Alive: The Final Evolution Books 4-8

Review by Ed Sizemore

Taisuke Kanou is still heading north, chasing after his childhood friend Yuichi Hirose, who kidnapped their mutual friend Megumi Ochiai. He is joined by Yuta Takizawa, a young boy searching for answers about his mother’s suicide and his powers. Taisuke and Yuta will be joined by Nami Kusunoki, who is looking to get revenge on her little brother’s murderer.

Alive: The Final Evolution Book 4 cover
Alive: The Final Evolution Book 4
Buy this book

Alive continues to be a gripping sci-fi suspense story. The series started out at a leisurely pace to allow us time to get to know Taisuke and this new reality he was trying to cope with. Beginning with volume 4, the pace picks up and increases along with the tension in the series. By volumes 7 and 8, I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to see what comes next.

Volume four introduces a new central character, Nami Kusunoki. Her appearance made me realize how much of an influence X-Men is for this series. Nami has the ability to create ice from any source of moisture. Her favorite use of this power is to create ice claws that hover above the back of her hand. Is this starting to sound familiar? She is also gifted in martial arts and has a gruff, no-nonsense personality. She is the Wolverine of Alive. (Just without the cigars and beer.) That realization made me reexamine the abilities of the other characters, and it’s not hard to draw similar connections between the cast of Alive and X-Men characters.

Alive: The Final Evolution Book 5 cover
Alive: The Final Evolution Book 5
Buy this book

This similarity to X-Men offers the chance for Alive to have crossover appeal to American comic book fans, especially superhero fans. Further contributing to this appeal, the artwork in Alive is also comparable to the art found in most American comics. However, even with a quickened pace, Alive would still be considered a slow read compared to the compressed storytelling used in the standard Marvel or DC comic. All things considered, Alive would be a good series for manga fans to use to introduce American comics fans to manga.

Volume five explains how these non-corporeal alien life forms are able to connect with a human host. When the aliens enter a human mind, they seek out the dark recesses of the soul/heart/personality. The manga talks about there being a hole in our heart that the aliens fill. However, that’s an alien explaining what they do in a polite way. What really happens is the alien exploits the host’s insecurities, weaknesses, or character flaws.

Alive: The Final Evolution Book 6 cover
Alive: The Final Evolution Book 6
Buy this book

So the aliens exploit Yuicihi’s feeling of helplessness and his jealousy of Taisuke, Nami’s sorrow over the death of her brother, and Taisuke’s guilt over this parent’s death. (You’ll have to read the manga to find out why he blames himself.) The aliens can completely control some people, like Yuichi, and these become comrades. Others commit suicide as a result of this manipulation, and a rare few, like Taisuke, are able to bond with an alien and remain themselves. People like Taisuke have yet to be explained.

The way the aliens operate explains why Kawashima has made sure to give us the background of all the characters we encounter. It brings some depth to each person and makes everyone sympathetic to some extent. We know that even the most ruthless of the comrades is being manipulated. On the other hand, the aliens now become the perfect villains. You despise them completely for the utter disregard they have for humans. We are tools simply to be used until they achieve their goals, then we are cast aside like garbage.

Alive: The Final Evolution Book 7 cover
Alive: The Final Evolution Book 7
Buy this book

Another emotional component to the manga is the tragic love triangle among Taisuke, Yuichi, and Megumi. All three have been friends since childhood. Now in their high school years, Megumi has begun to have romantic feelings toward Taisuke. Never the brightest bulb in the box, Taisuke hasn’t figured this out yet. Meanwhile, Yuichi is beginning to develop romantic feelings for Megumi.

As the series progresses, Yuichi has come to realize Megumi’s feelings, and this is one of the reasons he’s jealous of Taisuke. Given Yuichi’s personality, there is no way for him to accept Taisuke and Megumi as a couple without being severely hurt. This is the only situation that would make him hate his two dearest and oldest friends. You know this is going to end their friendship, and you hate to see it happen.

Adachitoka’s artwork has certainly improved over the course of the series. It is now reminiscent of the artstyle used by Takeshi Obata (Death Note). Adachitoka does a great job creating the proper atmospheres and emotions. When an alien takes over someone, the panels are eerie and convey how unsettling an experience that is. When we are given flashbacks to a character’s past, they are filled with sorrow or pain.

Alive: The Final Evolution Book 8 cover
Alive: The Final Evolution Book 8
Buy this book

Adachitoka is also adept at showing the emotions of a character, not just in their face, but in their body language, too. The fight scenes are fluid and draw you quickly in. Before you know it, you’re turning the pages furiously as the scene gets more intense. I am very pleased to see the art come up to the level of the storytelling.

It’s obvious that I find Alive to be a gripping read. In fact, I was so drawn into the plot that I whizzed through the last two books in no time. Now that I know what happened, I’m going back to re-read them to pick up nuances I missed the first time around. Thankfully, Alive rewards such second reads. Fans of good suspense stories will thoroughly enjoy this series, as will most sci-fi fans. I recommend the series highly to anyone looking for a great read. I’m certainly staying with this series until the end.

(The publisher provided review copies.)

9 Comments

  1. [...] Pattillo on 9th Sleep (Kuriousity) Ed Sizemore on vols. 4-8 of Alive: The Final Evolution (Comics Worth Reading) Chris Zimmerman on vol. 1 of Arata the Legend (cbs4.com) Connie on vol. 3 of [...]

  2. This series is never in bookstores…

  3. Ali T. Kokmen

    “This series is never in bookstores…”

    Well, that news makes me sad :(

    Even your favorite bookstore doesn’t have copies on the shelf, they can still special order it for you. And they’re surely available from your favorite online booksellers or the publisher website if online ordering is an option for you…

  4. Aliens?! All the suicides and special powers and the activities of the “comrades” are caused by the influence of aliens?*

    Wow, that explains a lot right there. It also reminds me of Parasyte, another great, action packed shonen series with alien mind controllers and superpower providers.

    Nami as Wolverine :P I got the comparison right away, and it’s nice to see a professional reviewer point that out!

    Is Volume 8 the last volume in the series???

    *The reason for my lack of knowledge is that my local library system has vols. 1-4, vol. 7, and vol. 8 on order (which I’m looking forward too) but no volume 5. I hope it comes in, though.

  5. Ahavah,

    Thanks for the kind words. There are 21 volumes total in the Alive! series. So I’m very interested to where the story goes next.

  6. I recently saw this on Del Rey’s web site and I got curious (I was trying to see when the next volume of Pumpkin Scissors was). I was considering making it my next series. And you happen to review it a day after I think that? It’s fate, I’m going to try out this series. Del Rey seems to get pretty decent titles.

  7. Good review, I absolutely LOVE this series ever since I first read it. The story is gripping and the art gradually develops to look fantastic! It really does suck that it’s usually not in stores. It really is one of those things you have to order online, but it’s worth the week long shipping wait.

    Also does anyone know if Del Rey is still releasing this series? It’s been a while since vol.8 came out. I’m worried they might have dropped it? Does anyone know? (which would suck cause it’s fantastic, I can’t wait to get my hands on the next one!) Is there a release date for vol.9?

  8. It appears there isn’t, since Amazon has no listing for the 9th book. Unfortunately, Del Rey hasn’t commented on their plans for some of their manga series that don’t have new volumes scheduled.

  9. I hope Kodansha USA picks up this title, I’m really enjoying it. Lately I seem to have a theme of falling in love with series that may be destined to never be fully released outside Japan :( frustrating.

Leave a Reply