robot Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
  • MSRP: 24.95
  • Pages: 164
  • ISBN: 1-56970-939-4
  • Size: A4
  • Orientation: Right to Left

robot Vol. #01

By Matthew Alexander     May 11, 2006
Release Date: July 20, 2005

robot Vol.#01
© Digital Manga Publishing

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Range Murata
Translated by:Duane Johnson
Adapted by:

What They Say
From Range Murata's picturesque portrayal of a long and hot motorcycle ride through the countryside to Yoshitoshi Abe's tale of dark fantasy resembling a D&D campaign gone horribly wrong, narrative diversity competes with high level artistic experimentation in this monumental work.

The Review
Each story in this book has different strengths and weaknesses, but the grades for each category are an overall grade for the entire book. Contains nudity.

DMP continues the trend of providing a dust jacket with this book, but there is also a Parental Advisory sticker on the lower right corner of the front cover that can easily be removed. Fans of Range Murata will instantly recognize his character design on the front cover. An innocent looking girl with short hair is depicted topless with black gloves and curled up in the fetal position inside some kind of metal object, similar to a cargo plane. The back cover is vertically divided in two with a continuation of the front cover on the left side and on the right half the publishers' logo and the name of each artist that contributed to this volume. The print reproduction is of the highest quality with nice glossy art book paper and vivid colors that pop right off the page.

Robot contains short, colored stories with artwork as beautiful as it is diverse. All of the artists are very talented and incorporate their own concept for implementing the use of color to enhance their stories. In fact, I found Yasuda Suzuhito's art as one of the most striking, although it was drawn in black and white with only one or two colored items in some of the panels. This effectively pulled my attention to not only the item itself but also the lack of color in the rest of the characters' world.

The artwork ranges from the familiar manga panels with dialogue bubbles to stories consisting of a few full-page illustrations with no dialogue or narration whatsoever. Most of the art is easily recognizable as being drawn by Japanese artists with backgrounds in manga or anime, but a couple of stories look like they could have been drawn by western contemporaries and pulled from a publication like Heavy Metal. At the very least, I believe everyone should be able to find at least a couple artistic styles to appreciate in this book.

Not every story in this volume has SFX, but for those that do, the Japanese SFX remains with a smaller translation positioned nearby. The translation reads well, especially considering how many different authors contributed to this book. In the Table of Contents each author has a small comments section next to their name where they provide their thoughts for Robot or to promote one of their own projects. The authors' comments read well and I would like to give the English translator a big thumbs up for giving this section the attention it deserves. Personally, I get annoyed with translators that do a good job with the manga itself but then just kind of throw together a poorly translated letter from the author at the end of the book, making it torture to read.

Contents: (Oh yes, there may be spoilers)
Robot is a color version manga anthology with each story being quite short in length. This short format both helps and hurts the flow of the stories. Some are just a scene from a larger story arc whereas others like Eventyr and Clash are just long enough to complete a full story arc and supply a satisfying ending. The stories really run the gamut of genres with futuristic stories like Picnic, which follows a pair of high school girls on vacation, contemporary stories like Hemohemo, where a young girl brings a strange creature home to live with her family as a pet, disturbing tales like Angels at the Planetarium, about a man making a living by beating cherubs to death with a boomerang, and even Carogna, an erotica story with a horrific twist. Most of the tales found in Robot volume one are one-shots but there are also a number of serialized stories that play out in a chapter-like style like the following examples.

Shin Nagasawa penned Sedouka, a tale with enough narration and background to bring the reader right up to speed. This story has a feudal Japan theme with supernatural aspects, one of which is a wolf given a human form named Juujirou. Juujirou is tasked with the job of protecting a young princess dying of a mysterious disease as she journeys in search of a cure, but there are many forces wishing her death to come sooner than later. The story seems straight forward but there's an interesting dichotomy with Juujiou's character, the only reason he is protecting the princess is to foment a conflict that will increase the number of human deaths the longer it lasts.

Dragonfly by Shigeki Maeshima, is a hard-edged tale with a bit of a Matrix atmosphere. The protagonist of this story is a leather-clad woman wielding the name Shinigami, like her name implies she's an adept death dealer who makes use of gun and sword alike. She appears to be on a quest for vengeance as she dispatches her way through gun-toting clergymen in order to reach the church's Padre. Quick and to the point we'll just have to wait until volume two to learn more about Shinigami's powers and her connection to Padre.

Maybe one of the better known contributors to this project is Yoshitoshi Abe, who shares his dungeons and dragons style tale, Wasteland. This story begins with a frantic sequence of events leading to the separation of the crossbow wielding Miu from her other three teammates. Lost in a dark, blood-splattered dungeon, Miu's ticket seems to be up when she's confronted with a flesh-eating zombie.

The artists contributing to this book make up a pretty impressive list of talent ranging from artists with backgrounds in anime and manga to game design. Big anime fans will recognize the work of artists who have worked on everything from Burst Angel, Haibane Renmei and Texhnolyze, and of course Blue Submarine No. 6 and Last Exile. Some of the artists with backgrounds in manga have contributed such titles as Lament of the Lamb, Testarotho, and Pilgrim Jager.

I really enjoy art books but rarely buy them because I feel they're worth a flip through. But this is where Robot shines as an incredibly unique product that seems to be a hybrid between a color art book and a manga anthology. The stories are either one shots or serialized but the one thing they all share is a short number of pages. Not surprisingly, some of them are fairly cryptic and the book as a whole needs a reread or two to get everything out of it. Rereading it allowed me to enjoy the art on more levels than a straight forward art book. I appreciated this unique format because most of the art is amazing and Robot is a nice way to get exposure to new artists. I've already started searching for manga by some of the artists that I was unfamiliar with in this volume and I'm eager to get my hands on Robot volume two.


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