Occasionally I'll get asked if I like manga and anime, and it tends to be a more complicated question than the person asking it bargained for. When I was a teenager, I became estranged from American comics, for the most part, finding a comfortable new nest in popular Japanese manga, romanced by its clean, monochromatic art and its uncomplicated characterization. Eventually, the novelty wore off, and I found my way back to Western comics, having grown tired of the trope-heavy writing and fill-in-the-blank archetypes. Now, my relationship with manga and anime is purely in the role of the backpacker, largely sticking to creators I already have faith in or works that seem to do something unique storytelling wise, while dismissing most pilots at the first whiff of tsundere. So do I like anime? Anime is just a cultural and national category of world animation; it's unfair to categorize the entire output of Japan's diverse animation creators as some blanket concept. It follows the same logic as when people say they don't like comics but only ever mean superhero comics by the Big Two. That said, popular anime is often extremely predictable in its reliance on stock arcs and tropes, resulting in a rigid style of storytelling that for the lack of a better term could be described as anime as a genre. So, can I find enjoyment in Japanese animation and comics? Absolutely. But do I respond well to "anime storytelling"? Definitely, no. God Complex falls into a similar role to the one I noted in my earlier review of the exploitation cartoon comic Sick in the Head, as in they are both comics that pull together a series of influences and make something out of them that doesn't elevate itself even to the level of what is being mimicked. Like Sick in the Head, I've seen many better versions of what is being broadly repeated here and wonder what an audience for this book would be trying to get out of being a reader of it. The elevator pitch is at the end of the century we're currently in, people with superpowers spontaneously emerged, changing the world forever. After one with particularly powerful abilities turned megalomaniacal, a human martial artist took a stand against this tyranny and defeated him. 25 years after this, the martial artist is an old man and fears a new threat is emerging, seeking out a new hero to take his place as defender of mankind.
And who might this defender be? Why a comically large breasted woman who contrasts her upbeat tirelessly friendly personality with back alley heroics and powerful supernatural abilities. She's a hilariously terrible cook (lol), has no sense of personal boundaries (xd), and has a perpetually snarky adopted teenage son (that emoticon where it's an open mouth smile with clenched eyes). She's Goku with little bits of girls from harem comedies crammed in there. The rest of the script is a similarly familiar patchwork of jokes and scenes lifted from other things, not so much plagiarism as much as evidence that the writer is fond of the rigid recycled elements that mainstream anime uses as fuel, and blamelessly did what so many anime writers do and just repeated the formula verbatim.
But here's the thing. This is less well written than most of the mainstream anime I give up on like Fairy Tail and Soul Eater, and it's definitely less pretty to look at, so what is the appeal of going independent to read this? Just because it's independent? I love creator-owned self-published books, but not as an act of charity, but because it gives individuals the license to make whatever they want without interference from monied arbiters. Gambling on a creator owned book is about looking for personal vision, what makes that creator tick in his own right, what things they've learned and what stories they've built up. With books like God Complex what is frustrating is the feeling while reading it that the ultimate goal of the creator is for their work to be mistaken for something that is already out there and successful. Bleach was successful, so if I make it like Bleach, then people who like Bleach will like this. Except the manga mimic art style here is at best forgettably generic and at worst awkwardly limited, the storytelling and characterization cut with tap water. When you try to compete as a self-publisher with blockbuster comics by telling the same kinds of stories the same way but with the natural handicaps of being independent, the book ends up having the commercial appeal of fanfiction; a novelty to fans but ultimately a subordinate work.
So yes, I'm not the right audience for this book. I hated these jokes when I saw them in Fairy Tail. All I'm saying to people who are the right audience for this kind of book is why you would read this when you could just read Fairy Tail?
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God Complex #1 Writer: Daniel Murrell Artist: Erwin Prasetya Publisher: Split Spear Price: $4.99