Dark Horse Recommendation [Outlet]13.05.2013 09:22:52
´╗┐Dark Horse Recommendation I don't really have time to do a full review, but I had a chance to read volume 1 of this series over the weekend and since it doesn't seem to be getting a lot of buzz, I thought I would say something before the Dark Horse sale ends: The Monkey King is yet another manga version of the Chinese classic 'Journey to the West'. However, it has little in common with other manga versions previously brought over, and it is, in many ways, much truer to the original than any version we have previously seen (unless, of course, you've read the translation of the actual novel). As the name suggest, the Monkey King focuses primarily on Goku who is portrayed here in all his original violent, arrogant, powerful, lusty, blasphemous ape-man glory. Sanzo is a nun bound up in bondage gear (yes, I know that doesn't sound like the original but its actually explained by the end of volume 1). Hakkai really is a pig and provides just a touch of comic relief. This is an adult title, in both senses of the word. Violence and sexuality appear on almost every page (more violence than sexuality, but Terada definitely knows how to draw erotic when he chooses to). But its also a title that demands thought from its reader. While each relatively short chapter is fairly straightforward, they are strung together in a somewhat non-linear fashion which expects the reader to pay attention--this is a complex story with much going on that is implied (or shown) and not simply laid out for the reader. The art here is stunning. The Monkey King is a full color manga and Dark Horse has done a really nice job with it. They have also done an excellent job with the adaptation. Terada does some interesting things with sound-effects and kanji, and Dark Horse has chosen a hybrid approach in handling the sound-effects which works well here. When the sound-effects are the simple kind, they translate and overlay them, a process done very well here. However, when the sound effects are kanji, or Terada doing odd things with radicals, the effects are left untouched on the page and explained (often in great detail) in an excellent glossary. This was an interesting title for me because I ended up not grading the Content section very high at all, but visually I loved every page of it and DH put together one hell of a package. I went through it like 4 times, seeing if the content would sit better with me, but it just didn't. I was wondering if the problem was that I was not as familiar with the Journey to the West story as the intended audience. It seemed to assume that you already knew the little stories that it told in non-linear fashion, re-telling them here with new twists and spins, but for me it was just a little too scattered. Visually speaking though, I thought it was amazing. Although Mr. Terada doesn't draw much manga per se (like Masamune Shirow, most of his actual output is illustrations, covers, pin-ups, etc.) he is respected by manga artists as different as Katsuhiro Otomo (who wrote the original Japanese cover blurb for THE MONKEY KING) and Moyoco Anno (Terada shows up in the back of FLOWERS BEES Vol. 4, I believe). Be on the lookout in mid-2006 for THE ART OF KATSUYA TERADA, which will have a wide variety of Terada pieces from different places and styles, together with pieces done by Terada especially for this book, and extensive original commentary from the artist. An odd thing about THE MONKEY KING is that it's a rare example of an English-language manga which actually costs less than the Japanese original. SAIYUKIDEN DAIENOH Vol. 1 is 1900 yen, but KATSUYA TERADA'S THE MONKEY KING Vol. 1 is only US$14.95. A word about THE MONKEY KING's presentation. The quality of it is thanks to letterer and retouch artist Steve Dutro--who I had previously worked with on Kaiji Kawaguchi's EAGLE--as well as Tina Alessi, Chris Horn, and Cary Grazzini from Dark Horse's design and pre-press department. This may sound like an Oscar speech, but they really did work to bring out the full potential of Terada's files (though his style is very painterly in appearance, he himself works entirely digitally) in terms of detail and color harmonies. I've read the first volume of the unabridged translation which is the part that's relevant for volume 1 of the Monkey King. The Monkey King does start with Goku, Sanzo, and Hakkai already travelling. There are no character introductions or explanation of why they are travelling. I don't think you need to have read the actual Journey to the West to understand what is happening but there is a clear assumption that you know, at least in general terms, who Goku and Sanzo are and why the main character looks like a big talking gorilla. Basically, the manga is very visual with limited dialogue and practically no exposition. This means that if you don't know who the characters are, the motivation behind much of the action is opaque--you don't know why anybody is doing anything. If you have read JttW, or at least know the story then, while the manga does not, by any means, slavishly follow the original, knowing the original motivations, you can still read in a fair amount of understanding why characters are doing the things they are doing. After that, the biggest point of confusion comes several chapters in where after a chapter break, and without any indication it is doing so, the story suddenly shifts back in time to the birth of Goku. Even having read that part of JttW, it took me a few moments to realize we were now in flashback mode. And after that the manga shifts back and forth, without real warning, between the 'present' of the journey and a compressed version of Goku's war on the heavens which can be a bit hard to follow without prior knowledge of the sequence.

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