Publisher: Radially Spoof
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: April 2010
Synopsis: “Always up to her nose in manga and eager to share her opinion, it was no surprise to her friends when Kuri decided to tackle the word of reviewing. But with too many books and not enough hours in the day, she soon realized she’d need some major help to tackle them all. It doesn’t take long for her to gather together an amazing assortment of individuals and each with their own unique charms- but now Kuri’s suddenly got more than books on her desk! Anime conventions, forum trolls, scanlation scourges and more – but with deadlines looming, book stacks towering and a million distractions out to thwart them, can the manga crew keep up with their workload or will they need more than luck to help them fulfil their kuriousity?”
A book about manga reviewing, convention planning, manga fans just hanging out and talking about what they love… what madness is this? Brilliant madness – or at least a highly entertaining kind.
Kuriousity starts with a short monologue-esque mini-chapter about how the main cast of characters came together, using amusing one-panel shots per character. While there’s little dialogue, there’s still lots said about each one – Marsha, the event planning cosplayer; Shevaun – the gamer with her eyes permanently glued to a screen; Shannon – a journalist with a flair for getting the scoop and Andre – an artist with a near godly output of comics who also seems to have some mysterious connections.
There isn’t much of a continuing plot so far, per say. Events that happen early on in the book do impact what happens later and are subsequently referred to, however most of the story consists of standalone chapters. The characters read manga, talk about it, freak out over it and generally have a great all around fan-connection to it. Their discussions range from arguments over genre-classing of Kuri’s bookshelves to the sexual validity of boys’ love stories, with some fan-culture discussion tossed in for good social-commentary measure.
The bulk of the series is comedy-based though there are some times where it actually gets pretty serious, such as an incident that almost sends one of the writers to the hospital and a legal mess that threatens their very work. The mesh between the two elements doesn’t always work as smoothly as the author clearly would’ve liked but it does help keep things from feeling too dependent on the jokes. The characters optimism and earnest joy in what they do also gives the whole book a pretty uplifting filling that goes past the situational quirks.
There are lots of moments throughout this first volume where the story plays off the tropes of the manga medium as well, and in notably clever ways. The ‘mysterious transfer student’ angle is played via a new reviewer to the team, Jaime, appearing mid-way through the book, while planning an anime convention serves as the series’ school festival-arc. There’s even a short hot spring stint but it’s probably not what you’d expect.
Along with the stereotype-poking there are also some direct references for manga fans – little proverbial Easter eggs to catch onto. It’s no fun spoiling what they are specifically but keep an eye out on the background characters, manga covers splayed across the rooms and certain scarred doctors advertising their services on billboards. The series also makes jest at fan-culture aspects of our geeky world including literal forum trolls and content thieves.
The artwork in Kuriousity is great – the artist’s ability to switch around styles from the bulk of the story to the content of what the characters are reading is impressive, as is the consistency they maintain of the main style in light of this. I love how strong the ink lines are and how screen toning is used sparingly but to great effect. There’s an incredible sense of fun and energy on every page, whether it’s Lissa’s freaking out over a stack of towering books threatening to crush her in her sleep or Andre feverishly defending forum goers on his computer from evil trolls and thieves (rendered hilariously I might add), there’s no shortage of scenarios offering both eye-candy and amusement.
Kuriousity starts off pretty strong here in the first volume – how it manages to fit so much happening in such a short period of time while being fluid is impressive enough in itself. I think any manga fan would find this a treat to read for the in-jokes or references alone but to those who’ve ever reviewed a book, pruned a forum or run a con before, this is simply priceless. Who’d have thought that the world of critiquing books could prove as fun as the books themselves?