Tue, 8 July 2008
Manga Review of Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 Volumes 1&2. Art by Ark Performance. Story by Harutoshi Fukui. Original idea by Ryo Hanmura. Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka. Originally published in Japan by Kadokawa Shoten. Published in US by CMX, $9.99 each, Rated T+.
35-year-old Yusuke Kashima is having a hard time finding a job that he can hold on to. Currently he's on the verge of losing his eighth one since being discharged from the Japanese Self Defense Force. In the SDF, he was part of the special marine brigade "F Unit" serving under his idol, the charismatic and now deceased Colonel Matoba. After F Unit was disbanded, Kashima became disillusioned with both the military and Matoba and has been trying to adjust to the civilian life ever since. He finds out how little his own problems matter when the military comes a callin'. They show him pictures of strange globes of black energy both large and small that have begun to appear across Japan. These black holes are replacing our space and if they continue not only will Japan be replaced, but our entire dimension. What does all this have to do with Kashima, you ask? Six years ago, his mentor, Matoba, was killed in action. Well, at least, that's what the military said. The actual truth of what happened to him is a pretty amazing tale. 6 years ago, while testing some new military technology, Matoba and his unit were somehow transported back in time to the year 1549! It is believed that these holes are being caused by Matoba changing the past. Their suspicions are correct. Matoba plans on using his technological know-how to conquer not only Japan but the entire world. Kashima is going to be part of a mission to go back in time and bring Matoba back to the present. How long is he given to save the world? 3 days!
Whenever you involve time travel in a story, you always run into questions that spawn more questions. For instance, if the black holes are caused by changes in the time continuum, it wouldn't make any difference if you brought Matoba back to the present. The damage has already been done, and any change in the past would result in a completely different reality, especially for Japan. And once the future technology was introduced by Matoba, the cat would be out of the bag as well. For example, Matoba fashions a hybrid armor for his men, blending the craft of Japanese and European metalwork. It's too much to ask us to believe that someone back in 1549 would not emulate this armor and perhaps change the course of warfare in the past. The art is pretty good if lacking soul and passion. That pretty much sums up this two volume manga as well. Since the plot only allows 3 days to complete its mission, we don't get to spend a lot of time getting to know the characters, so the writer has to paint their personalites and motivations with very broad strokes with very little room to add nuances and depth. The main theme comes across loud and clear and has been echoed through the ages from ancient Rome to current America. Namely, that there are always those who wonder if their present country is living up to the ideals of its ancestors. Matoba and Kashima are very concerned that modern Japan has lost something very vital that it once had. Could it be the fact that our consumer culture has stripped men of everything they once cherished? Is our century even capable of fostering the traits of bravery, loyalty, and sacrifice? These are questions that other nations have asked themselves when the intelligent among them believed their country had lost its way. The problem is that this manga throws the moral of its own sermonizing message directly in your face too many times, especially in the second volume. For better handling of this same plot device, I would highly recommend watching the anime Zipang. This was an ok read, but there just wasn't time to flesh it out.
My Grade: C+