From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays: Kikaida, Word Girl and more Pokemon!
And we are back to the races with From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, the column you come to every week for your all ages comics fix. We take a look at a handful of things this week, so let’s get down to it!
Last week IDW released a new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series which I really dug. It’s all new action with a total reinvention of the Turtles (kinda like the whole Marvel Ultimates thing). Our ComicAttack.net creator Andy Liegl loved the title as much as I did and wrote up about it! Read the review right here!
There are plenty of Tokusatsu heroes (as you know if you read our column frequently where we cover them), but honestly Kikaida is one of the best. Created by manga author Ishinomori Shotaro, the TV series Jinzo Ningen Kikaida started to run in Japan in 1972. Starting in 1974, Japanese language TV station KIKU-TV in Hawaii began broadcasting the series which started to spread like wildfire, with some 26 percent of the state tuning in to watch it! Due to its lasting popularity over the years with fans in that state and around the world, in 2001 KIKU-TV began to rebroadcast it in Hawaii to much nostalgic fanfare, developing viewers new and old. JN Productions has released the episodes on DVDs complete with English subtitles, and volume one contains the first five episodes of this great series.
The first episode introduces Jiro, an android created by Dr.Komyoji who changes into the warrior Kikaida to fight the evil organization known as DARK. DARK is led by the ruthless Professor Gill, who plans on terrorizing the world with his army of evil androids. Komyoji and his daughter Mitsuko were kidnapped by DARK, and for the past five years have been forced to work for them. Using their own tools against them, Komyoji secretly creates Jiro/Kikaida, who succeeds in breaking them out of DARK’s headquarters, but unfortunately separates them from the doctor. After saving Komyoji’s other child, the young boy Masaru, the first five episodes revolve around the three on the run, hoping Komyoji is alive somewhere, as they are pursued by Gill and DARK, fighting a new evil android every episode (which on this disc includes Gray Rhino, Green Mantis, Orange Ant, Blue Buffalo, and Yellow Jaguar).
This series is much better than other typical monster-of-the-week shows. For starters, DARK is a truly evil organization. They will stop at nothing, and killing innocents is not a second thought. Take for instance in episode #1, when a boss comes back to find every worker at his hydro-dam killed by Grey Rhino, or in episode #3 in which Orange Ant captures an entire town and uses his acid-spray to prevent anyone from leaving. DARK also proves further that it doesn’t care about creating world disorder as it auctions off Blue Buffalo to foreign groups in episode #4, with the goal of causing different groups to buy their killer machines and use them against other nations to wage war. Then we have the hero Jiro who transforms into Kikaida. Jiro has an incomplete circuit, and so his built-in weakness is when he hears the flute of Professor Gill, he goes mad like all androids built at DARK, unless he transforms into Kikaida and reveals himself. Mitsuko easily offers to complete the circuit in episode #3, which would resolve further pain caused by Gill, but both little Masaru and Jiro himself wish to continue having an incomplete circuit, fearing it will completely change his system and personality once complete. This brings up the whole classic “A.I. as human versus as robot” conversation, giving the series an interesting twist throughout. Also, stylistically it is also a nice visually compelling series. At times using bright pop-colors like the Adam West Batman, and other times dark like Tokusatsu predecessor Kamen Rider. The constant use of shadows is intriguing, and the scene with Grey Rhino appearing in the dark of night and taking out a truck on a mountain road in episode #1 has to be the inspiration later on for a scene in Guyver, Bio-Booster Armor in which a zoinoid monster does the same thing, eyes appearing first in the dark and all.
Last week we checked out the first volume of Pokemon: Black and White and this week we tackle the second. The second volume, out now, gives us three more adventures in this new world as we follow trainer Black on his quest to become the next great Pokemon master!
In this volume we meet White, a female Pokemon trainer, who isn’t as much of a trainer as she is an agent for BW Agency of her Pokemon, using them to star in commercials and TV shows. After Black accidentally gets in the way of them shooting a commercial, he’s quickly almost forced by White to help her out since she needs a male Tepig, and she only has a female. However, the crew is attacked by a Galvantula and after clearing his mind with Munna’s help, Black goes into battle to save the day. Black sticks with White for a little bit and learns more about her, but when they least expect it, Team Plasma shows up and begins preaching its word to the masses about Pokemon liberation, convincing people to let their Pokemons go back into the wild. Black starts to witness folks letting them go and becomes heart broken that owners who had their Pokemon for years would just turn their backs on them. He takes off to talk to Team Plasma, but ends up in a battle with their leader!
As I mentioned last time, the strength in this title relies more on the stories of their characters versus the actual traditional “battling to be the best” scenario. White is a great character and her whole dilemma with how it’s tough to work in show biz is a great side story for the comic (and still perfectly ties in with the video games Pokemon: Black and Pokemon: White, in which there is a whole show biz side track you can take). Team Plasma also is a nice change. Where someone traditionally like Team Rocket wanted to use Pokemon for their own evil, Team Plasma has this weird, almost eerie, religious cult thing going on, right now appearing to be more anti-heroes than villains. It’s fresh new flavors like this that make this title pretty cool, and a great new take on Pokemon for both new readers and fans who have been with the franchise for more than ten years now. Kusaka does a great job with he story and Yamamoto is still rocking out the art. Out now to read.
Last week Boom! Studios’ all-ages line Kaboom! released its latest graphic novel Word Girl: Coalition of Malice, based off the hit Emmy-award winning PBS kids’ show. It collects two tales, the first titled “Coalition of Malice,” in which some of Word Girl’s greatest foes team up Sinister-Six style to do her in, and the second titled “Super Fans,” in which a group of obsessed Word Girl fans begin to stalk her and get in the way of her saving the day when Lady Redundant Woman is on the strike.
So here’s my thoughts on Word Girl. I am not the target audience for this title. As much as I recommend to you the good stuff out there every week, I am not a child, I’m a guy at the ripe age of 25. I think as a reviewer of this material we all have to think back as children and recall some of our favorite shows or comics. By a grown-up standard all these years later they may not seem like anything great, but as a child they were something. That said, although I wasn’t a fan of Word Girl: Coalition of Malice, it doesn’t mean your kids wouldn’t enjoy it. If they love the Word Girl TV series they’ll love the book in theory. That said, I thought the artwork in the first of the two stories by Steve Young looked great, and had an excellent balance of layout and color in everything from simple sets of dialog to the little action scenes. The art on the second tale by Lapierre did the job to the tell story (and from my understanding looks closer to the TV show). The writing by Karwowski was decent and provided the occasional laugh.
Word Girl: Coalition of Malice is out on stands now.
Well, that’s it for this week! See you next! Sending you some kaiju-love from Asia!
A DVD copy of Kikaida Volume 1 was provided by Generation Kikaida. A copy of Pokemon: Black and White volume 2 was provided by Viz Media. A copy of Word Girl: Coalition of Malice was provided by Boom! Studios.