written by Surt Lim; art by Hirofumi Sugimoto
published by Del Rey Manga; $10.99 US
When I read the first volume of this joint American-Japanese production, I thought it was ok. This installment, though, tries to do so much that what’s left is an overstuffed mess.
Each chapter takes on a different type of story, giving the book more multiple personalities than the United States of Tara. First, it’s a superhero rescue that becomes, once the heroine ridiculously knocks herself out, a mystical quest origin complete with talking tree. Next it’s school rivalry among a group of bad girls with spooky horror overtones, followed by romantic comedy (complete with chase scene and rival for lead’s attention) and then a mystery with kidnapping and theft. The remaining two chapters include body transformation, possession, attempted murder, and way too many new characters introduced but not used purposefully or to their potential.
Now, there’s something to be said for being aware of the cliches of one’s chosen genre, and there’s nothing wrong with bringing them up to comment on them or to make good use of them to do something different or even as a shortcut to your real story. But that’s not what’s happening here. This gives the impression of not having a reason beyond “oh, yeah, and I like manga that does this, too!” It feels like a young writer not sure how to craft her story, and the result is missing a strong vision and through-line. I was lost and confused, with the book’s environment shifting every half-chapter. If I liked something, too bad, because it was gone in a number of pages.
The art is similarly overdone. There’s no white space on most pages, leaving no room for the eye to relax. While that’s a pleasant change from artists who draw no backgrounds at all, at times, I had trouble figuring out what I was supposed to be seeing, especially in scenes of action. And the towel that the lead character is supposedly wrapped in all through the first chapter looks nothing like one. Instead, it looks as though she’s wearing a poodle skin made of cotton candy. Plus, all the girls look alike, except for hairstyle, with cute, almost-alien nose-less faces.
The original concept of this book was a girl who liked magic tricks finding out she could turn invisible. This time, there’s no mention whatsoever of her hobby, and all this other junk has been bolted onto the story in random directions. If the series returned to its core story, I’d be interested in reading more, but now, there’s too much going on. It’s anti-synergy: together, it’s less than the sum of its parts, although bursting at the seams, and the result is incoherent.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)