progressed and eventually the sickness in the patient's open a link to the other dimension sacrificing the body to the evil within. But what makes this situation so unique is not the monsters the patient created, the abilities he gained, nor the difficulty in containing the ki, but it where the came from is what interests Taima. The curious nature of this case would eventually take Taima to America in the middle of his treatment.

Taima is well aware that demons do not necessarily cross over without a medium. A strong source of energy whether it is intense thought, desperation, lust, revenge or greed can open a space to the other side. With more energy the path can send numerous spirits across continents, over the seas, and even through time. The other dimension is not as concrete as the human realm with enough power nothing is unimaginable or impossible, and it is the job of the needle master to gain control of that energy - that ki. What was unleashed in Massachusetts has opened the door for evil across this realm. Dr. Taima was there when this dark force erupted unleashing evil energy across the globe, and he knows his needles will be needed more than ever. He also knows he will have to get paid for his services as well. Every good acupuncturist must get paid for his work, you know.

Comments
Some people use swords, others arrows or magic but Dr. Taima uses needles to dispose of demons in the Kanto area of Japan. Like an onmyouji, Taima is not really a demon killer instead he controls the flow of spiritual energy to weaken and contain the source of power for the supernatural. If that was not unique enough, Taima is a licensed acupuncturist, so he is a healer for the sick as well. Yet up to this that has not been developed very well, with Kikuchi using supporting cast for most of those scenes (often putting Taima's nurse in sexual situations that do little to advance plot and are not very sensual either). Taima as a character is pretty intriguing. His business has given a social status that is closer to religious leader than a healer. His responsibilities over the supernatural have him conferring with other religious authorities as if they were all soldiers in a spiritual army with Taima as general of the Kanto region. If this were to be fleshed out a bit more, not only would readers get some decent drama but also they might be able to learn more about Japanese religion and its place in society and mythology. I sure hope Kikuchi goes back to this soon. How Kikuchi incorporates existing classic horror stories (this volume features H.P. Lovecraft's the Dunwich Horror is also pretty good even though the transition was a little rushed.

Taimashin has a few things going for it. First is the original concept. An acupuncturist demon slayer is fantastic, but Kikuchi makes good use of existing religious themes and ideologies to reinforce the concept. That also leads other positive point: Kikuchi's interpretation of Japanese religious culture. While obviously deep in fiction Kikuchi still uses basic ideals to create a sense of mystic and the surreal. Unfortunately there are so many negatives to overlook that this title is hard to recommend. The biggest problem is the art. Not only does it look sloppy; it is occasionally confusing as the layout has some continuity issues. As nice as the cover art is this is from a more current design, so the art inside is much rougher and does not possess the tight features as exhibited on both sides of the cover. There also appears to be some research problems and a few poor decisions in story progression. I already mentioned Massachusetts cowboys but the gratuitous near rapes were inappropriate actually had me put the book down a few times as they influenced the reading experience. Taimashin tries to be too much at once - drama, action, comedy with adult situations - but it fails at practically everything. If Kikuchi could have stuck with Taima doing his business, doing exorcisms, meeting the local religious leaders, studying the flow of ki, he would have had more than enough to work with. Unfortunately, he has a mish-mash cast, poor research, pointless action and a poor artist to render the ideas. This is only the first volume of a running title so there is plenty of time for improvement, but at this point Taimashin should be avoided and even with 300+ pages the price does not justify the quality of this title.

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