Some of us have been waiting to read these Japan stories since 2002 when Million Publishing released the first collection of Transformers manga (comics) and art that was featured in TV Magazine from 1986 through to 1991 in the massive 640 page "Transformers The Comic - Manga Compendium". The book brought together the Japanese only stories including the debut series "Fight! Super Robot Life Transformers", that was their Generation 1, as well as subsequent lines mostly known in the West by the toys Taraka made such as Transformers: V (VICTORY), Transformers: Zone, and Transformers: The Battle Starts. Finally, after 18 years we have English translations of this massive collection of stores in the new VIZ Media series "Transformers: The Manga", that will be published in three volumes this year beginning with Volume 1 that will be released on March 10, 2020.
The most impressive thing about the Transformers: The Manga Volume 1 From VIZ Media is the amazing artwork. Most of us grew up with the American style of comics that focused more on dialog and less on the the action and artwork. Even with the Marvel comics in color, the low resolution printing left much to be desired. By contrast, the art in the Transformers: The Manga Volume 1 is mostly black and while, pen and ink style that easily makes up for the lack of color with page after page of fantastic illustrations that are packed with the kind action and ferocity that readers expect with Giant Fighting Robots (GFR). Artist, Ban Magami, is clearly a master artist who incorporates so much of these characters into the drawings, the dialog is hardly needed. Moreover, each page really flows with the action. Every movement is greatly accentuated with massive machines, "Vwooshing", "Smashing" and "Roaring", making the kinds of big sounds that one would expect from this kind of battle. Its really effective and makes for a fast moving stories that leave you wanting more.
As for the stories written by Masumi Kenda, there's a more cheerful tone throughout that is quite different from that of the Marvel comics. The Autobots, and even the Decepticons to some degree, are much more playful and accepted by the public than in the Marvel stories. They are rarely in disguise, yet the authorities know of them and accept their presence thanks to human boy, Kenji. He makes friends with the Autobots and becomes an honorary team member with the gift of a special helmet he uses to communicate with the Transformers. The Manga Volume 1 features 8 chapters, including the Prologue, that do jump around a lot. You won't find as much of the serial story development or imposed character introductions presented in the Marvel comics. The stories are rather brief with a very quick build up to engagement with the Decepticons. What we initially see with Megatron and Optimus Prime, but quickly moves on to a "Scramble City" focus with the Transformers Titans are doing battle including Ultra Magnus, Metroplex, Trypticon and many of the combiner teams such as Superion, Menasor, Defensor, Bruticus and Predaking later on. We also get plenty of page time with various subsequent faction leaders such Rodimus, Gavlatron and other interesting characters such as the Quintessons awe inspiring, Gilthor, that is somehow a combination of Optimus Prime and Megatron.
I don't want to spoil the fun of these Manga style stories for readers, so I won't cover what happens in each chapter. But it is worth highlighting the extra Illustrations pages in the book with some color and higher resolution prints that were featured in TV Magazine as well. Many of them are simply gorgeous renderings of characters and pivotal scenes done in the now classic Japanese Mecha style of clean 2-D line drawings with intricate details, Much like we have seen in other Japanese Anime properties from the 80s.
Overall, this book is a must have for any fan of the Japanese Transformers continuum. It is really quite different from what we got in America, and offers a less developed, but more engaging look at the Transformers from a Manga approach that is artistically stunning at times, and somehow feels more at home on planet Earth, than the Marvel stories that were focused more on foiling the Decepticons plans, than showing off their awesome power in battle.
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