Thursday, 30 September 2010

Manga Focus: Legendz

To say that "collect 'em all" series like Pokémon and Digimon have entirely shaped the way anything is aimed at children is perhaps to make the most obvious statement yet to anyone who's as much as looked at multimedia successes aimed at children in the last decade or so. Of course it stretches further back than those two high points, I mean there were series like Transformers or Marvel's Rom Spaceknight comic series to shill toys to unsuspecting children over the years but it's arguable that Pokémon and Digimon are entirely responsible for today's focus existing, so I'm sticking to my guns on this train of thought.

Turn on your TV. Put on any kid's animé. It was probably made to sell collectable toys. Go to a bookstore, look at kid's manga. It IS there to sell something to the kids. Go to a toystore. THAT is what's being sold to them. It's just how everything works, and I know you're unsurprised. But it leads me to an interesting point about Legendz.

Legendz is a manga made to shill these unique and intriguing virtual pet style pod things to young'uns, we know this to be true. And yet when the manga was licensed for the US nothing was released. To this day, nothing has actually transferred over from Japan. And I don't even know if it was a success over there at that. Basically there's no business reason for this Pokémon clone series to be localised, and yet here it is in its entirety, available from any good bookstore. It boggles the mind to some extent.

But then I take a look inside the books and I get it. Who cares about whether it's selling goods to impressionable youngsters? It's good all-ages reading with art that blows the reader away and that is ALL that matters in the long run, isn't it.

So let's all hit that magical jump thing I include in these articles so you can read me worshipping the very pages the series is printed on or some such, shall we?


What Is It?: Legendz is a 4-volume manga series based on a toy range. Released by Monthly Shonen Jump and Shueisha in Japan and localised into the english language by Viz Media. It follows hyperactive Shonen generic mold #3, Ken Kazaki as he makes friends easily through the power of friendship and defeats bullies with ease. But that's just dumbing it down. What it actually does is follow Ken Kazaki as he starts as a new school, making friends and a name for himself as a legendary player of Legendz, a tamagotchi style battling game. This draws the attention of his school's best Legendz players, the leader of whom tries to give Ken a mysterious GOLDEN LEGENDZ CRYSTAL! This leads to conflict with increasingly evil groups of people who all want access to this mysterious and powerful tamagotchi thing. Along the way to the conclusion to the series Ken and his friends learn a lot about friendship, whether somthing has to be alive for you to care for it (and whether those items actually ARE alive) and how to have a jolly good time.

What's So Great About It?: As you've probably gathered from my synopsis of the plot it's not gonna be the writing that stands atop its qualities. Series like Beet the Vandel Buster have successfully proven that generic series can have excellent writing in the execution and Legendz certainly has a glimmer of what made its Monthly Jump cohort's genericness enticing, but around the second volume's conclusion it just gives up the ghost, realising that it may as well embrace the generic nature of any collectable, catch 'em all type series and start a slippery slope towards a lackluster conclusion.

No, what completely sells this to me and any other manga fan with sense is the art. Makoto Haruno is an artist without equal. You only have to look at the one-shot Toriya Trip from JUMP SQ II back in 2008 to see this. That's not to say that Haruno is the best artist out there. Far from it. But when it comes to what Haruno excels at, facial expressions, poses, proportions and adorable creature designs... Well, it's hard to imagine someone as perfectly suited to these things.

A simple way of getting this across to those who prefer western comics is to say that Makoto Haruno comes across in his work as a quality equivalent to Kevin Maguire with the sheer strength of the expressions, being realistic whilst looking nothing like real life.

The sheer amount of creatures and characters shoved down your throat over the four volumes is another brilliant aspect of the series. Not a single one feels rushed or poorly designed and stand out as much as the next. There will always be a little design touch or different bit of design to every character on the page that you will honestly never mix up one person or creature with another. And when it comes down to what you'd want from something expecting you to want to buy every buyable thing you see, it's kinda the most important thing.

Is It Worth Buying?: 4 volumes at £5/$8 a pop? For a fun and beautiful series with only some glaring writing flaws to be held against it? Why are you even asking? Seriously, this is a great book to ease you into the Shonen Jump style and has some decent appeal to any people who just plain love great art. It's a nice, easy to complete package and you can't possibly feel ripped off!

So get your derrières over to and order yourself these gorgeous little things, they're out of print and may not be around forever!