Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Manga Review: Variante (volume 1)

I had a bit of an odd conversation with a librarian lately when I was being checked out, I think it was when I was checking out this book, that I thought might be interesting to share. It was an older woman who I hadn’t seen around a lot (and believe me, after almost five years of volunteering, I recognize a lot of the librarians) who was taking an extra-long time to check me out and mentioned that one of the books I had on hold wasn’t in the library after all, the AX manga anthology. I was a little surprised; all I remembered about the anthology was that I got the recommendation from it off of ANN, but apparently the library thought it had sexual material that was unsuitable for teenagers and didn’t simply shelve it in the adult fiction instead. That said, then she had no trouble with checking out this comic which I found in the teen comic section that has a big label on it saying PARENTAL ADVISORY and a cover promising gore to come. Now I’m really curious to see if the AX manga had sex that was somehow worse than all the gore in this one….

Variante by Igura Sugimoto

Summary: One night, for an unknown reason, Hosho Aiko and her family are killed by a monster but Aiko wakes up three days later in a morgue seemingly fine. However, one of the arms of the monster has grafted onto her body, replacing one of her own, and seems to have a life of it's own at times. Because of these strange things there are several government agencies who are interested in her, those who are devoted to eliminating monsters like the one that attached itself to her. 

The Good: While this is a fairly gory story, there’s no denying that, none of it is the kind that will leave a reader disturbed for days on end (it reminded me of what little I’ve seen of Six Billion Needles and Guyver, both pretty gory but not without some reason). The government organizations here are portrayed as fairly capable and fairly logical (some sections are cold-hearted bastards but they’re cold-hearted bastards who know how to do their jobs) and the choice they offer Aiko is a surprisingly nice one, a chance to fight with them and discover the secret behind her parent’s death instead of simply being dissected for her abnormality. Finally, this is a dark story and the manga-ka isn’t afraid to prove it by showing a lot of characters dying, and not simply background characters, so kudos for that.

The Bad: It’s really hard to get a feeling for how good this story will be from the first volume. It’s a solid start to the story but it’s treading familiar territory, can it do anything really different that will make it stand out? It does show promise but the premise is built upon tropes and, while it plays those tropes well so far, it just hasn't done anything new with them. 

The Art: The art is fairly detailed which is a good thing, the more detailed a monster it is the easier it is to show just how disturbing they are. The monsters (and the gore) are suitably scary and grotesque looking and everything else is well-detailed as well. So there is certainly no problem with the artwork and it does it's part in the story quite well.
So, I was interested by the series but just don't really want to make an effort to find the rest of the volumes. It was published by CMX but they managed to publish all four volumes and all of them can still be found for a good price (come to think of it, the only CMX manga I've found that has an engorged price is Two Flowers for the Dragon, I wonder if that was one of their bestsellers) so anyone who is interested in the series should go right ahead and check it out!

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