I dood it again.

Robot 3

Don’t ask me why I’m still reading this thing. It’s vol. 3 of editor Range Murata’s ultra-deluxe, 170-page color anthology of visual talents (including both manga artists and people from anime design backgrounds, like Murata himself), and as usual most of it falls into the ‘nice colors, sorta dopey’ category. Maybe I’m more attracted to candy coating than I’d like to admit? Maybe the strong bits really are strong enough to make up for anything else? Maybe I bought this thing for $12.00 instead of the cover’s $24.95? Ah, now we’re on to something.

Robot seems to be popular, though; it’s currently up to vol. 6 in Japan, and I have to confess it’s a one-of-a-kind deal in the US - there simply isn’t another high production value color manga(ish) anthology out there. I just wish there was more to hold my attention than generic tales of sword-swinging and cockeyed surrealism; it’s really quite tremendously reminiscent of Heavy Metal, with all of the faults that would come attendant to making Heavy Metal an annual book while keeping all the content the same - the intermittent interesting features would easily be crowded out by glossy crap with the space of months and issues to separate them.

As such, we wind up sitting through thirty interminable pages of Shigeki Maeshima’s inchoate girls ‘n guns ‘n blades epic Dragon Fly to get to four pages of reliable Yasuto Miura’s delicate watercolors, a wholly sentimental but very beautiful reflection on lost wars. Also good enough among the continuing features are Hiroyuki Asada’s Pez, a (guess what?) visually attractive little post-apocalypse body-switching thing in shades of deep purple and soupy green - Asada’s a veteran manga artist who’s probably best known in the US as music producer for the anime Gunslinger Girl, and he mentions in the back of this book that he’d like to continue his story as a monthly serial. And there’s always Yoshitoshi ABe’s Wasteland, a gore-caked dungeon crawl that now looks to be about identity or something, though it’s hard to tell at only twelve or so pages every year. You see? The bad ones drag one forever, and the relatively good ones don’t have much room to flower.

But, you know - pure visuals. Some of the contributions mange themselves a bit better without even bothering with a story and just presenting lovely new designs. The ever-impressive Imperial Boy presents another one of his outstanding CGI environments (examples here) and ‘Okama,’ anime character designer and manga artist, presents a single lovely costume design. Perhaps of most interest to anime fans is a ten-page story by Osamu Kobayashi, associate of Studio 4°C and director of the anime adaptations of BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad and Paradise Kiss (the latter just released to R1 dvd recently), designed as a series of posters and panoramic spreads as he follows a Japanese rock band around on tour. No depth (Joe Sacco he ain't), but lots of pure energy, which matches up well.

There's more in here, more illustration and little stories, but those are the closest things to standouts. As always, fans of page after page of eye candy will get their money's worth, as fast as the experience passes. By the end I was glad to welcome something as odd and funny as DMP's probably authenticity-fueled decision to translate into English the news & information page I presume was in the back of the Japanese edition, thus giving us all the freshest updates on what Range Murata was up to in mid-2005, including a handy explanation of what a US anime convention is like. Man, I'd never known...