Simple action title that is undone by the graphically literal and metaphorical speed lines.
Writer/Artist: Ryu Fujisaki
Translation: Alexis Kirsch
Adaptation: Alexis Kirsch
What They Say
The machines have attacked! The only way to defeat them is to join them. A young boy named Shio sacrifices his humanity to merge with the Goujin-zou, a race of machines that cam meld to the human body. Now a cyborg, Shio is the human race's last hope at survival in a world overrun by metal.
The cover is an eye-catching picture of the Guardian Shio with an insert of Matsuda on the back. There are no author afterwords or explanation of terms or honorifics.
Whoa! Style change! Gone are the solid, elegant figures and visually pleasant page composition of Fujisaki's earlier title. But does "action" really have to mean visual overload and the incomprehensible moment?
This reads well with sfx replaced in the panels, but if one is looking for honorifics, there aren't any. It is hard to tell whether the sfx replacements affect the artwork since so much of it is visual overload.
Contents (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
I am a fan of Ryo Fujisaki's Hoshin Engi with its rich storyline and vibrant drawing, and had been eagerly awaiting this first volume of Waqwaq. Unfortunately, my expectations set me up for a rather large disappointment.
It's not as if Waqwaq volume #1 is so much different in its impact than so many other first volumes in which it is evident that the author is still working out the kinks. This story of a young Guardian who finds himself defending and protecting the young woman who is the "red-blooded" messiah to the robotic oppressors of his people delivers character and narrative introductions rapidly with little or no elaboration. It feels rushed and scattered. And the artwork doesn't help ground it, either. In what seems to be a deliberate departure from his more substantial and graphically impressive artwork, Fujisaki abandons many of his distinctive features from Hoshi Engi (those wonderfully upturned noses and those gigantic feet as well as the solidly, deliberately rendered figures) for a lot of frenzied detail that doesn't add up to anything visually satisfying. This type of drawing isn't bad in and of itself - it can confer an energy that simpler designs cannot convey, but in this case, it's often visually confusing and the density seems to suck the vitality out of the characters.
But Waqwaq has its good points. The young Guardian, Shio, is likable, honest and brave much in the manner of Gon Freecss (Hunter x Hunter) and he earnestly takes on the task of protecting the kami from those who would kidnap her to obtain her power for themselves or who would kill her to make sure no one else gets it. For her part, kami Matsuda, looking and dressed like the high schooler she is, has no idea of the prophesy that brought her to Waqwaq or even why she is there. Fujisaki does give her enough personality and presence so that, even if she is unaware of why she is in Waqwaq, her conciliatory nature is enough of a clue as to her role in the story.
Much as he does in Hoshin Engi, Fujisaki displays his gift for creating memorable characters. We are introduced to two other guardians who protect the black-blooded race of humans on Waqwaq from the machines. while the characters are distinct, once they go into action both they and their goujin-zou (helper machines that have Japanese recycling identification on their bodies) get lost in a visual mess of action that is hard to decipher.
This is a typical shounen action story that seems to try to gain distinction from its overbearing action scenes, but it just gets bogged down by the visuals. Less would have been better. Let's hope volume 2 can deliver a more sensible reading experience.
Readers of Ryo Fujisaki's Hoshin Engi are likely to be disappointed. Fujisaki's narrative density and clean and clear drawing and panel layout in Hoshin Engi are traded for a poorly elaborated story and a dense and often confusing visual design and layout. For these folk, it's a lukewarm recommendation, and one that is for the curious only.
For readers new to Ryo Fujisaki's work, just read Hoshin Engi.