Project ARMS (#1, VIZ Comics format) – Kyoichi Nanatsuki

3 out of 5

Excitingly illustrated, but very by-the-books shonen stuff, setting up a hero-with-a-secret and an overly villainous adversary with a likely matching secret – both teenagers, natch – and dribbling in some men in black types as probable arbiters of the whole affair. Toss in some blood and sci-fi and you’ve got Guyver; give it wild swords and you’ve got Bleach; it’s a format that has worked forever and will continue to do so, but it’s also not especially very deep at the outset. And ARMS is a bit flightier than most in these first chapters, with the hero teen – Ryo – almost completely unruffled by seeing new classmate (our quick-to-antagonize adversary) Hayato unveil a robotic hand, and seemingly brushing off getting chased by the mysterious guys-in-suits as just another evening, but that breezy sensibility admittedly also keeps the book fun, and allows the in-yer-face intrigue of it, such as a cold open of some kind of forced operation an unseen character endures, to play out with tonally appropriate operatic drama.

Ryo’s mirroring pains in his left hand to Hayato’s right cybernetic hand are probably connected, in a book with ARMS in the title, and we can further connect that to whatever the cold open is. The fantasy of being a teen with a hidden super power that can be wielded for good or ill is a persistent one.

Ryo’s friend, Katsumi, goes missing, leading to a cliffhanger showdown with Hayato.