Witchblade Takeru Manga Vol. 8
Written by Yasuko Kobayashi
Art by Kazasa Sumita
Colors by Blond
Letters by Troy Peteri
Top Cow Productions
Cover price: $3.99; On-sale: Sept 19, 2007
Manga is an entirely different art form than the western comics I’m used to reading, requiring alternative modes of visual interpretation. Luckily, Witchblade Takeru Manga Vol. 8 gives readers — new to the series and manga itself — plenty of time to acclimate.
One of the most striking aspects of the book (written by Yasuko Kobayashi with artwork by Kazasa Sumita), in relative connection to what I typically see as manga style, is the dynamic vibrancy the book maintains throughout the issue — from character rendering to the full-color displays utilized from page to page.
Published through Top Cow Inc. and Bandai Entertainment, Witchblade Takeru reimagines the Witchblade character (one of Top Cow’s prized characters), placing her in a near-future Japan. The latest bearer of the Witchblade, a powerful, mystic weapon, is Takeru, a Japanese schoolgirl traipsing about in mini-tartan-skirt and sailor-esque blouse. Vol. 8 does a tremendous job of centering around the main characters, including Takeru, and dropping the protagonists into a new narrative, deftly shading in the fuzzy background as the plot moves along, around our unsuspecting heroes.
Takeru is strangely attractive, doe-eyed, and drawn with a lavish hand, lacing her curvature and mannerisms with a slight taste of open-handed eroticism bestowed on other titles throughout manga. Bearing the Witchblade apparently makes the wearer a little slutty, just barely covering the naughty bits with exoskeleton appendages and artistic cover-ups, and giving the wielder a permanent “Come hither so I can slice and dice you.”
Bandai pledged not to censor the title, but that promise probably won’t keep the company from packaging it in screened cellophane so the product is suitable for display in main-market book stores. I think part of the appeal in a Witchblade manga title is taking the already mature-oriented title and furthering those notions in a form that, as a whole, is much more approving of the stranger fetishism apparent in the occult cum sex book originally contained while it was helmed creatively by Marc Silvestri.
The conventions of western layout aren’t going to be as readily used in this English-language manga title, instead relying on slanted panel borders, alienating camera angles, and (at-times) disjointed, white-space-filled word balloons, sometimes blanking out background detail or even a character’s face.
(Part of the word balloon issue probably resonates from translating the work from Japanese into English, or it’s simply a product of manga’s status quo — or a combination of the two … whatever the case, it’s slightly frustrating when I could be looking at less word balloon and more artwork, particularly when it involves slightly obscured naughty bits.)
Volume 8 picks up with Takeru’s recruitment by the U.S. Department of Defense. It seems the department has been resurrecting demons, who escaped, and now Takeru and her sword-swinging pal, Kou Minamoto, are both tapped to go a-demon-hunting. I guess our top military brass isn’t any smarter in the future.
The pacing of the book is tremendous, covering its bases with intimate background information, enticing the reader deeper into the Witchblade mythos, while building toward the next cliffhanger. A serial Witchblade Takeru reader may wilt at the slow, methodical narrative of Vol. 8 (there’s no action whatsoever, no violent action sequences except through flashbacks), but neophyte readers can rejoice as this volume is a perfect spot to jump onto the series.
Witchblade Takeru Manga Vol. 8 definitely warrants a purchase, if only for the breathtaking illustrations of Takeru and her rogues’ guild of baddies, illustrated with a mix of grindhouse aesthetic and the traditional manga style.