It's been a while since I've seen a new manga I've really wanted. And this title continues that trend. Because it's actually on older title (1994) that an anime fan was selling second hand. And since I knew the author, although not the content, I was happy to risk it.
This book is actually a collection of short stories. Including some of the authors early works and being place before Akira, his best known (and most substantial?) work. While the author does have a strong style, both graphically and in terms of story, there is no unifying connection between the pieces. And a reasonable number of them, including one long piece about fighting sushi ingredients, are lightweight `silly' pieces based on a story twist or joke. Although the ones based on Djinni's, King Arthur and the Noah legend are quite cool.
Larger pieces include a story called "memories", best known as existing in a greatly extended version in an anime collection of the same name. While shorter and simpler it's a good story in manga as well. There's also a piece called `Fireball' (complete with parody `Hair') about psychic powers and government oppression which has many similarities to Akira. And, finally, there's a combat action piece, with a story twist, called `Farewell to Weapons'.
It's hard to review manga in general, and it's even harder for an anthology. I will risk saying that, as a whole, the stories are somewhat simpler than I expected. While the volume is sizable there's a lot of stories in them, and some of the lighter ones (including the fighting sushi ingredients) get a sizable page count. This combines with the fact that the author tends to be as interested in powerful images, rather than powerful writing, to make the stories feel a bit fragmented. This is probably enhanced by the fact that story conclusions are often very sudden.
Still, there is clear evidence of ability and some of the stories have good moments of power. There's an excellent feel for strong and imaginative graphic images as well as some quite `epic' action and effects depicted. Likewise the combination of sci-fi and mystery in many of the pieces is quite effective. And, finally, there's also some interesting `seed' ideas, and even signs of an interest in western legends and styles to be seen. I don't think the anthology is a classic, but it's definitely worth a read if given the opportunity.
One other interesting aspect is that these short stories do seem to give an insight into the author. There are certain themes that exist in most of the stories although they come out in different ways. And the main them would have to be something like `decomposition'. It's a fairly morbid, and adult theme, but many of the stories consider the collapse and reduction of societies, of groups, of individuals or even the actual bodies of the people involved. It is sort of interesting, in these relatively free pieces, to examine the authors interests and styles.
The visual style is likewise interesting. The author has a very practical and workable style, able to depict crowds, complex action and complex environments. At the same time it's not a terribly dramatic style, and people are often drastically simplified or even comical or caricatures. The style does have a good feel for technology and effect however. Thus while there's a couple of good `art' pieces, and some nice scenes, there's nothing too dramatic in terms of artwork. In addition two of the stories (memories and farewell to arms) have been colorized for the American market, and are presented in that form. One short story has actually been painted by the author (under the effects of Moebius (a European artist) exposure).