Project X Vol. #01 - Datsun Fairlady -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 168
  • ISBN: 1569709572
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Project X Vol. #01 - Datsun Fairlady

By Jarred Pine     April 17, 2006
Release Date: April 01, 2006

Project X Vol.#01 - Datsun Fairlady
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Akira Yokoyama
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
Adapted by:

What They Say
In 1960s America, the Japanese automobile was seen as a "second-class" inferior. In spite of it all, men dared to dream of building a world beating Japanese sports car. Through the innovative zeal of Yutaka Katayama (now reverently known as "Mr. K") and the genius of designer Yoshihiko Matsuo, this dream became reality in the form of the legendary sports car, the Nissan Fairlady Z. Known as the Datsun 240z in America, this automobile was an unprecedented success and is still beloved today. The dramatic story of these men who refused to be beaten by the hardships they encountered will inspire all who read it.

The Review
In the spirit of the pioneers and ground shakers found in the Project X series, DMP tries to find new ground with a debut line of business manga.

DMP continues with the larger A5 trim size, but unfortunately drops the dust jackets that I have become so accustomed with for their releases. Not that it is a surprise, given the small audience of this type of material. The cover features a lot of text and unappealing graphics, but I do think that it is very appropriate for a book aimed at the business professional audience. I do think the $12.95 price tag is a little steep.

The printing is pretty sharp and you do get a fair amount of extras. At the front of the book is an introduction from NHK Project X Chief Producer Akira Imai, as well as two pages of profiles to help the reader get to know the characters before getting started. The back of the book contains a contribution from Chief Designer Yoshihiko Matsuo, 8 pages of B&W photos of the people and Z models, and finally a 3-page timeline of events that puts things into context with what else was happening in the world at the time.

As one would expect, the artwork is not meant to grab one's attention, but rather present a realistic, down-to-earth style that fits within the documentary format of the material. The character designs are actually pretty warm and inviting, using a style that is pretty common with business/seinen manga. There is a good amount of background art and the detail on the cars looks pretty slick. As you can also tell from the photo journal in the extras, Akira Yokoyama used quite a few of them as reference material for his panels. If the point of business manga is to inspire, then I believe Yokoyama's artwork definitely achieves with helping meet that goal.

SFX are translated with subs that try to match the original style. It's an okay job, but I thought that the new SFX covered up a bit too much of the art in some cases. For example, in one panel the English SFX are actually placed on top of a nice illustration of a car, where the JP SFX worked around it. No, no! The English script reads quite nicely, with the narrative having a nice flow and being very concise.

Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Project X originally began as a NHK produced documentary series that followed the success stories of certain businesses and/or the people behind them. The TV series ran for about 5 ½ years, coming to an end this past January after amassing around 180 episodes. Now DMP is bringing the manga adaptations to English readers, originally published by Ohzora Publishing with 15 volumes and counting. It's a gutsy move by DMP to try this new business line of manga, and I'm still undecided on whether or not this new venture will grab hold in this growing US industry.

The first Project X venture covers the making of the 'Z' car, also known as the Datsun Fairlady Z or 240Z. I am not sure if this is the original first volume of the Project X series, but I do think DMP made a good choice with the subject matter that has high potential to find an audience here with an established Initial D fan base and an overall high interest in sports cars in general. The question I asked myself before opening the book was if the material was going to be presented as a true documentary or a narrative biopic based on real events. The answer is a mixture of both.

It is quite clear that the creators and writers of Project X really wanted to focus on the human side of these business stories. The movers and shakers involved are definitely portrayed as pioneers with great minds, injected with a lot of pride surrounding what they have accomplished. There is not a lot of time spent developing the characters, you just have to accept what you are being told about them, and their growth is more focused around critical events like the timeline that is included in the appendix. So while you get to know the names and duties of each of the major players involved in creating the 240Z, you'll never really get to know them on a personal level as you would with a biopic.

The format of the manga features quite a few fictionalized conversations strung together by an ongoing narration, as you would expect watching a documentary only there are no interviews (those are saved for the extras). It is sort of an odd mixture having a narrative voice explaining events to the reader with the fictionalized events flowing underneath. The biopic style captures the magic and wonderment of their achievements, but tends to quickly skim over the conflicts and critical problems the characters might have faced with each other. On the other hand, the documentary style provides a nice albeit quick flow with proper supplemental material, but does not dig deep enough into the history or technical details as one would expect from watching a documentary feature.

Informative yet brief, that is how I would sum up my thoughts on this first installment of the popular Project X documentary TV and manga series. Not quite a true documentary, not quite a true biopic, but maybe a little bit of both. The Project X series are supposed to be success stories that are told to inspire readers and allow them to understand the gravity of their achievements. For Datsun Fairlady Z, I think it mildly achieved those goals. I will say that I did learn a lot more about the Z car than I had known before, so the informational value is quite high.

Like the "movers and shakers" found in the story, DMP is trying to push the manga industry envelope here with a different application of manga. It's informative and educational, but are English manga readers open to this kind of material? That I'm not sure about, but I do know that a $12.95 price tag makes it a little hard to experiment with something different.

I'm glad DMP has taken another chance with business manga (I'm very much looking forward to Cup Noodle next!), but I only hope that it doesn't end up abandoned like so many of their non-yaoi titles in the past.


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