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June 13, 2012

Bento Bako Lite: Kamen volume 1

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Written by: Kristin
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Title: Kamen
Author: Mihara Gunya
Publisher: GEN Manga
Volume: Volume 1, $9.95 (print), $1.99 (digital)
Vintage: March 2012 by GEN Manga
Genre: Fantasy, drama

A mysterious man wakes up in the middle of a field with a strange mask on his face. As he tries to remove the mask, the mask speaks to him and attempts to calm him down, as removing the mask would kill them both. The man cannot speak, which becomes a problem when he runs across a prisoner caravan en route the for fortress of Jiguzah. The masked man allows himself to be arrested and taken to Jiguzah to become one of Simba’s prisoners. Simba is a female general, and (I think) the daughter of the kingdom’s ruler. She has been charged with the defense of Jiguzah, which stands in the way of the attacking Zoh Army. Contrary to her vicious reputation, Simba treats her prisoners well, and gives them simple labor about the fortress. Unfortunately, her uncle, Lord Gailas, doesn’t think much of her soft treatment of the enemy, and during his visit to check on her progress, orders all of the prisoners executed. Simba contains her rage and silently watches as the prisoners are paraded out for their execution. The prisoners are confused, and when the executioner, Oguma, attempts to behead a young girl who has apparently already died from exhaustion, one of the male prisoners voices opposition. For his outburst, he is taken instead, but his execution is interrupted when one of Simba’s soldiers, Kagura, blocks Oguma’s falling sword. Lord Gailas orders Kagura executed for her conduct, but as Oguma continues acting on his orders and attempts to once more behead the young girl, the masked man steps in and catches the sword’s blade between his fingers. He then proceeds to bring the girl back to life. Gailas orders him taken down immediately, but the mask, though it explains it doesn’t enjoy fighting, agrees to help the man because he has chosen to protect the young girl. Single-handedly, and with inhuman strength and speed, the masked man defeats his opponents with the help of the mask, who gives him instructions and warns him of incoming attacks. However, when the masked man scales the wall to attack Gailas and Simba, a powerful sword wielder named Dazam appears and traps him within another dimension. Simba stops the attack, and orders that all of the prisoners be immediately released. The outspoken prisoner from before sizes Simba up, realizes that she must command great respect from her soldiers, and decides she must be able to back up her words with actions. The masked man, knowing that leaving the fortress would be harmful to the young girl he saved, stays behind. War is fast approaching, so Simba’s soldiers return to preparing the fortress for an attack. The Zoh army holds 3,000 men to their 700, but they put their trust in their Lord’s plan. Simba plans to make the most use of the few resources she has and tear the Zoh army down. If the masked man fights on her side, she’ll have a powerful ally indeed, but he is not the only one with a mysterious power.

Kamen is an interesting story. It’s a little confusing right now. Not a lot of information about the world the story takes place in has been offered. It’s a decent introduction. The masked man is introduced, and his power is showcased. Simba’s basic character is revealed, and there is much left to be discovered about her. Her top soldiers/personal guard are introduced, and each has a distinctive personality. Multiple conflicts are presented, including the war against Zoraiden, obvious conflicts within Simba’s family, a mysterious missing person named Olnela, and the presence of the masked man as an entirely unknown entity. The story moves slowly, up until the very last portion of the book, where the pace suddenly quickens as the Zoh Army launches its attack. Several imposing powers are presented, including the masked man himself, Dazam, and, surprisingly, the young nameless girl. The story itself is certainly interesting, and seeing a powerful female character like Simba in a prominent role is a treat. There’s a war going on between Zoraiden and Simba’s kingdom (which I can’t recall the name for, though I think it’s either Badogana or Yanusha), though the reason for it is currently unexplained, other than Zoraiden appears to be a tyrannical, warring nation. The identity of the myserious Olnela is also unknown, though her existence appears to be quite troublesome for Simba. The art is quite beautiful, though it’s also very simple. The images are easy to follow, the characters are well designed, but there is very little in the way of backgrounds, so there’s a lot of white space. Due to the size of the panels and the way they’re printed across the pages, there’s also a lot of white space in the book in general. Which makes me wonder why GEN decided to forgo page numbers; there’s plenty of empty space. It’s still a good looking book overall, particularly the minimalistic cover. Though I was surprised to find that the quality control for the text was well below the high standards I expected of this publisher. There are frequent misspellings, including character names, some occasional awkward grammar, and a lack of regular punctuation that interferes with the flow of the dialog. And again, so much empty space in the word bubbles. Kamen can be read in bound printed form, or you can read the chapters in the monthly GEN magazine, which can be purchased digitally through GEN Entertainment, or purchased from a limited physical print run.




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