Bio-Booster Armor Guyver (Parts 1 – 2, #1 – 12, Viz Comics English single issues) – Yoshiki Takaya

2 out of 5

Aw dang, this is disappointing.  The original English Guyver movie is all sorts of dumb but also all sorts of awesome; the later anime adaptation was easily much more faithful to the source material while maintaining the movie’s overwrought camp, but also introduced a whole bunch of fascinating plot aspects and dashes or identity conundrums that had me scrabbling to see what the manga was like.  And, yeah, it’s disappointing.  Yoshiki Takaya’s monster and Guyver designs are awesome, and he makes some fantastic pinups, but his bushy-haired humans are always in a state of panic, and mostly just differ in hair color or state of bushiness to said hair; his action scenes are choreographed poorly between the badass shots of Guyver unleashing a blaster laser, and/or goopy melting sequences when someone gets shot with some newly revamped version of acid.  That ‘state of panic’ was definitely translated into the anime – lead Sho constantly yelling ‘Guyyyyvvverrrr!’ when he wants to transform into his ‘bio-boosted’ alien-bestowed armor – but my unspoken question about the value of reading manga versus watching the anime is very clearly answered here: Takaya’s work is missing the downbeats the show would put between those ‘Guyver’ outbursts, stripping Sho (and the other characters) of any personality.

…Which is the main shame, here, that none of the cool ideas – which all absolutely belong to Takaya – really come out effectively in the book.  He’s very much in a rush to draw his awesome beasties in hero poses, which I totally get, but dang, if I hadn’t been prepped on the plot from the show, I likely would’ve zoomed by explanations of how Chronos’ corporation is a front for our alien Zoanoid overlords, who, like, made the human race in order to be used as weapons…

And that is why I’m going to stick with the manga a bit longer.  The dialogue and lack of patience in ‘volume 1′ is reminiscent of high school level writing; it’s forehead-smackingly boring as a result.  But I’m curious to get to some of the later development witnessed toward the end of the show, and I’m wondering if Takaya slows down a bit once he’s gotten past throwing Guyver III, Lost Number Zoanoids and etcetera at us, and tries to tackle some of the conceptual complexities that end up getting built in.

For the record, the Viz printings (the only English versions available, as far as I know) are well done, and the translations – unless they dropped subtleties from the original text – are quality, but the cast becomes so quickly cluttered in Guyver (with Zoanoids dropping their names left and right) that a roll call or summary at issues’ starts probably would’ve been good.

Update 09/21/2019:

Uh… man, I was in a bad mood when I wrote the above?  After picking up further issues, I went and reread the first arc, and it’s like a 180 in opinion: it’s tons of fun.  And I feel bad for picking on the art, which, agreed, is a bit shakey to start, but becomes more bold and impressive from issue to issue, becoming pin-up worthy later into the arc, with tons of fantastic, page-turning action and great characterization.  The story definitely herks and jerks at points, jumping between scenes without an always logical transition, and the lore, unfortunately, feels lumped on in order to justify drawing monsters, but once you’re around those initial explanatory speedbumps, it’s very easy to fall into the swing of the soapy drama and campy story.  Because I was fresh off of the movie and anime, perhaps I hoped the source material would only improve on these, while both are rather more distilled versions of what the manga seems to get around to after finding its footing.

4 out of 5 in this reread, tearing in to volume 2.