Manga-ka: Duo Brand
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: August 2008
Synopsis: “Akito has always been in her older brother’s shadow, but all that changes when Shinkai sends him to study abroad…though it’s not any “abroad” he’s ever heard ot! Suddenly trapped in a world full of warlocks, poisonous bugs and more than a few secrets, Akito and his friend Yaya have nothing to rely on but their wits and the help of a mysterious benefactor named Neon…who seems to know a little too much about Akito’s brother!”
When Akito makes the mistake of telling his older brother that he wished to see the world, he unexpectedly set himself up for a sudden trip to another dimension. Trapped there with his childhood friend, a timid and odd young girl named Yaya, Akito must try to find his way home and kick his brother’s ass when he does!
I purchased this first volume of Cross x Break because I’ve enjoyed books by the manga-ka duo, Duo Brand, before. All the series I’ve read by them, however, have been boys’ love so I was pretty eager to see how they’d do another genre. This is one of those series that’s rather hard to classify; the story and framework suggests shonen but the art style and character sensibilities would probably be more marketable to the shoujo and boys’ love fans. What that makes this then, I suppose, is a pretty balanced piece of work that can be enjoyed by anyone, taste-pending of course.
Akito is your fairly standard lead character: dark spiky hair, energetic and a little mouthy but there’s more to him than that which rounds him out as a person. He lives in the shadow of his Father, Japan’s President in the story, as well as his older brother but he makes due without it bothering him much. He’s honest and morally-sound, and while confident, isn’t arrogant. It’s his lack of arrogance that I think makes me like him the most, because sometimes you wish those shonen lead characters would just sit down and zip it for a while! He goes about dealing with this crisis in a pretty reasonable manner and also possess his own weird little quirks that adds some humour to the pages.
Yaya, a young girl accidently sent to the strange world with Akito, didn’t really work for me as well. She’s spacey, slow, weak and weepy, your typical manga-girl damsel. And yet, there’s something so weird and damselly about her that I’m inclined to think there could be more to her than an empty smile. Here’s hoping!
The world they’re sent to has proven to be fairly interesting as well. Most of this first volume takes place in a dangerous underground portion of the world where most citizens flee from hunters called Warlocks. Akito and Yaya are helped by a friend of Akito’s brother, who’s a bit of an oddball, but with a shy personality and dark past that promises some interesting revelations later. He also eats bugs (yuck!).
Duo Brand’s art style is fairly attractive though suffers from some anatomy and consistency issues. The character designs range from plain to weird (what is up with the random braids coming out of their guide’s head?) and there’s a nice balance of dramatic angles and comedic events to keep the book feeling lively. I liked they’re drawings of the world, which did a good job feeling other-worldly in a suitably fantasy way, and also as strange and intimidating as it should be.
Overall, Cross x Break seems to be off to a pretty decent start. It has its own charm to it that, while I wouldn’t run about singing its praises, did have a certain special something. Now that this first volume has set up the plot and characters, I look forward to volume two for a better look at where this fish-out-of-water story is going.
Review written September 20, 2008 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book purchased from independant hobby-store, The Batter’s Box