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Ian Wolf's review
"Our bombs are smarter than the average high school student. At least they can find Kuwait." – A. Whitney Brown.
If you have been following the news recently you may be aware that Digital Manga Publishing is going digital only for the first six months of 2013. Considering this, it is wise to have a look at what manga are already available to buy digitally.
There are already plenty of websites on offer. DMP has emanga; there is also jmanga and Netcomics. Another company to enter this digital business is ComiXology, a company which allows you to read both manga and western comics on devices such as the iPad and the iPod Touch using a free app. To see what such a system is like I decided to read one of the manga that ComiXology had to offer.
The manga in question is Cyborg 009, one of the oldest manga available to buy in English. It was first released in 1964, one year after the anime adaptation of Astro Boy had begun, and it shows in the style of the art used by Shotaro Ishinomori, which looks uncannily like that of Osamu Tezuka. This manga was previously published by Tokyopop and it is not yet known how many volumes ComiXology will release digitally (there are currently three available to buy for £2.99 each).
Set in the 1960s, at the height of the Cold War and with the Cuban Missile Crisis still fresh in people's memories, the evil Black Ghost organisation wants to keep the fear of war ever-present and to make money from it. Their plan is to develop cyborgs to fight as soldiers. Thus they kidnap nine people from around the world and turn them into cyborgs for the purposes of battle. However, the cyborgs, along with the good Dr. Gilmore, rebel against Black Ghost and decide to use their powers for good. The main hero of the team is Joe Shimura, a half-Japanese orphan and delinquent who is turned into Cyborg 009. His main ability is being able to travel so fast that everything else seems to him as still as a statue.
Dealing with the digital aspect first, it does feel somewhat strange at first, but you quickly get used to it. I read it from an iPod Touch, which rather than displaying the manga page by page, displays it panel by panel. However this can change to more than one panel at a time if they are small enough or, if it is large, you can deal with it in smaller chunks. You can also zoom in on the panels if you desire. As you are "turning" the manga every panel or so rather than every page when reading it on the iPod Touch, this does mean that reading it does take longer, although on an iPad when you are reading it as if it were a normal book then I would image that it would take no longer to read than a normal print edition.
Concerning the manga itself, the idea of a superhero team is an appealing one. However there are certain aspects which are a bit more off-putting, the main one being that you can tell that this is a product of a certain age. While certain parts of this are on the whole light-hearted, such as the introduction of Cyborg 002 (special ability: jet flight), a New Yorker from the West Side who is introduced in the manner of West Side Story, can be seen as a simple parody, others are not given such a glorious treatment.
The most notable example of this is Cyborg 008 (special ability: surviving underwater), the African character whose physical depiction is arguable racist, having a somewhat minstrel-like face. Despite this, the writing claims all the time that the characters are uniting the world as one, with them coming from all over the world: super-intelligent baby Cyborg 001 is Russian; super-sensory girl Cyborg 003 is French; weapon-loaded Cyborg 004 is East German; incredibly strong Cyborg 005 is Native American; fire-breathing tunnel digger Cyborg 006 is Chinese; and chameleonic actor Cyborg 007 is British. The characters also say that Cyborg 009, due to his mixed heritage (his father is foreign, but at this point it has yet to have been revealed where exactly he is from) is "a symbol of the erosion of borders between nations and races." It should be pointed out that in later adaptations the appearance of Cyborg 008 is made less stereotypical.
Cyborg 009 is a good story, if you can get past the depictions of some of the characters. In terms of the digital format, I can see it taking off, but I know that people will always prefer the printed version as it is the one we are all used to these days. However, there is no denying that digital manga will probably become bigger as the months and years go by.
|Score:||7 out of 10|
|Review By:||Ian Wolf|
|Date Published:||Fri, 7 Dec 2012|
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