Title: All You Need is Kill
Author: Nick Mamatas (adapted from the novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka), Lee Ferguson (art)
Publisher: Viz Media (Haikasoru)
Volume: One-shot, $14.99
Vintage: May 2014
Genre: Science fiction
First of all, I apologize for the lapse in columns. Free Comic Book Day hit (one of the offerings was a preview of this very comic, by the way), and was followed shortly by Dallas Comic Con (which I will be writing about soon). Second, this is not a manga, but it is from Viz Media, off their science fiction/fantasy imprint Haikasoru. This graphic novel is an adaptation of the original novel by Hiroshi Sakurazaka (which I also have here and will be reading soon). Note that the upcoming Tom Cruise film Edge of Tomorrow is based on Sakurazaka’s novel. Now on to the actual review, which will contain spoilers, so if you’re planning to see the movie you might want to avoid this section.
There’s an epic war on (though how widely spread isn’t really clear; there’s a statement from a character that almost makes it seem localized – a soldier says the Americans are there to bail out the Japanese). Aliens called mimics have launched an attack on Earth, taking on the appearance of the creatures they first encountered – starfish and frogs. It’s up to an army of jacket wearing soldiers to fend them off. Jackets are full body suits that augment a soldier’s strength, but most soldiers never get a chance to learn how to properly and effectively use them. Enter Keiji Kiriya, who is easily killed by a mimic on the battlefield…but wakes up in bed the next day. After a day filled with déjà vu, Keiji is killed again, and once more wakes up the next morning. It soon becomes clear that he’s repeating the same day over and over again. Still, Keiji can change things here or there, like the appearance of the Full Metal Bitch, red-clad Rita Vrataski. Some days she sticks around, some days she doesn’t. Eventually Keiji decides to follow in her footsteps and become a mimic-killing machine, and approaches Rita’s armorer to ask for his own giant axe to kill the aliens with. More time passes, and Keiji learns from Rita herself that she, too, has been stuck in a time loop. For much, much longer than Keiji. Here’s where things start to get really confusing, since while Rita’s been stuck in a loop, time seems to have been passing around her, because she’s a world renowned hero, and even has her own movie. Now she and Keiji seem to be stuck repeating the same day together, all the while they kill mimics and grow stronger. Each loops brings them closer to their goal – killing the large antennae-clad mimic that controls the dreams and memories of all the other mimics. Since they are trapped inside a mimic’s dream, killing the ‘host’ so-to-speak should break the loop. Except that each day they repeat is also a day the mimics learn, as the large mimic transmits its memories to mimics in the past so they evolve to fight against the humans (this is where it really lost me). All of that leads up to the mimics suddenly making a preemptive strike rather than following the daily pattern, and a revelation from Rita that brings everything to a sudden conclusion.
This is not my cup of tea. Right off I’ll say that I’m not very into this dark sci-fi genre (I don’t mind sci-fi in general; I love Star Trek and Star Wars and some other things). Now that said, I also had my husband read this, and he came away with a similar opinion (he enjoys this sort of thing a bit more than I do, and also I read so much manga and rarely any American comics so I wanted to know if I was just too rusty to follow along). That opinion is: this book is a mess. The panels and story flow badly, the story itself makes little sense, and it’s overall a confusing mess. Now that could partially be blamed on the rushed feel of the whole book, which condenses an entire novel into its 93 pages. There’s little time for explanations or solid progression; the story jumps from one point to the next. Then suddenly it’s the end and what the hell just happened. The explanation for the entire experience of the main character is tossed out by the female protagonist in a couple panels, and then I guess it’s over? And Keiji is…not…dead? Even though he died? Or maybe he’s dreaming now? Or…I’m so confused. They’re stuck in some sort of time loop, but they did die. Or, I guess, if the time loop started at the moment of their death then they really didn’t die. Or maybe their death was part of the dream. Or maybe I’m just thinking too hard about it all. You’re not supposed to think about science fiction, right? Just accept all the nonsense. Anyway, let’s move on to the art, which is very hit or miss. Sometimes it’s glorious, and there are some nice epic backgrounds here and there. Other times a character is completely missing his hair in one panel, and in nearly every panel there’s this weird etching around the lines that makes it look like the images were blown up from a smaller resolution. It’s kind of distracting. So are the ridiculously large mouths and teeth on some of the side characters, making them look like muppets. So is the way Rita’s light blue eyes occasionally become violet (though this might be a lighting thing). At least the aliens look sufficiently creepy and scary as some sort of starfish/frog hybrid (though it’s like 95% frog). Maybe the book is better. Hopefully the movie will be. There’s a manga too (with Takeshi Obata and Yoshitoshi ABe) which is already running (and simultaneously with its Japanese edition) in Viz Media’s Weekly Shonen Jump digital magazine. So if the graphic novel fails for you like it did for me, but you still like the basic concept, move on to another version. Which of course includes the movie coming out at the end of May.
Review copy provided by Viz Media.