The Black Label team is now on call in the U.S.!!
Triage X Vol. 1 Review
Publisher: Yen Press
Author: Shoji Sato
Artist: Shoji Sato
Genre: Action / Adventure
MSRP: $13.99 (USD)
Contents: 5 Chapters / 160 pg.
Already being a fan of Shoji Sato's art in HIGHSCHOOL OF THE DEAD. I was intrigued to hear that he had taken on duel duties of both story and art for his own series titled TRIAGE X. It was surprising to see a series that has one of the more "comic book" feels in a Japanese manga that I've ever come across. You have a fictional town overrun by crime, and a group of masked vigilantes.
If I was to try and compare this series to another franchise in media. I guess the closest comparison I could draw to would be to the series WANTED -- I'm speaking of the movie, since I never read the comics --, but with an actually interesting lead. Gone are the physics defying super power and the laughable premise of a heavenly loom. In its place is a serious evaluation of a target's crimes and behavior in a process they call a "triage". Criminals who show no level of redeeming qualities are looked upon as a cancer to the city, and the Black Label team is sent out to excise said cancer.....permanently.
As the first in a series, this is naturally an introductory volume for the cast and the setting. The main focus is understandably upon the protagonist, Arashi Mikami. What's created here is probably one of the most justifiable cases for survivor's guilt that I've ever heard of before. He makes me think of what Jason Todd could have become if DC hadn't lost their nerve and switched him to shooting people in the hands. Arashi aims for the head. Anyone familiar with Shoji Sato's other works shouldn't be surprised that the rest of the cast is filled out with a variety of buxom beauties. However, they aren't cliche window dressing that need to be saved. If anything, most are smarter and more capable than Arashi.
The story does a great job of setting up the world of TRIAGE X, and I enjoy how things are structured around a medical theme. It's not a setting you see often in media. To sum things up, events of the first chapter start to cascade through the rest of the volume, things go sideways, a hostage gets abducted, and the entire Black Label team comes together to prepare for the counter attack. There's a bit more comedy than you'd find in HOTD. It's not a manga that tries to take itself too seriously, and uses humor to lighten the mood where appropriate.
As far as Sato's art, the man is in top form here. The characters have interesting designs, and the detail in the panel work can be amazing. The level of detail in just the vehicles and weaponry borders on computer models. Sato is pretty well known for doing heavy research into vehicles and guns, and that work certainly shows. It's sort of funny when you consider how weapons are heavily restricted in Japan, but many U.S. based artists struggle with the workings of a basic 9mm pistol.
I hesitate to really call this a negative to the volume, but there is some rather graphic scenes that include gore and some nudity. This is a mature rated series, so you should be prepared for that going in. One has to wonder at the type of person who doesn't flinch at the sight of graphic head shots, but get a bee in their bonnet at the glimpse of an exposed nipple.
It's become sort of a standing critique I've had with Yen Press on how they use Japanese honorifics. I love that they keep them in the English translation, but they really could just add a page at the front to give an explanation to their use. Odds are good that if you're into this series that you'd be fairly well versed, but I can't imagine it would be that much of a hassle to add a guide for those who may be new to manga.
The inaugural volume in Shoji Sato's latest series is a fun read with some great action scenes, an intriguing cast of characters, funny moments, and it all comes together in what is an appropriately tense cliffhanger to bring a reader back for Volume 2. Seeing how the series has such a focus on the idea of vigilante justice, it makes me confident that a more Western audience could jump in with little chance of too much culture shock. If heavy fan service makes you uncomfortable, I can understand wanting to steer clear.
Favorite Moment: CH. 2 - Arashi's origin story
Least Favorite Moment: CH. 4 - Sayo's bad joke
WTF Moment: CH. 3 - I'm pretty sure that counts as probable cause, Tatara.
Favorite Character This Volume: Arashi Mikami