Twisted fantasies lead to twisted humans known as Euphorics, possessing the power to make their fantasies come true. Can a former war photographer rescue a young girl embroiled in a make believe world of debauchery?
Writer/Artist: Tomozo and Yusuke Kazaki
Translation: Satsuki Yamishita
Adaptation: Clint Bickham
What They Say:
Smile for the camera, or perish in the glare of its lens...
In the Tokyo of the future, a second Japanese economic bubble has propelled the city into a feeding frenzy of desire. The epitome of this new ethos is the Roppongi Club, an elite society serving Tokyo's most privileged citizens with fantasies beyond their wildest dreams.
Saiga is an intrepid photojournalist and war photographer intent on infiltrating the Roppongi's shadowy, secret world. But when he gets there, he discovers much more than just a glamorous hostess club. He discovers Kagura, a modern goddess whose touch transforms Saiga into the Speed Grapher, a man with the supernatural ability to make anything and anyone he photographs explode.
What We Say:
TOKYOPOP uses the original Japanese cover with some modification. The title text is a different font than the original, which ran vertically over Saiga’s face, between his eyes. TP also added a ‘Parental Advisory’ label on the front cover. I hate this because it permanently alters the front cover art, but TP isn’t the only publisher doing that these days, unfortunately. I think adult books should come wrapped in plastic with a warning label sticker on the plastic. The print quality for Speed Grapher is good throughout the book, solid ink and good alignment. Extras consist of a naked Ginza drawn by a friend of the author and an afterward by the author. The author’s afterward is cool because he describes his feelings on drawing the three main characters, Saiga, Kagura, and Suitengu.
The artwork is mostly good with a couple things I did not enjoy. I really enjoyed the variety of sizes for the panels throughout the book, especially the odd shaped panels during action scenes. Action scenes succeed in creating a sense of power with speed lines and rougher detail, but are a little confusing. The characters appear to mimic the anime design quite well. The rich men in the underground club ceremonies are supposed to repulse the reader, and the artist absolutely succeeded with that. Those characters are disgusting. On the other hand, the artist had some problems too. Sometimes the female characters seem a little out of proportion. The best example is the female cop, Ginza; sometimes her head is too big or small for her body. This seems strange because the male characters a very well drawn. I also don’t like the SD use in a serious themed story like Speed Grapher.
Although the translation reads fine, there were a few problems in the editing. It always surprises me when I see problems with the text in manga released post 2006. The translation makes sense, but there are places where words are missing, not enough to make reading this book difficult, just enough to annoy. Honorifics remain, but SFX are un-translated. However, there is a single SFX translated into English, strange, but I don’t see TP ever changing their stance on this.
Contents: (Oh yes, there may be spoilers)
Saiga is an honored former war photographer. He is retired from the battlefield; currently researching corrupted politicians and yakuza. Maybe not as dangerous as being on the front lines of battle, but dangerous nevertheless. Saiga is an interesting character, as he seems to loathe what he has become. Now he just goes through the paces, yearning for the life of a war photographer. However, he hates that old life because he came to love the sight of death. His greatest desire was capturing the moment someone died. This is certainly a believable reason to hate yourself.
While researching a corrupt politician, Saiga stumbles upon a murder scene. He has seen death plenty of times before, but never a killer like this one. A man dressed completely in rubber attacks Saiga with the ability to stretch his limbs around like the character in the Fantastic-4. The art in this battle successfully captures Saiga’s desperateness. After a MacGyver like move, Saiga makes a hasty retreat.
It takes some attention to detail and detective style research, but Saiga eventually links the dead politician to a secret underground club known as the Roppongi Club. Naturally, he infiltrates the club and makes a surprising discovery. The rich and powerful of Tokyo congregate in this exclusive club to fill their every desire; sex, drugs, and even death. The Roppongi Club is lead by a mysterious man named Suitengu, who works for the powerful Tennouzu group. The daughter of the Tennouzu group, Kagura, is routinely drugged and forced into bizarre ceremonies. For a ton of money, an individual can receive a special drug before kissing Kagura (known as the Goddess). She carries some kind of chemical in her saliva that interacts with the drugged individual. If the ceremony works, the individual receives his/her greatest dream and becomes a Euphoric. This effectively twists the person’s body into a monstrosity that matches their sick perverted desires. For example, one woman can turn her body into a hard, yet pliable diamond.
Interrupting the ceremony changes Saiga’s life forever after Kagura kisses him. Nothing should happen because he hasn’t been drugged for the ceremony, but Saiga develops the power to blow things up by photographing them. The power comes in handy with everyone in the Roppongi Club trying to kill Saiga. In such a tough position, taking Kagura as a hostage seems to be Saiga’s only way out. This proves successful, but what is Saiga going to do with Kagura? She doesn’t want to go home and she knows nothing of the club or what has happened to Saiga. Why did the ceremony work on Saiga when he didn’t take the special drug? Will Saiga and Kagura be able to avoid Suitengu and figure out the secrets behind the Euphorics?
The Speed Grapher manga is based on the anime previously released in the U.S. The anime is a fairly dark story with a high body count. The first volume of the manga seems to follow the anime really closely. With no real chance of learning much about the characters in this first volume, it is difficult to give a very high content grade. It is also tough to tell after only one volume whether or not the manga will continue to closely piggyback the anime. Personally, I belong to the ‘give me something different’ camp when in comes to manga adaptations of anime. When I enjoy an anime series that has a manga, I like to read a story that uses the same characters and theme, but rides a different bus to get to the end. So I’m not completely sold on the Speed Grapher manga. I’ll give it another volume, but if it continues to mirror the anime, then I probably won’t continue.