Manga-ka: Kiyo QJO
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: August 2009
Synopsis: “In a world where humans a demons coexist under a fragile peace, change is coming… A mysterious drug, known only as Zone-OO, seems to be causing demons all over Tokyo to lose control and revert to their old, violent ways. Enter two young students who stand on opposite sides of an ageless conflict. One a demon, the other an exorcist, they must now join forces to uncover the secret before it’s too late!”
An energetic, bright-eyed demon and a down-to-business sharp-eyed exorcist; the two are classmates and good friends, an unlikely enough mix even before you throw the deadly events that have started happening around their town. With a drug circulating that turns normally controlled individuals into flesh-hungry beings, an assortment of bizarre characters come together to investigate the occurrences, and in this first volume, lay some initial presumptions to rest… when they’re not busy exploring each other’s individual oddities that is.
Zone-00 is a story written and drawn by the artist of Trinity Blood, and for several reasons this proved a deterrent on my part for picking it up. But a flip-through won me over and on my shelf it earned a place. Unfortunately though, Zone-00 does still suffer from the same convolution that I found made Trinity Blood so unappealing. The pages are heavy in artwork and text, very cluttered for the majority of the book and readers suffer for it due to the resulting messy plot execution. At first I wasn’t sure I’d have the patience to finish the book when I began reading it, but I must say, I was really swept into the book, not by the plot itself but by the characters holding it up.
It’s safe to say that everyone in Zone-00 is crazy – certifiably insane. On top of that they’re quite amusing, and their over the top interaction is what makes the book a worth while read if you like that sort of thing. I laughed more than a few times, always at the absurdity more than moments of intended direct humour but it was all good.
The two lead characters are pretty entertaining on their own. Saburo Kujo is a rather stunned looking young boy with exuberant honesty and a love for anything he considers mysterious. Nothing really phases him though he is pretty easily amazed; oh, and has a problem with having his throat ripped out, in turn unleashing a great demon within. In contrast there’s his friend, Ango Shima, a more firm-eyed individual with a calloused heart for doing his job as an exorcist. The two have a cute, albeit still unexplored, friendship that I hope gets more distinct focus in future volumes, if only because I find them both so interesting even on their own.
Other characters who remain as prominently on page as those two are a variety of equally peculiar characters, from a dog and a cat who take humanoid form to exert their testosterone, and a young man who seemingly has all the answers (and had me entirely convinced was a woman for half the book, despite bathing scenes). Toss in a pair of twins who can combine to become any vehicle, a couple other muscle-bound guys out for a good bloody fight or just a good drink, two busty schoolgirls, a bondage nun and a butler of some kind, and you’ve got yourself an assortment of people that all bring at least something outlandish to the table.
There’s some relevant plot points scattered along the book but you need to pay extra close attention or you could easily miss the moments that really matter in the larger scheme of the storyline. So much of the book is more about enjoying reading about the characters themselves. While it’s a tad frustrating having such a small amount of substantial plot, it’s easy to not even realize this is the case by the time you come to the end. Honesty I hardly realized how little linear-information there actually was by the end until I sat down to write up the short synopsis for this review.
Kiyo QJO’s artwork is admittedly what prompted me to pick up this book, despite any misgivings I reserved about her other works. The designs in this book are fantastic, charged with as much energy and as many unique details as the characters themselves are violent and kooky. The one hitch about the artwork, which I both loved and loathed simultaneously, was the overly feminine appearance of most of the male characters. This is one of those books where if it doesn’t have huge breasts, then it’s a boy (thus far no exceptions). And if it does have huge breasts, well, expect some fan-service.
On the flipside however, you have characters who are some of the manliest design-wise that you’ll see in a book like this. Tall with rippling muscles and a penchant for comparing the size of their… accessories… they’ll definitely catch your eye as they stand butt-naked, and proud of it, in a sea of chaos. Like them or not, all these characters will at the very least get your attention. Overall, I personally loved the artwork. It’s weird, it’s distinctive and it’s so much fun to stare at.
Zone-00 is ultimately the kind of book I would recommend to readers almost entirely based on the flip-through method. Find a copy, pick it up, flip through, and see what you think. If it looks like this could be a book for you, then it very well likely is. Though Zone-00 has its obvious flaws, by the end I found I had quite enjoyed this surprisingly memorable assortment of style and sass and I hope the next volume is just as weirdly-entertaining.