by Yusuke Aso; adapted by Sheldon Drzka
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
Review by Ed Sizemore
Through a bizarre set of circumstances, Citro has merged with a powerful device called the God of Destruction’s Heart. Citro is a puppetian; a mechanical being with free will, emotions, and a mind. The guardian of the device, Tera, needs to take Citro and his friend/mechanic, Corona, to the capital of the Altasia Kingdom. The device was meant as a weapon to help Altasia in its war with the Degserka Empire. Citro is pursued by an elite group of Degserka robots who will stop at nothing to retrieve the God of Destruction’s Heart, which will ensure Degserka’s victory.
King of Debris raises a lot of questions. I can’t tell what the technology of this world is. There are hover vehicles, cars that use skis instead of wheels, robots, and missiles. By contrast, there are also mysterious crystals, magical abilities, mechanical broomsticks that can morph into anything, and talking sentient hats. Perhaps Aso wants us to understand this world as a hybrid of advanced technology and magic, but that is never explained. Instead, I see vehicles and devices that seem to operate without any power source or need for fuel. I have to wonder if Aso actually thought that deeply about the world these characters inhabit.
Another problem with this series is the lack of any character development. After two volumes, the only character that even has the potential for growth appears to be Citro. All the central characters are two-dimensional. They are stereotypes pulled from the files of ‘how to make a shonen manga’ without any modification or attempt at uniqueness. Corona is the girl with technology skills. Tera is the mysterious leader who keeps her true power and knowledge hidden from her companions. Agito, who joins the band later, is the young, gifted fighter who discovers he has a long way to go to become a truly great warrior. They are outlines with no details filled in.
Finally, I couldn’t help feeling this series is derivative of Fullmetal Alchemist. The uniforms are of similar style and color patterns as the ones Edward and the alchemists wear. The mysterious core that gives life to the puppertians is reminiscent of the philosopher’s stone. There is the same mix of magic and technology. Even Corona felt like a pale imitation of Ed’s mechanic/friend Winry. However, as pointed out above, Aso hasn’t taken the time to built a world as rich and complete as Arakawa did with Fullmetal Alchemist. Instead, we have a world as thin and flimsy as rice paper.
The art shows improvement over the two volumes. Unfortunately, it goes from bad to mediocre. In the beginning, Aso had characters break through panel borders indiscriminately. The pages have poor visual flow and appear cluttered. Thankfully, either Aso or an editor corrected that problem, and the page layouts read more clearly as the series progresses. However, there was still one major flaw in the art left unaddressed.
Aso has chosen to work in an almost pure black-and-white format. This causes two problems. First, boring character designs. Corona’s grandfather wears white overalls, white gloves, white hat, and has white hair. He looks like a pen drawing waiting for shading or tone work. Everyone’s jacket is black with large white trim, as though they all go to the same tailor. Second, often you have two characters wearing black coats standing next to each other, and the black areas blend into one. You have to study the panel to distinguish which parts of the black area belong to which character. Other artists, like CLAMP, know that you have to cheat and outline characters in white so readers don’t get confused. Aso needs to learn that trick.
King of Debris is tepid and uninspired. The story and characters barely manage to hold the reader’s attention. I read both volumes back to back and found that halfway through the second book I was forcing myself to turn the pages and go on. Aso is attempting to cash in on the popularity of Fullmetal Alchemist but doesn’t have any of Arakawa’s talent. So we are left with a series that should have died on the submissions desk. Don’t waste time with a destitute imitation; go read the original manga. (The publisher provided a review copy of volume 2.)