If you’re into manga there’s a publisher that you may not have heard about called Gen Manga. If you have then you’re probably loving their comics since they’re unlike anything being brought over from Japan to the states. To put it in terms that average comic readers understand they’re the Image Comics of manga. While at New York Comic Con I had the chance to stop by their booth and check out some titles that I haven’t read yet and one such title was VS Aliens. I had actually seen this series on their digital platform, but the opportunity to read the collected trade wasn’t something I could pass up.
The story kicks off with an average high school boy Kitaro being pull out into the hallway by Segawa, a girl he’s never talked to before. He finds it strange, but what’s even stranger is that Segawa tells him that the most popular girl in school Sana is an alien. Kitaro strangely agrees to help Segawa who is the only one that can see Sana’s “true form.” Eventually Kitaro approaches Sana about it and this sets off a course of events that cannot be undone.
This book is full of twists. It appears to be a cutesy high school love comedy, but then it gets dark and serious. It just never quite loses that cutesy love comedy as it twists back and forth. Our characters will share these really touching and cute moments, but that will be followed by something strange and dark. Is Sana an alien? And what are the consequences of her exposure? But the bigger questions is why Kitaro?
The writing is really good. The story defies genre labelling which is something people casually throw around, but I couldn’t label this as any one thing without it being mis-represented. The dialogue/translation is fantastic. The characters do not come across as typical manga/anime high students, but rather real high school students. The conversations in-between intense moments are candid and gripping. You’ll almost want to stay in their conversations, but the overall mystery of the story will keep you going. The small twist in the story are masterful.
The art is of course great and shows a lot of range. The style is perfect for the high school love comedy genre, but when the story twists it actually makes it eerie to look at. There’s this one scene in particular when Segawa and Sana are looking at Kitaro as he’s sleeping and it’s the most incredible page of the entire book. It tells you so much without either character saying a word. It will also drive your imagination wild as it furthers the mystery behind what’s really going on. Otherwise the line work is very clean and creator Suzuki Yu takes the story from day-to-night and really executes the transition wonderfully.
Because I love talking about the print quality of comics I have to say that this is a high quality printing. A lot of print manga I’ve read is on cheap paper and it feels like your thumb will smudge the ink if you leave it there too long, but not this book. The paper reminded me of the stock they use on American comic strip collections and that means no smudging. That and the size of the book is the perfect hand size. Gen did a great job with the design as well since the cover is simple, yet visually pleasing to look at. Overall I really liked the aesthetic of the presentation.
If you’ve never read manga before I would whole-heartily recommend this graphic novel. It’s a self-contained story with a satisfying conclusion which is a great thing in manga. Many of the stories are never-ending and so the task of knowing where to start becomes daunting; so much so that people skip it all together. VS Aliens gives you a nice taste of what’s out there without forcing you to stick around for more, but you will want to see more of creator Suzuki Yu.
Writer/Artist/Creator: Suzuki Yu Publisher: Gen Manga Price: $9.95 Format: TPB Website