Hello one and all and welcome to our first edition of Comic Attack Foreign Legion! I’m Drew McCabe, normally the writer of our all-ages column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays, however to mix it up around here on the first Friday of every month instead of covering all-age titles I am going to be writing about some foreign four-color gems instead. If you are a regular of our all-ages, never fear, it’ll be back next week. Now, the objective of Comic Attack Foreign Legion is to look at comics from all over the globe outside of the North American scene and bring you a scoop on what’s there and even how to get it. Let’s get down to it this week!
This week we will start with arguably the most common foreign comic in the North American market place: Japanese manga! If you time traveled years back you might have said Franco-Belgian comics were the most common, but certainly manga has blown everything from Franco-Belgian to U.K. reprints out of the water, almost becoming a passage of rite for alternative-style teens. Manga has died out in a lot of comic shops, but it still rules the hell out of book stores and has a killer following digitally, too! So for this month’s Comic Attack Foreign Legion we look at one of the newest series just finished being translated here, Akira Toriyama’s Jaco the Galactic Patrolman!
It is hard to put one’s finger on how to feel about Jaco the Galactic Patrolman. Toriyama, genius manga-ka behind such long running hits as Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump, known these days for only doing one-shots or short series since Drgaon Ball’s end in 1995, embarked on his first short series since 2000’s Sand Land, which wrapped up in this week’s Weekly Shonen Jump after 11 chapters. Toriyama has described it as a “light manga,” and his description is accurate in both the duality of the manga’s light story, not really either a full comedy or action, but a light mix of both, as well as a comparison to quick telling of Japanese light novels (the modern Japanese equivalent to old American Pulp novels). Now while this lightness may not be embraced by all North American fans, most still know Toriyama for only Dragon Ball and do not realize or have heard of the comedic genius first hit Dr. Slump. The 11th and final chapter goes full throttle as Toriyama creates his Prometheus moment, tying the story into the start of his own Toriyama-universe where Ariel, Goku, and the rest of his characters live.
For the most part Jaco follows the story of a Galatic Patrolman named Jaco who is sent to Earth on a mission to stop an evil that will be landing. His ship gets damaged and he ends up befriending an old man named Omori who lives alone on an island, a former scientist whose wife has died and all he has left are memories of his invention on his island, which use to be a secret government research facility.
From there the elements of the story start moving in quick. Jaco wants to go home but can’t radio, and needs a rare fuel called sky gold. Omori was attempting to build a time machine, but just succeeded in an invention that can temporarily stop time. They meet a girl named Tights, who looks exactly like a J-Pop star, and is in fact doubling as the star (for the star’s safety) on a dangerous mission to launch a rocket into space. All the pieces are set, but aside from a few quick beating up of thugs here, an attempted government intervention there, we never feel that the story goes full force. Like a light novel, the plot elements are just put out there and strung together, never organic feeling in the least as the reader is kind of plopped with information, and the fun of discovering the information has very few moments. In fact, the only chapter that feels organic and thought out is the final in which, without giving away the what and when, is Toriyama’s manga equivalent to his world as the film Prometheus is to Alien.
The artwork is great and distinctly 100% Toriyama. It is a bit cleaner than other works, but in a recent interview he revealed he did this one 100% on his computer, which explains it right there. Surprisingly it appears the manga hasn’t been well received in Japan, one can guess probably the same reason there hasn’t been crowds of over pouring fandom for it here either: writing wise this “light manga” is just too light.
Toriyama said this will probably be the last series he’ll draw by himself, he’ll now just write or stick to one-shots, illustrations, and character designs (let’s face it, video game franchise Dragon Quest is not slowing down anytime soon). As he found out back in 2000, he just doesn’t have the energy for a weekly ongoing manga anymore. In fact, Jaco was originally supposed to start running back in March when the new DBZ film Battle of the Gods opened, but he couldn’t pull it off and they delayed until July for the Japanese 45th Anniversary issue of Weekly Shonen Jump to start running. Perhaps it’s for the best. You don’t want to meet heroes in real life and you don’t want to see them fail. I have faith Toriyama could pull off another great weekly with proper planning, but this was not that time. Hopefully his new break will not be as long as 13 years again for another weekly, but you never know. If he doesn’t ever draw another piece of manga again, at least he gave us a hell of a good-bye with everything coming full circle in the final chapter of Jaco.
That’s it for this week! Comic Attack Foreign Legion will be back next first Friday of the month, and next week this space will return to our all-ages column, From Friendly Ghosts To Gamma Rays! If you love and want more manga, we also write up about manga all the time here with Bento Bako Weekly, check it out.