Project X Vol. #03 - Seven Eleven (7-11) - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: All
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 12.95
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-56970-958-0
  • Size: A5
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Project X Vol. #03 - Seven Eleven (7-11)

By Sakura Eries     December 26, 2006
Release Date: October 31, 2006


Project X Vol.#03 - Seven Eleven (7-11)
© Digital Manga Publishing


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Tadashi Ikuta/Naomi Kimura
Translated by:Sachiko Sato
Adapted by:

What They Say
At a time when giant department stores and supermarkets dominated the Japanese retail industry, two businessmen, Toshifumi Suzuki and Hideo Shimizu, discovered a new type of small retail store flourishing in America - the Seven Eleven. Called a "convenience store," it was a concept new to the Japanese. Intrigued by this new idea and convinced that it would also succeed in Japan, the two men put together a project team of fifteen members (all virtual novices to the retail trade) to bring this venture across the Pacific. Staking his entire livelihood, young storeowner Kenji Yamamoto volunteers to convert his family-owned liquor store into the first seven eleven in Japan. The hardship of negotiations, the oil shock and the struggle to cope with inadequate space were all met with quick thinking and resolve, culminating in Japan?fs retail revolution!

The Review
Packaging
The cover design overlays three images. The smallest image is a photograph of the family liquor store that was converted into the first Japanese 7-Eleven. Superimposed upon that is the familiar red, white, and green 7-Eleven logo, and superimposed on top of those images and taking up the majority of the front cover is a photograph of members of the original 7-Eleven project team. As an aside, the original team photo also included a couple of Americans, but they were conveniently removed for this cover design. The background is tinted shades of yellow, red, and brown. It's a rather busy design, and the color scheme makes the project team members look like they're standing in a fiery inferno. The "Project X Challengers" logo, with the X in bold yellow strokes, is displayed prominently at the top. The title "Seven Eleven" in white and gray letters is placed in the lower half of the cover and is followed by the subheader, "The Miraculous Success of Japan's 7-Eleven Stores" in black and yellow font aligned to the left. Author's and artist's credits are placed in the lower right-hand corner. The purple Digital Manga Publishing logo runs along the bottom cover edge.

The back cover design is predominantly a warm sienna color. To the center top is the "Project X Challengers" logo with the Seven Eleven title logo just below it, followed by the story summary in white font. At the bottom of the back cover are age rating, printing orientation, and publisher's icons.

There are quite a few extras. A short bio of the mangaka is printed on the inside flap of the front cover. Also at the front of the book are a 2-page introduction from NHK Project X Chief Producer Akira Imai and two pages of character profiles. The back of the book includes remarks from Kenji Yamamoto, owner of Store Number One; a photographic journal of Project 7-Eleven; and a 5-page timeline of events that puts 7-Eleven history into context with Japanese history.

The copy runs dark in spots. In the character profiles, characters are labeled with their names in black kanji placed against white backgrounds and the romaji equivalents in white against a black background. However, the black backgrounds bleed into the white letters so you can't really read the romanized names. Other than that, binding and materials are satisfactory.

Artwork:
In terms of character design, Kimura predominantly sticks to a standard business manga style. The main project team members, particularly Suzuki, Shimizu, and Iwakuni, are drawn distinctly and have some resemblance to the actual people they represent. However, secondary and side characters are sloppily drawn and often instantly forgettable. American characters, even the Southland executives, look like doodles.

Kimura does a much better job of depicting the interiors of the various stores encountered in the story, and also provides nicely drawn "snapshots" of the Japanese and American locations where the story takes place. Some of the lettering on the American storefronts are a little fuzzy, but other than that, his settings are detailed and true to life.

Text/Translation:
SFX are translated with side text, predominantly in block lettering. Critical written text and signs are translated with overlays that match the original style or with side panel translations.

Honorifics are translated into English equivalents. Except for a couple of minor grammatical errors, the English script reads satisfactorily. However, the years are expressed in terms of Japanese eras and are not translated to anno Domini (A.D.) years for Western readers. In addition, the caption listing the people in a photo on page 183 gets cut off. Also, the formatting for the timeline of events could have been tidied up somewhat; not all of the bullet points line up properly, and the entire table is printed in capital letters. While capitals are fine for manga text, it gets annoying when you're reading a five-page table written in all capital letters.

Content:
In the early 1970s, bigger is viewed as better in the Japanese retail industry. However, in the tiny island country, only so much land is available for supermarkets and department stores. With Japan's capacity for such large complexes nearing its limit, two employees at retailer Ito-Yokado, Toshifumi Suzuki and Hideo Shimizu, create a new office branch, "The Business Development Office," and set out to seek new ventures for their company. And where better to look for ideas than in America, the leader of retail. After traveling hundreds of miles across the United States by bus, the two men find their answer at a rest stop 7-Eleven -- the convenience store!

Suzuki's dead certain that he has found the future of Japan's retail industry. However, it will take a lot of convincing to change the "bigger is better" attitude of his superiors. In addition, Suzuki's and Shimizu's proposals to the executives of the Southland Corporation, 7-Eleven's parent company, are largely met with indifference as they have no interest in expanding into Asia. However, the two Japanese businessmen are determined to bring this radical idea to Japan, and they succeed in securing a contract with the Southland Corporation.

But even with a contract in place, where will they find their first store location in crowded Japan? And will the Japanese be amenable to this revolutionary type of store? With a project team of 15 retail amateurs and only one lone store owner willing to collaborate with them, how will the convenience store revolution take root!? Trials and tribulations abound in the early years of this company which ranked number one in Japan's retail industry in 2001!

Comments
The Project X Challengers manga series spun off from a NHK produced documentary series that followed the success stories of certain businesses and/or the people behind them. This is the third volume in DMP's series, and it is the second Project X manga that I have had a chance to review. While I enjoyed Project X: Cup Noodle, I found 7-Eleven much more engaging. Both ventures start off from a desire to keep a company ahead in the business game, but the 7-Eleven story morphs into something much more personal when Yamamoto volunteers his family store for Store Number One. With the livelihood of a young family hinging on the success or failure of the project, it becomes a much greater motivation for the project team than creating a better product or increasing their salaries. The variety of challenges they face -- cultural, technical, logistical, social, financial -- is also much broader in 7-Eleven than in Cup Noodle. In addition, it is nice to see a female character (Tomiko Sugiyama) shown contributing directly to a business's success and not just supporting her husband in his endeavors by cooking nutritious meals for him. Speaking of meals, Cup Noodle fans may be tickled by a Cup Noodle cameo in Shimizu's trip across America.

As it is a Japanese work, the Japanese author does toot his compatriots' horn quite a bit. While the convenience store is an American idea that the Japanese latch onto, the Americans in the story don't provide much to the Japanese other than the original concept. For the most part, the American executives are depicted as stumbling blocks and culturally clueless. Probably, their worst moment is when the Japanese team receives the Southland Corporation's trade secret manuals for their convenience stores, and they realize that the content consists of no-brainer instructions (e.g. how to handle a cash register). If that is the case, it makes me wonder why Suzuki even bothers going into contract with the Southland Corporation in the first place, let alone pay royalties to them.

This title is rated for all ages, and I really do think that this manga would engage readers of all ages. In terms of an educational text, it might be something that stands a chance at being included in a college business course's "optional reading" list, but middle and high school economics/ business teachers might look seriously at including this book in their curriculum to pique their students' interest in business.

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