Manga-ka: Atsushi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: January 2009
Synopsis: “Shotaro continues his search for Emine in the I.C. Prefecture. But a careless comment sends him on the run from an angry kappa. Meanwhile, Mana is eager to enter the Robot Fight Tournament — sponsored by the “Happy Factory” — and get another commendation, but Yohei senses there’s something far more sinister than the tournament going on at the Fear Factory . . . That doesn’t stop him from building a powerful battle robot that’s guaranteed to take home the prize. Just when Mana is confident of her victory, the Fear Robot itself steps into the arena — with NoFix the King of Spin at the helm!”
B.Ichi continues to throw characters around a little freely and it’s easy to get mixed up the who, what, where and whys, but various key plot points throughout the volume help to ground readers with the important stuff. Several chapters also begin with short summaries of what’s happened up ‘til now to make sure you know enough to understand what’s going on, which though convenient, does suggest that the artist knows their story is a little on the confusing side.
On the note of characters themselves, Shotaro continues to fill out the role of stereotypical male character well as the hyperactive powerhouse of the group, and Mana remains firm set on her goal to collect as many commendations as she can, including entering a robot tournament that happens to be funded by the bad guys. The oldest of the group, Yohei, is the most in-depth of the trio in this book with a darker purpose for being in the city. He finally comes face to face with the man he’s been looking for and there’s some time given to his back-story to outline why he seeks this man so intently. The creepy factor of ‘The Spinner’, the man from Yohei’s past, proves to be one of the more serious tones of the book and contrasts sharply with some new characters, one of whom has powers connected to his abnormally long nose-hairs, who continue Atsushi Ohkubo’s notoriety for the bizarre.
Though I really enjoyed the time focused on Yohei, who I find the most interesting of the series thus far, my favorite portion of the book would have to be the opening short story where Shotaro crew help out an old man with an ogre problem. It had a nice mixture of heart and humour and the confusing continuing plotline was pleasantly absent.
Visually you can already see the art style evolving from where it began in the first volume and I like that the designs have taken a more solid look as the artist becomes more comfortable with them. Certain chapter cover illustrations also sport some designs and clothing that will be very familiar to fans of Atsushi Ohkubo’s more recent work, Soul Eater.
A shame I didn’t find Yen Press’s work to have as smooth a transition between volumes. I found here in volume two the text suffered from some awkward placing at times and even more awkward choice of font. While I understand the intent to emphasis certain speech bubbles with a variety of text fonts, several font choices for scenes in this book seemed unnecessary especially when it wasn’t handled with consistency.
Overall, B.Ichi continues to be a bumpy read mauled by some confusing overlapping events, but that said, one that still manages to be entertaining with some high-energy characters and quick-paced plot. Ultimately, it works to the story’s advantage that it only has a total of four volumes, because though I find myself pulled through some start to finish once I get used to the pivoting pace, I can see the same energy that makes B.Ichi surprisingly endearing, could be the very thing to smother it if dragged on too long.