Shônen dump

Sadly, last month offered insufficient dubious manga to assemble a poll. More sadly, your choice in the first of these polls, Maid Shokun, was undone by the shuttering of Tokyopop. (I ended up ordering the runner-up and will be reviewing it in this week’s Bookshelf Briefs installment.) On the bright side, the June 2011 Previews catalog offers a number of suspect debuts that are far enough outside of my comfort zone to earn candidacy. Let’s begin!

Tales of the Abyss: Asch the Bloody, by various, Bandai: Based on Namco’s role-playing game, Tales of the Abyss! Asch is the lost prince of a country torn asunder by prophecy. Cloned and replaced by a new prince, Asch finds himself among the ranks of God-General, fighting to destroy the very prophecy for peace that his clone will fulfill. War, magic, and science clash, but at their heart stands Asch the Bloody.

I must first “thank” Sean Gaffney for pointing out this listing. “Thank” you, Sean. Based on the cover, this seems like one of those books where the creators (various as they may be) spent more time on character design than anything else. I’m not instinctively averse to properties based on games, since Monster Collection (CMX) proved that even commercial spin-offs of this nature can be delightful. Still, Tales of the Abyss seems to emit a generic fug.

Bloody Monday, written by Ryou Ryumon, illustrated by Koji Megumi, Kodansha Comics: Takagi Fujimaru may seem like a regular high school student, but behind the cheery facade lies a genius hacker by the name of Falcon. When his father is framed for a murder, Falcon uses his brilliant hacking skills to try and protect his sister and clear his father’s name. However, he finds that his father, an agent in an elite government agency, was involved with something far more complex than a simple murder. A terrorist group is plotting against the city of Tokyo and it is up to Falcon, with the help of his friends to unravel the twisted plans set in place to kill millions of people.

Does every shônen magazine need to try and come up with its own version of Death Note? No, I mean, do they really need to try that? It almost never works.

Mardock Scramble, written by Tow Ubukata, illustrated by Yoshitoki Oima, Kodansha Comics: Rune Balot is a prostitute who is nearly murdered by Ciel, an enigmatic casino manager, who suffers from a disease that forces him to remove and store his memories. A victim for most of her life, Rune faces a choice. While on the brink of death, she is given the opportunity to live. It is not a simple choice for a victim, but Rune takes it. A professor brings Rune back to life as a cyborg with the ability to control electronics and partners her up with a self-aware universal tool named Oeufcocque. Together they begin to unravel the mystery behind Ciel and Rune sheds the role of the victim, but must struggle between seeking justice and vengeance.

Putting all other things aside, “Rune Balot” is one of the most annoying protagonist’s names I’ve seen in many a moon. Also, that cover suggests to me that Rune may not be as empowered as the solicitation suggests. Also, I cannot see myself happily typing “Oeufcocque” over and over again, should circumstances demand I review it. Also, the plot sounds as familiar as familiar gets.

So, those are our candidates. If you would, please cast your vote in the comments. You can pick something because you think I might actually end up enjoying it, or you can pick something because you’re a schadenfreude addict, or you can pick something for any reason that tickles your fancy. Just pick!


  1. Abyss merely looks horribly dull, and Bloody Monday risks being good. I will vote for Mardock Scramble, which is apparently a ‘pulse-pounding cyberpunk noir adventure’, which makes me squirm merely thinking about the awful that must be within.

  2. I vote Mardock Scramble, for its obtusely lovable references to eggs. Also, it’s based on a novel that I read some good reviews of, so there’s that.

  3. Tales of the Abyss was a great video game, and a great anime. I can only hope that the manga will turn out as well (or close enough). I’ve pre-ordered a copy myself, so for better or worse, I’ll be reviewing it on my end.

    Bloody Monday sounds like it could be a decent title.
    Mardock Scramble…I have to agree with you on the cover. What kind of empowerment is that? Unless it’s the manifestation of the AI she’s partnered with, or her while she was still a prostitute. However, images from the novel and animation don’t seem to back up those theories.

    So…my vote is for you to suffer through Mardock Scramble so curiosity won’t get the better of me.

  4. Well, having played Tales of the Abyss, I can safely say that Asch was a much better character then the actual main Luke, who spends the first quarter of the game being a rich jerk (which is when I actually liked him alright, believe it or not) and the last three quarters being a bleeding heart angst ridden teen who would never stop complaining about this one event that caused his abrupt personality switch even when all the other characters wanted to stop talking about it. You get Asch in your party for like one dungeon, but there’s some sort of cheat you can use to have him always and most people prefer it that way even if you can’t do like three measly side quests. Sure, the gameplay was absolute crack (it’s why I kept playing it until the end), but when it comes to story and characters, give me the less impressive gameplay with a better cast that is Tales of Legendia any day. I’ll be skipping this manga, but just know that Asch was one of the better parts of Tales of the Abyss (the best part will always be Jade).

    • Oh, I didn’t vote, umm, Mardock Scramble is the only one of those that I don’t really know much about, I’ve read a god bit of Bloody Monday through scans (liked the first few volumes but got sick of the deus ex machina I recall) and like I already said played Tales of the Abyss (most people were far more impressed with the story and characters than I, I played Legendia afterwards and that was what blew me away) so I vote Mardock.

  5. “Oeufcocque”

    Oh, yes, definitely Mardock Scramble. Apparently that translates as “Eggcocci”. A cocci being some kind of bacteria.

  6. I have the Mardoc Scramble novel on my kindle. Haven’t read it yet but I am planning on getting around to it soon. (Yeah, right.) I’d be interesting to hear how a manga version compares. so I’m voting for it.

    Unless you see yourself reading the novel sometime in the future, in which case, avoid the adptation like the plague.

    • David Welsh says:

      I think it’s always safe to check out the secondary work if I haven’t read the source yet. I might have liked the movie version of The Witches of Eastwick if I hadn’t read the novel, and such like that. Though I like to think I’d never have enjoyed the movie version of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil under any circumstances.

  7. “Also, that cover suggests to me that Rune may not be as empowered as the solicitation suggests”

    Can nude shower scenes be empowering?

  8. My vote is for Bloody Monday, because it’s the only one that has a chance of actually being good. Though if you want to suffer from boredom I’d say go for Tales of the Abyss.

  9. How can you go wrong with a manga by “Various”? My vote is for Tales of the Abyss.

  10. I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen of Bloody Monday. The description feels sounds very dull, but I thought the execution was quite good and I was left excited for more. So my vote goes for that.

  11. I have to agree that Katherine’s reasoning is impeccable. Anything written by “various” has just gotta be awesome, lol.

    But I’m voting for Mardock Scramble for the completely immature reason that I want to see if you get so tired of writing Oeufcocque over and over that you give up and start calling it by it’s logical nickname (no, that would not be “Oeuf”). ;-)

    > Apparently that translates as “Eggcocci”. A cocci being some kind of bacteria.

    Huh. “Mardock Scramble” must be some kind of egg pun too. Maybe it will be vaguely tongue-in-cheek at least?

  12. I vote Tales of the Abyss because I’m going to read Bloody Monday no matter what and I’ll only read Mardock Scramble once I’ve read the novel (which I don’t see myself doing in the near future) but Tales of the Abyss I need more information on before I make a decision.

  13. I’m going to have mercy on you and pick Bloody Monday – if only because I am interested in that one myself. It’s always good to have someone else try before I buy ; ) But I will probably be buying it regardless.
    Also – to continue with the egg theme in Mardock Scramble – the Balot (of Rune Balot) would be one as well I think?

  14. tungwene says:

    David, there’s good reason you find the character designs in Tales of the Abyss more impressive than the contents of the manga. The Abyss character designs are by Oh My Goddess mangaka Kosuke Fujishima, whose relationship with the Tales games is comparable to Akira Toriyama and Dragon Quest. You would not like this manga. It seems to be a spinoff side story manga about a popular character from the main Tales of the Abyss game that probably assumes you’re already familiar with the story/characters. I believe there were several of these side story manga created, one of which was about a character who died before the game was set and whose death is a major spoiler. That should give you some idea how obtuse this manga will be to non-fans.

    As for my vote. I’ll vote for Mardock Scramble. I like the cover best out of these three and I’ve heard rave reviews for the novel and anime movie and I want to see how the manga stacks up in comparison.

  15. Jade Harris says:

    Ick, I think you bit off a bit more than you can chew with this poll. Let me think about my vote…

    In the meantime, here’s a preview of Ubukata’s literary prowess with a Mardock prose story: I’m not really allowed an opinion on crazy names since Phil Dick is my favorite author, but I think Rune Balot, Rose Sorbet and Will Crocket are awesome names.

    Actually, I vote you skip all these manga and review that story instead.


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