Rating: 5/5 – Two Manga Masters Unite to Create a Masterpiece.
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow.
Caveat Emptor: It is statistically impossible for me not to like this book, so keep that in mind as you read this review. I’ll do my best to remain objective and forget that Shirow Masamune, the artist who gave us Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, just teamed up with Rikudou Koushi, the creator of Excel Saga, to create a manga series featuring the things each does best: cybernetic girls and, well, girls in general. For a western parallel, Eisner just wrote a story and handed it off to Kirby to draw. Yeah, it’s on that level as far as star-power goes.
“The reason I didn’t turn this into manga myself,” Masamune writes in the afterword, “is that, to begin with, my art style is old. I knew it’d end up being reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell…” Certainly the elements of a good Shirow tale are there. When a near full-conversion cyborg girl, Nene, travels to what should be an island paradise to visit her aunt, it doesn’t take long before she finds herself embroiled in an anti-terrorist plot, working alongside a fellow loli-con cyborg named Clarion to fight giant mecha at the behest of Clarion’s sexpot owner, Delilah. Oh, and Delilah’s assistants, a bunny girl, a cheongsam-clad beauty, a girl in a schoolgirl outfit…are you getting the picture?
Both Masamune and Koushi are known, along with creating manga epics, for their women. Interestingly enough, but perhaps not too surprising, there are no male cast members in this first volume. Flipping back through it, I’m not sure Koushi even drew a single male in the book, outside of a crowd scene. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. If anything, they’re being honest and playing to their strengths. Rikudou, in a back yonkoma in Excel Saga, extolled the fun of drawing breasts, so it’s probably a bit of a challenge keeping that in check while drawing two younger women in metal and plastic bodies. Cyborg fetishists take note: your book has arrived with a vengeance.
Still, with Koushi at the helm working to Masamune’s plotline, I kept wondering just how far they’d be willing to go with it. I got my answer about halfway through, when Nene must tap into Clarion’s power-base to temporarily download a fighting program that will give her a momentary edge over her adversary. You will now be given three guesses as to where that interface lies, and what Nene has to do to access it. Yes, they went there. Yes, it’s borderline hilarious and yet somehow I know somewhere this is a scene that someone has been waiting all their lives to see. The rest of you? Proceed with caution.
As I mentioned, it’s impossible for me not to like this book. In fact I loved it, and can’t wait for volume two. The author of two of my favorite manga series teamed up with the creator of my absolute favorite manga series? I’m not sure what they could possibly have done that I’d hate, but fortunately I don’t have to find out. Pandora in the Crimson Shell will not be for all audiences (if my subtle hints above weren’t enough to clue you in) but the audience it does find is going to absolutely love it.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow
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