Popo Can Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: N/A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: N/A
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: Infinity Studios LLC
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 196
  • ISBN: 1-59697-111-8
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Popo Can Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     June 16, 2005
Release Date: February 15, 2005

Popo Can Vol.#01
© Infinity Studios LLC

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Iwasaki Masakazu
Translated by:Kentaro Abe
Adapted by:

What They Say
Life is like a video game.
Everyday is an adventure.
Every moment is a challenge.
And it's insanity all the time.

At least that's how life is living with Popomi.

The Review
This is the third Infinity title I have reviewed in the past month and the differences are substantial among the three. NanaNana was a monstrosity because of the source material. Peigenz was tight but designed in a DrMaster style format - smaller size with yellow Japanese style paper. Then there is PopoCan with a great cover nice printing but funky paper that kinda makes the GN look cheap. This cover features lead character Popomi giving her fans a peace symbol with one hand while she holds a gun in the other. Behind her are the words "Super Trouble Heroine?" in yellow. The logo is similar to the Japanese version as it has the same font and color. Both are compact and are easy on the eyes. Very nice. The opposite cover has a cool image featuring the members of the Koizumi having breakfast. Cool! All of this is done on a matted finish.

Inside Infinity has included a color volume header and contents page. I am glad to see Infinity do this more often now. I hope they are able to do more of that. They have also changed their paper. It is very white. For those who bought the Wanderer or Charmer from Ironcat early last year this has the same feel and look. I don't like it. Too bright and the GN looks cheap. However, the printing looks good on this paper and the paper weight makes this 196 page GN look a little more than half the width of a regular GN. At the same time the paper also lets the ink bleed through so it is not a good solution to something that was not broken. At the end of the GN Infinity provided a message from the mangaka, character notes, a couple preview pages and ads for NanaNana, BamBi, Cafe Occult, Zippy Ziggy, Witch Class, Fighting Guidance and the Missing White Dragon.

Iwasaki's art might take a bit getting used to. Generally he tends to primarily draw in SD. I don't think I have seen lead male Koizumi Yasuharu in any style outside of SD yet. Thus characters tend to be on the short side often very round and chunky. I do not find that very appealing but most of the characters drawn like that are either seniors or elementary school age, so I don't worry about it too much. Lead female Popomi is often also drawn in SD. She is nowhere near as short, but she is often chunky. Fortunately Iwasaki knows to draw here in a more conventional format to attract fan boys. Lines are medium thick but strong. I really like how he is really easy on facial expressions; I almost get an anime feel about the designs for some reason.

Backgrounds are okay but for a comedy like this they are not that critical to the plot. The layout is a bit too much for my taste. Iwasaki does not set up his pages very well and at the same time he packs in a lot of art into each page. Mileage should vary on that, but I like my layouts a little easier to read.

Infinity's translations are like playing darts. One series is great the next is full of typos and syntax errors. This one is great. Looks like they found a typesetter with apostrophes. The translation is very good. It sounds very good and does not have Americanizations. The characters stand out well as individuals and even though there are no honorifics the relationships are portrayed well.

SFX are really nice. SFX are subbed with translations that are smaller than the original to try to preserve Iwasaki's art. With all of the action in this series, seeing small subs is a perfect way to keep readers into the art and not even more frustrated by clutter.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Koizumi Yasuharu loves video games. The only thing he might like more are random limited edition weird video games! Today he has just bought a copy of Yamagishi Tashiro'sDebate RPG, a limited edition debating game. Wow, a debating game! This game is so weird and so random Yasuharu has no clue how to play it or what it really is about. None of that really matters though, as long as he has fun. The basis of this game is to get a character out of the video world, place the character into the human realm, have her integrate with your family and essentially have a new RPG adventure each chapter. According to the introduction the main character is searching for a target to take out. Sounds pretty linear but the road to finish must be more complex than that right? Either sounds pretty exciting huh!?

This game would have been much more exciting if the character was even capable of following through with its mission. The first character that Yasuharu brought over is nothing like a video game heroine. Popomi is lazy, a little slow and often drunk. She has a mission to do but never really considers that a priority. She'd rather just hang out watching TV with a beer in hand until lunch or dinnertime. Now out of the game world, life is bliss and there really is no rush to finish the game. Seriously, why should she even worry about something that is a whole dimension away, right? Ramen, beer and fun are much more important (tell me about it).
Until then there will only be situations like mosquito and fly attacks to take on. There will be situations like rivals and mechs that will come to the door and they too will come to accept their new lives and give in to the simple life.

But Yasuharu wants to be in the game himself. He wants to get to experience the excitement, the adventure and the madness. Why else would he get a debate RPG? Why else would he want to play "Macho Guys: Transform into a Naked Buff Guy and Destroy Your Enemies"? He wished he could form a party with people in his community to go on Popomi's adventure but there is not enough ramen and beer in the world that will motivate the masses to take on evil. Maybe it is about time to start looking for a new game to play, Yasuharu.

Kinda funky having a chance to read and review two comedy titles where lead characters crawl out of TV screens and makes an impact on the lives of the people they first meet. While Video Girl AI also has a romance element to it, PopoCan is straight up humor. Game based comedy that is expanded to cover the world of gaming except video games. Yup, slapstick gaming with elementary school kids.

Now that might not sound so good in a review, and that might have grown old after the first few chapters in this title. I have to say I almost gave up on PopoCan because Iwasaki focused on slapstick, instead of game playing and competitiveness which is the focus of the rest of the GN. Iwasaki in the mangaka notes admits that the series was initially scheduled to be only four chapters long. The slight change of the writing that occurred in the additional chapters probably came from an editor figuring out how to best develop this short into a full-blown 20-page a month manga.

To do that Iwasaki changed the theme from one where a character only acts like a character when her buttons are pushed to one where she makes everyday life into a game. So characters can level up doing everyday things like cooking ramen, swatting flies or falling in love. Battle scenes could come in tutoring contests or cooking contests. School campuses could be seen as a dungeon to crawl through. Enemies can come in the form of a bookstore part-timer or evil guidebooks! With Popomi life is a game and you can find games everywhere you look as long as you are looking. This is something that would be important for Yasuharu to see but the rest of us should as well. As our lives become filled with more and more distractions, we should try to take time to appreciate the real aspects of life. The taste of a great bowl of ramen, a good book and getting a haircut are the little things people might think are mundane but they can be as much fun and are as important as any video game.

As much as I can appreciate the effort Iwasaki put into expanding on his short series, I really could not get into PopoCan. The comedy is not really that funny. And having read titles like Del Rey's Genshiken and DrMaster's Maniac Road and they have done a much better job of parodying the culture they are covering. PopoCan tries to actually get people to pull back from games and that culture. I think that is a wonderful concept but it is not presented as that. Instead, I get the impression that the mangaka would like to point out the stereotypes but I get a feeling he is not too familiar with gaming. The general concepts are there, but genres are not covered, game play is ignored, consoles have not been mentioned and cosplaying is an idea that is never actually presented in context. I was really bored by what he did cover: board games, one-sided love and the beauty of ramen. Maybe that will change eventually, I don't know but right now the idea that life is a video game that the volume description tries to present is false. A video game could be made to simulate life, but if it were anything like this manga I would possibly buy another video game.


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