Rating: 4/5 – A Girl Summons Tatsunoko Super-stars to Save Earth
by ComicSpectrum reviewer Al Sparrow
Quick, think of four fictional heroes you’d bring together to save the world. Too broad a scope for you? Okay, think of four fictional heroes from one particular company – publisher, movie studio, etc. – who would be up to the task. Still not sure? Okay, let’s narrow it down to four heroes from a particular genre from that company. Still too m…ahh, skip it.
Infini-T Force is a celebration of the 55th anniversary of Tatsunoko Productions, and brings together four of their flagship characters – Ken from Gatchaman, Kishi Tekkaman, Casshan, and Hurricane Polimar – to basically do what heroes do. In this first volume that pretty much amounts to fighting with each other, stopping only long enough to deal with the actual enemy. Hey, it’s good to see that the same rules that apply to American comics – two heroes fighting when they meet for the first time – carries over into the manga realm as well, right?
High-school student Emi Kaido receives a magical pencil that will grant any wish she desires…provided she has time to sketch it out. There’s never any real mention of Emi’s artistic ability, so it’s my guess the pencil taps into her mind and magically assists her in the drawing department. She’s not completely sold on the idea until she becomes the victim of a convenience store holdup, and in a panic wishes for heroes to come and save the day. Enter the four Tatsunoko-branded heroes mentioned above – though not all at the same time – and with them a larger plotline regarding those who want to wield the pencil’s power for themselves.
Kaido exhibits every trope you’d expect to find in a manga heroine written in the past five years. There’s a scene where she has a piece of toast in her mouth, she has a funky looking ribbon in her hair, she lives alone in an apartment where there’s nary an adult to be found, and she’s a bit of an idiot savant when it comes to mechanical devices. Given the nature of Tatsunoko’s more shonen-based stories, she’s perhaps an odd choice for the protagonist of this story. My guess is the creative team felt the story needed a female to counter all the testosterone the four heroes provide…there is certainly enough of it to go around. Still, in spite of the many stereotypes she embodies, she’s a very fun and engaging character, providing a central focus for the heroes to revolve around as they appear in the book. You’ll end up rooting for her before you turn the last page.
Of the four heroes Kaido summons, I’d only experienced Gatchaman – you might know it as G-Force or Battle of the Planets – and Tekkaman. Casshan and Polimar were completely new to me, but it wasn’t difficult to figure out their motivations and abilities as writer Ukyou Kodachi does a great job weaving four complex plotlines together with a deft blend of action, drama, and humor. Each hero is given their moment of soliloquy to relate a brief origin, so in no time any reader, regardless of their knowledge of Tatsunoko’s stable, can be brought up to speed. I’m already intrigued enough by the character of Hurricane Polimar to seek his story out, so in that respect the book did its job.
If the book stumbles anywhere it’s in its lost potential. It goes to some effort to show Emi as an independent, strong-willed and talented young woman who doesn’t always need saving – stereotypes and all – but then promptly turns around and puts her in a few unnecessary fanservice scenes. I’m no prude, but it seemed completely out of place and out of character. While it’s great to see Gatchaman represented – it was my gateway drug into anime (never mind how far back that was!) – it would have been cool to see Jun the Swan instead of Ken show up as the representative of the Science Ninja team, just to have at least one female hero on the squad. Minor quibbles, to be sure, but missed opportunities and missteps that might have kicked this book up a notch.
Infini-T Force is well worth picking up if you grew up watching any Tatsunoko programs. Even if you didn’t, it’s a handy primer to get your manga/anime history lesson off to a good start. For a book mainly designed as a promotional tool (let’s be honest here), it manages to deliver a fun protagonist, some great characters from the not-so-distant past, and a compelling storyline that left me ready to pick up the next volume.
Reviewed by: Al Sparrow (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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