by Yuko Osada; adapted by Elina Ishikawa
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.95 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
This volume picks up where the previous one left off, as Kakashi, Dorothy, and Toto find themselves squaring off against the military. During the ensuing battle, we finally learn why the military is so interested in Toto (that would be a huge spoiler so I’m not telling). To survive this confrontation, the trio has to undergo big changes. Afterward, Kakashi and company travel to the locomotive town of Dego City as they continue their journey toward the city of Emerald.
Toto! is a madcap action-adventure manga. The story and characters have a wonderful energy to them. Like a roller coaster, you sit down and just let yourself enjoy the ride. There will be plenty of thrills and surprises, but no matter how out of control things seem to get, Osada keeps the series on a carefully planned track.
This volume is a little more serious in tone than the first volume. Kakashi and Dorothy are getting glimpses of the darker side of life. They begin to understand how oppressive the military reign truly is. However, the book doesn’t get lost in a somber mood. Osada always maintains a vibrant sense of humor throughout this volume. These kids may be learning more about the harsh realities of life, but they haven’t let this knowledge dampen their spirits.
Kakashi continues to be an absorbing character. He’s young and innocent enough to do everything with abandon. It’s that ‘holding nothing back’ approach to life that makes him so delightful to watch. I love his passion and sense of wide-eyed wonder. I can’t help but cheer him on in whatever he’s doing.
I like Dorothy, too. She’s much smarter than Kakashi and bit more mature. She serves as a stabilizing influence to his frenzy. And man, can she really throw down! I’m always amazed when I watch her fight. She definitely holds her own in a brawl.
Osada has done a great job of making Kakashi and Dorothy come across as real thirteen/fourteen year olds. They’re at that age where they’re just beginning to leave childhood behind. They can be deeply serious one moment and the next are suddenly given over to youthful enthusiasm. Osada really captures the dichotomy of that time in life.
The art continues to be superb in this volume. It has the same energy as the plot and characters. Osada is a master of facial expressions. Flipping through the book, you know exactly what a person is feeling just by looking at the art. This ability to communicate visually the characters’ emotive states is part of what makes the manga so enjoyable. Since it’s a fast-paced series, both in terms of plot and emotion, the reader could easily get confused about what’s happening, but Osada’s craftsmanship prevents that. He varies his style slightly to tell us when the tone of the scene is light and when the mood is more serious. Osada also does a great job with page layout, so that no matter how crazy things get, the reader is able to easily follow the flow of action.
I want to also commend Osada for avoiding what seems to be the most common pitfall in manga, fan service. It’s so nice to read a series that visually treats the female characters with the same respect and sense of propriety as the male characters. No matter how chaotic the battle gets, Dorothy’s clothes maintain proper body coverage. The most skin you’ll see in this manga is an occasional belly button.
Toto! is a refreshing and addictive manga. It’s a series I look forward to, because it’s such pure pleasure. I’m always caught off guard by either the way characters act or some plot twist. I can’t wait to see where the next volume takes me. This is a great book to read if you want to recover that sense of fun and awe you experienced as a kid reading comics. It’s also a perfect book to introduce young readers, not to just manga, but comics in general. (A complimentary copy was supplied by the publisher for this review.)