Each Friday I’ll be reviewing a couple of books (usually comic books from Net Galley). This week is our first Manga week of the year with a couple of titles that explore robots with personality and people with the personality of robots.
Writer and Artist – Kosuke Kabaya
In the world of Android Angels, domestic robots are available for the public but can only be leased for a period of four years before having their memories wiped. This, ostensibly, is to prevent the attachment of people to machines rather than human beings. Still the androids are able to retain any abilities they may have gained from previous owners, and there is some sense that they retain a latent sense of memory as well.
This is an anthology of shorter manga stories with some loose connections, mainly a couple of pages featuring a character from a previous story. The first shows a young student and her robot butler who in a past life was some kind of military droid with bad people still out to get him. Another deals with cooking and the sexual properties of pomegranates. A third takes us into the home of an android developer testing out new designs with only a one month period of getting to know the machine and the last deals with an owner who isn’t quite read to give up his relationship with his android.
Most of the stories deal with the kind of relationships people form with their machines and not as much with the implications wiping memory might have on personality and sentience. Androids in this universe have some sense of their status as lesser servants and that should not form relationships directly with humans, but at the same time come to care for them. Some even express desires of their own. From a science fiction and romantic perspective we cover a lot more ground here than the first arcs of Alex + Ada (from the Luna brothers).
Art is good and done in a more comic style. Not a lot is done to explore the setting of these stories, or the reasons why humanity is now living as it is. As with most anthologies some stories are better than others, but the recurring themes are intriguing, and the stories give us some small emotional or family humor moments. Some of the humor may be less accessible to an American audience, but I’ve always liked the cultural idiosyncrasies of humor.
Probably one of the better things I’ve read out of Gen Manga, which as an independent Manga publisher has so far been a little uneven for me.
(4 Stars | Probably more like 3.5, but still worth the read)
Writer – Ryo Hanada
A young student is harassed on her commute. At the same time she finds out another student has been filming her. What’s the connection between these events and a series of violent acts on animals from seven years ago? Who can be trusted, and who might be a source of new feelings to be explored?
This had some interesting ideas, but kind of fell down in the execution. For starters some of the characters look very similar in appearance and are difficult to distinguish. It can also be difficult to determine the gender of some characters initially, adding to the confusion as to what exactly is going on.
The story itself feels disjointed and never really draws to much a conclusion. We’re led to believe that what’s going on now is connected to a series of cat mutilations and an eventual murder from seven years ago but why these events are playing out again now is never really explained. We’re also left not sure if our main character is making the best choices for herself and whether she is accepting that the world can do some terrible things or whether she is fighting back.
Given the confusion of the plot, the tacked on short story at the end is confusing in part because you’re not sure at first if we’re meant to think it has anything to do with the plot. It describes a particular conversation between two people on the eve of graduation and again given how indecipherable the author’s art is we’re not sure if these are our characters a few years later or a flashback to previous events.
This had the bones of an intriguing mystery and exploration of teenage feelings but needed work in the execution.
(2 Stars | Rounding down from around 2.5. I kept reading to see if it made any sense but it never really did.)