Another random pull from the not-so-local library for me, I barely looked at what this one was about or I probably would have noticed the "from the creator of FLCL!" tagline and put it back. Turns out Hajime only did the manga adaptation, he's not the original creator of the show, although I can still see some similar themes between this manga and what I've heard people say is the heart of that show.
Q-ko-chan by Ueda Hajime
Summary: Aliens are ravaging the Earth and countries have fractured as small military groups vie for power and people flock to where ever seems the safest. Kirio and his sister Furiko live in one of the safer areas but even it gets attacked by aliens fairly regularly, although Kirio seems to have made a contract of sorts with a robot that's rather good at fighting them off.
The Good: This is going to sound a bit odd considering all the problems I had with this story but I was actually enjoying the story when I could figure out what was going on. This meant that for a lot of it I was reading it with a very confused look on my face but for the rest of it I thought it worked and that it was telling a bit more of a cynical/sarcastic/world-weary story of aliens attacking (heck it even parodies the gung-ho "children will save us from the aliens!" at one point) and I liked how it flowed. However, while I did like parts of it I found it to be outweighed by all the problems I had with it.
The Bad: While I was able to follow the basic plotline of the story, aliens have been invading Earth for a while and people are fighting back there was a lot of the story I wasn't able to pick up. Like the dolls (robots), are they working with humans, just with human children, or are they actually working with the aliens? And what the heck is up with Kirio and Fumiko's antagonistic relationship (which seems to be one of the central themes of the story)? Just when I thought I figured out some of the characters they would go and say something completely different, I still don't know what the goals of any of the military characters were and I really did try. This manga is only two volumes long and I can't help but wonder if it was planned to be longer originally and shortened or if it was cut off suddenly, if it hadn't been for the "So What Happened?" page after all the translation notes I wouldn't have even notice it ended, so many things and character motivations were left unexplained and I don't feel like the characters had even developed much by the end. It's a frustrating story since while I'm sure some people could puzzle out a few of the things I had trouble with that there really are some loose ends that even the American staff couldn't work out.
The Art: The art style is loose and sketchy at times and simply minimalistic at others which I think fits well with the tone of the story, there's not a lot of explanation from either conversation or imagery here. It was easier to tell the characters apart than I expected after a bit and I didn't have as much trouble following the action sequences as I did with the plot.
So, 2.5 out of 5 stars for this one since while confusing it wasn't terrible, if that makes sense:I could see a story in there, I could see some character development and some distinct themes running through it, the tone was consistent, it just didn't have an ending. I'm sure that some fans of FLCL will like this so if you are one go check this out (although it was a Del Ray publication so it's out of print now) and if anyone can figure out the answer/an interesting interpretation to any of my questions then please comment!