Bokurano Ours Volume 1 and Biomega Volume 5: Manga Movable Feast

As I looked through my piles of manga, I realized I had more unread Viz Signature titles than I thought. I actually have more, but these were single volumes and made for quick enough reads that I could get them in. While they are two different titles in tone, they do not differ very much when it comes to my reactions to them. I am a sci-fi fan, but can I be a fan of these two titles? Read on to find out.

Bokurano Ours Volume 1

By Mohiro Kito ♦ Viz Media ♦ Older Teen ♦ Sci-Fi ♦ $12.99
Rating: ★★★☆☆
While on summer vacation at a nature camp by the sea, 15 boys and girls meet a strange man, Kokopelli, in a cave. He tells them he has created a game and he wants them to play it. It has a giant robot and the children will pilot it to fight off aliens. The children sign up and think its fun at first, until they see the true cost of the “game.”

Kids piloting mechs to save the world has been a standard in Japanese anime and manga for over 30 years now, but the stories aren’t usually as dark as Bokurano Ours. Right from the beginning there is a sense of foreboding, as the opening narration talks about how the kids thought they were grown up and how wrong they were. In itself, this isn’t so bad. But add to it the sense of doom that descends as the volume goes on and it becomes a precursor to darker things to come. It doesn’t take long for that to happen. Kito uses a familiar technique to get the reader invested in a character by developing them and showing their hopes for the future before pulling the rug out from under them. It starts with the first pilot, Takashi Waku, and continues with the second pilot Masaru Kodaka. Their stories almost become their eulogies.

I’m not sure how to describe how I feel about this title. I didn’t dislike it, but neither did I enjoy it. There is too much of a feeling of hopelessness, and the robot sent to help the kids, Koyemshi is creepy. What really bothered me though was the lack of response seen from the kids after the first battle. The events afterward are narrated by Kodaka, so the scenes are kept to a minimum, but the only reaction we really see is the kids deciding not to tell anyone. And then when they are gathered for the next battle, there is almost no hesitation to start the next one. These are supposed to be middle school students, an age where drama and emotion are at a peak. There should have been some sort of emotional reaction. While I get the kids think this is just a game, after what happened to Takashi, one would think they would start asking questions. I guess that’s why middle schoolers were used. They understand the situation, but aren’t mature enough to ask to right questions or question it.

While I am mildly interested in what happens to Kodaka, it’s not enough to want to read any more of this series.

Biomega Volume 5

By Tsutomu Nihei ♦ Viz Media ♦ Mature ♦ Sci-Fi/Horror ♦ $12.99
Rating: ★★½☆☆
Zoichi helps Buutu and Yaa get home, but the village is attacked by a Patrol Inspector who has come for Yaa. She is pregnant with the child destined to be the Recreator’s Child, a vessel that would allow Niarudi to gain complete control over the Recreator. Zoichi tries to save Yaa, but is too late. He takes the child, Funipero, and decides to protect her from the DRF.

Reviewing volumes in the middle or even at the end of a series is nothing new to me. If I haven’t read the series before, I have no problem with looking up information online to find out what the series is about and fill in some of the gaps, so I can do a more informed review. Biomega is the first series where this didn’t work.

On the surface, this volume wasn’t bad. It does well as a typical quest story, with Zoichi meeting new people, fighting off bad guys, and finding a vital piece he needs to continue his quest. I did like Zoichi’s reaction when he failed to save Yaa, and Fuyu’s attempt to comfort him. They were both very human reactions to the situation. I also liked Funipero. She is born already able to move and talk, and she looks cute. I also liked Buutu, Yaa, and the people of their village. Their character designs were very unique.

But Biomega had its problems as well. First and foremost was the overall feel of the volume. This is supposed to be the penultimate volume in the series, and it feels anything but. The way Zoichi moves through the volume, at Buutu and Yaa’s village, and then as Funipero decides to explore an almost abandoned village, it feels like this is a middle volume in the series. Especially when Zoichi rides off at the end, there no feeling of a coming confrontation or solution. It really feels like the series was ended prematurely. It was hard to follow what was going on as well. I had to read the volume twice before I really felt I got what was going on. The switch to Higuide felt sudden and out-of-place, but that could be because I didn’t know what happened before. This volume and series, could really use a “What Happened Before” at the beginning.

Biomega is a violent title, with heads getting sliced in two, and innards ripped out, but it  isn’t a splatter fest. The violence is part of the story and wouldn’t have the dramatic effect it does without it. There isn’t a lot of talking either, as Nihei let the actions speak for themselves, which in this volume can be hit or miss. I think there is an interesting story here, but it’s too slow and ending to soon to properly tell it.

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