As the Gods Will: The Second Series vol. 1 – Muneyuki Kaneshiro

2 out of 5

Some quirky ideas eventually emerge from poor execution and unnecessary panty shots.

It can be hard judging translated manga sometimes.  If I have problem with the writing, or perhaps the pacing of syncing words to image, it’s hard to say for sure if it’s the author’s fault or the translator; however, when what’s happening on any given page is almost entirely unclear, it’s a bit easier to point the finger at the creators.

I saw Takashi Miike’s film version of As the Gods Will; it’s the only reason I’m here.  The movie was a bit off, but interesting for sure.  I was a little bummed to find that the manga’s first series – which I think was the basis for the move – doesn’t seem to be translated for some reason, but then this second series (I think) rather oddly half-summarizes one part of what (I think) occurred in that first series, spending like 50% of the volume on it, before moving on to new stuff.  The new stuff is when the writing starts to get a little better; the ideas clearer.  …Although there’s still unnecessary panty shots, and the overall childish indulgence in “death games” violence, which I guess is its own mini-genre anyway.  However, without the reference point of the movie, I don’t think I’d have any idea what was happening in that first 50%, or at least there’s zero chance of being invested in the shallow, “do you like tits or assess better?” negging high schooler who’s the focus to sift through inscrutably defined panels for enough pages until some little asterisk notes (from the translation) partially give context to what’s going on.  Namely: that some alien doll has landed in one particular classroom, and is playing a deadly game of red light / green light, and if’n you’re caught moving during that red light, you get shot.

Muneyuki Kaneshiro’s dialogue during this sequence (which is in the movie, and thus, I’m guessing, paralleled in the first series) is mostly just “what’s going on?” type screams, and artist Akeji Fujimura does a particularly poor job of making the doll’s actions (it spins around during its red / green phases) apparent, as well as even setting up the space of the classroom effectively.  Characters just float in an undefined area, and then we cut to the doll, and then someone gets shot.  Occasionally we check in with another student who’s skipped school, and we waste time with him hemming and hawing petulantly over how he should reply to his friend’s text – a scene which repeats until we’ve wasted enough pages to complete the “game.”

Then the series can move on to it’s actual focus: as these alien dolls have landed in schools all around the world, what happens to the kids who weren’t in school at the time, such as our skipper?  Well, they get kinda kidnapped by robots, and jetpacked to a giant floating cube in the sky.  It’s weird enough to be intriguing, and the idea feels much more defined than the red light / green light doll, presumably because that’s a retread of previous stuff… although that makes it especially puzzling why so much time is spent on it.

Anyhow, if you like your shonen manga with a dash of dumb and found yourself chuckling along at the negging, then yes, I’m judging you, and you’re maybe enjoying this series.  There’s obviously enough of a cool concept here to have drawn me in in the first place, and which seems like it might extend into a more focused second volume, but the writing and art doesn’t offer enough hints of such strength to actually lure me in.