Sgt. Frog Collection Vol. #1 - Mania.com



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Info:

  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: A-
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 13 & Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 12.99
  • Pages: 560
  • ISBN: 1-4278-0733-7
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Sgt. Frog

Sgt. Frog Collection Vol. #1

By Greg Hackmann     March 03, 2008
Release Date: December 30, 2007


Sgt. Frog Collection Vol.#1
© TOKYOPOP


Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Mine Yoshizaki
Translated by:Yuko Fukami
Adapted by:Carol Fox

What They Say
The first three volumes of the intergalactic bestseller—collected in one toad-ally awesome volume!

Sgt. Keroro, commanding officer of Planet Keron's invasion force, has a wee little problem. After blowing his cover and losing his top-secret weapon, this frog-like alien has been cut off from his home world. To make matters worse, he's lost communications with the rest of his platoon. Now he has taken cover in the Hinata family household, where he secretly devises new plans for taking over Earth. The only thing standing in his way from complete global domination? He has keep up with his share of the household chores--there’s laundry and vacuuming and dishes and taking out the trash, not to mention a house full of teens!

The Review
It's very funny, and inexpensive to boot. What more can I ask for?

Packaging:

Tokyopop's recent line of repackaged compilations has been sort of hit-or-miss in their execution, but they seem to have found the right approach with this Sgt. Frog omnibus release. They've opted for a simple softcover binding here, which is fitting for the collection's price. Tokyopop has chosen new cover artwork for this binding and given it an attractive glossy look -- I'm not sure if the cover artwork is actually foil, but if not it looks an awful lot like it. Tokyopop has also reprinted the original covers of the first three volumes in full color at the very front of the book, so people who choose this collection over the original single-volume editions won't be missing out on any cover artwork.

It's clear that Tokyopop hasn't really messed with the contents of the original three releases much here; they've even preserved the next-volume ads before the breaks between volumes. That said, they've moved all of the tables of contents up to the front of the book (and mercifully updated their page numbers to match the new binding), which is a small but handy gesture. There's a nice mix of extras spread across the collection's three volumes: all three have a satirical breakdown of one or two of the frogs' compositions, and the latter two volumes each tack on a bonus side-story chapter at the end.

Artwork:

My first impression of Sgt. Frog's artwork is that it's fairly plain: character designs are simple, shading is generally flat, and Yoshizaki tends to cycle through only a handful of all-purpose facial expressions. (Sgt. Kerero is a big offender on the last point: his expressions are all basically variations on the same generic blank stare.) The upside of this is that the art is remarkably consistent, and because of this it's actually kind of attractive in its simplicity. There are a few artistic shortcuts that stick out like a sort thumb (clothing with plaid or tartan patterns looks terrible), but apart these isolated panels the artwork is never really ugly or distracting. This is definitely a case where the art does what it needs to do and not a whole lot more, which I don't necessarily consider a bad thing.

The print quality is typical for mass-market manga releases. White-on-black text doesn't always come out sharply, but otherwise the print process is more than adequate for the (pretty crude) source material. There're a whopping 24 pages of color artwork in this release, although most of this consists of reprinted covers and frontmatter material: the actual story has two pages of full-color artwork and eight pages of black, white, and green artwork.

Text/SFX:

For any comedy manga, the quality of the script ultimately comes down to one question: after it's been translated into English and brought over to a country with different cultural norms and expectations, is it still funny? Fortunately, Sgt. Frog's English script passes this test. Without a full translator's notes section, it's tough to get a feeling for how much Carol Fox adjusted the Japanese script to make it palatable for Western audiences; regardless, it's pretty hard to argue with the results. The dialog is natural and unstilted ... and most importantly of all, it's damn funny. (Heck, any script that can squeeze in an on-topic David Bowie reference or two deserves some sort of credit.)

Frustratingly, Japanese SFX are handled inconsistently: sometimes they're translated inline, other times they're translated in the whitespace between the panels, and still other times they're completely ignored. A few cultural notes are inserted into the margins where appropriate. Readers who're picky about honorifics will be happy to hear that Tokyopop has preserved them in the translation.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)

Despite being a highly-decorated member of the Keron military, Sgt. Kerero might be one of the most incompetent alien invaders in the history of science fiction manga. His failure to invade Earth starts in the sleepy Hinata household, where he's almost immediately detected and captured by seventh-grader Natsumi and her sixth-grader brother Fuyuki. Still, Sgt. Kerero isn't willing to let his mission be derailed by small setbacks like being captured by teenagers and taken in as a pet by their irresponsible (and borderline negligent) mother; he quickly decides to locate the remaining members of his invading force which are still stranded on Earth. It takes him roughly half the first volume to locate his first subordinate, Private Tamama, who's been in the loving care of Fuyuki's multiple-personality-afflicted classmate Momoka Nishizawa. Unfortunately, after discovering the creature comforts of Earth, Kerero pretty much loses interest in his original mission. Even locating his planet-busting niece Lady Moa seems a wasted effort, since the thought of eradicating the universe's only supply of Gundam models is too much for him to bear.

In fact, it takes an off-hand comment by Lady Moa at the beginning of the second volume to shake Sgt. Kerero out of his complacency and refocus on the task at hand. This remark is coupled with the arrival of Sgt. Kerero's rival Corporal Giroro, who ends up having about as much luck conquering the Hinata household as Sgt. Kerero has. Unbeknownst to the Hinatas, Kerero and Giroro make the most of their situation by beginning to build a fortified control center beneath the Hinata house. This installation strengthens Kerero's resolve enough to take the first concrete step in invading Earth: begging Natsumi and Fuyuku to pretend to be his slaves just long enough to impress his visiting father. The second volume closes with yet another addition to Kerero's invading force, the technophile First Sergeant Kululu and his bohemian caretaker Mutsumi.

With Kululu's technical skills at their disposal, Sgt. Kerero's invading force tries a few unconventional attacks on Earth's populace at the beginning of the third volume. These tactics, ranging from a pirate radio show to a gun that turns adults into children, accomplish little other than to give Natsumi a fever. The first cracks in the invading force's solidarity start showing up at this point; Tamama grows jealous of Lady Moa's close relationship with Kerero and constructs a pedophile-bot to take care of the problem. Tamama's plans foiled, the collection closes with Kerero's plans seemingly on hiatus again with his crew celebrating their own corrupted take on Christmas traditions.

Comments
Comedy is a tough thing to get right. This especially true in the manga world, where cultural and linguistic differences keep a lot of humor from translating directly into English. In these first three volumes of Sgt. Frog, Yoshizaki seems to have found the perfect solution in the Airplane! school of writing: throw so many different jokes against the wall that it doesn't matter if only a small fraction of them stick. Sgt. Frog's writing covers a wide range of the comedy spectrum, from goofy fanservice and broad slapstick to pop-cultural parodies and self-referential humor. Even though some of the jokes fall may flat -- and they often do -- the sheer variety and quantity of gags mean that a lot of funny ones still pile up, pretty much no matter what your taste in comedy might be.

The flipside of Sgt. Frog being packed to the gills (no pun intended) with irreverent gags is that there's not a whole lot of room left for an actual plot. Normally, these sorts of problems would turn me off to a series pretty quickly; but for some reason, I didn't see it as a problem here. The difference might be that Sgt. Frog is so closely focused on the comedy that the actual plot barely even enters into the picture: nearly every story event in these first three volumes is just a flimsy pretext for giving Sgt. Kerero and his crew something new to mock or by mocked by. Yoshizaki seems to have no ambitions about injecting drama into Sgt. Frog at this stage, and this honestly suits the comedy just fine.

I'll admit that I was caught off-guard by how much I liked this release. Lowbrow humor and non-existent plots are the sorts of things I'd normally roll my eyes at, but something about Yoshizaki's sense of humor really clicked here. I got a lot of entertainment value out of this collection; and at $13 for three volumes' worth of very funny material, it's pretty much a no-brainer for readers in the mood for an unapologetically stupid comedy.

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