story by Roka Saki; art by Tomoni Nakamura; adapted by Paul Tuttle Starr
published by Viz; $9.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Kai Eto is brand new to the Narcotics Control Division (NCD). He’s kind-hearted, has no former police experience, and his compassion tends to get in the way of his police work. Hal Kurabayashi has been with the NCD only a short time himself. He’s a chain smoker whose only focus is on catching the prep. From the moment Hal saw Kai, he’s called Kai a good for nothing. The Division Chief has made them partners. Their main focus is to find the Ryugen, a Chinese smuggling ring responsible for distributing a new designer drug called Dragon Speed.
Switch is a royal mess. Let’s start with the basic setup. First, who partners two rookie cops? Since there are thirty people in this division of the NCD, why isn’t Kai assigned to a senior investigator who can properly mentor him? Second, given how badly Kai screws up this first two assignments, why does he still have a badge? His first day on the job, he shows up late and brings a injured child he found with him to a police raid. I can’t think of any law enforcement agency that would let Kai keep his badge after bringing a minor into such a dangerous situation. The author, Saki, tries to play this off like it’s just a harmless eccentricity. Kojak sucked on lollipops, Kai brings civilians to drug busts, what can you do?
Next, we have the main characters themselves. We’re given no background on either Kai or Hal. This information might help us better connect to the characters and make them seem less of clichéd. Hal is one-dimensional: pissed-off work-obsessed cop. He doesn’t care about anything but arresting criminals. He doesn’t care what collateral damage is done physically or emotionally as long as he gets the collar and the credit. His short temper and zealousness makes him reckless.
Kai is the polar opposite of Hal. He can’t stand to see anyone hurt, physically or emotionally. His focus is on trying to help any and everyone he meets in trouble. Ironically, Kai’s obsession makes him just as reckless as Hal. Honestly, Kai seems more suited to be a high school guidance counselor than a cop. Why the Division Chief thinks they make a great team is one of the biggest mysteries of the book.
The artwork is just as confused as the writing. Occasionally, I had a hard time following the visual narrative of the book. At times, it’s difficult to figure out what exactly is going on in a panel. Other times, I couldn’t figure out why a panel existed. There is a tendency to do extreme close-ups, which I think are meant to add dramatic effect. In reality, they mostly left me wondering why they thought that particular minor act was so important.
The pages look cluttered. The most problematic panels all tend to be in the lower left corner of the page. This makes me think the artist, Nakamura, either had empty space that needed to be filled or she ran out of room and so tried to cram a lot of info into the space she had left. Either way, it shows poor page layout skills on Nakamura’s part.
Switch feels like two people brainstorming ideas during a pitch meeting to a magazine. There should have been several layers of editorial rework on this material before it was published. It’s hard to believe this is the work of an experienced manga team.
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