Manga-ka: Yasuhiro Nightow
Publisher: Dark Horse
Rating: Teen (13+)
Release Date: September 2011
Synopsis: “A breach between Earth and the netherworlds has opened up over the city of New York, trapping New Yorkers and creatures from other dimensions in an impenetrable bubble. They’ve lived together for years, in a world of crazy crime sci-fi sensibilities. Now someone is threatening to sever the bubble, and a group of stylish superhumans is working to keep it from happening.”
B3 – or Blood Blockade Battlefront – is the newest English-released work from Yasuhiro Nightow. His popular Trigun remains to date one of the few series where I found the anime more enjoyable than the manga it was based on. Nightow’s artwork was confusing to follow and his pacing erratic, making an otherwise entertaining story a chore to follow. It’s always been a disappointment to me that I didn’t like the Trigun manga so I was hoping for another chance to give Nightow a try. Does Blood Blockade Battlefield redeem the manga artist in my eyes? … unfortunately not. I bet it’d make a spiffy anime though.
Right off the bat I was pleasantly surprised by the design of the story’s main character. He looks more like he’d be a secondary character than someone you’d expect to be the story’s lead. Leonard Watch has a simple short black hair cut, comfy looking sweatshirt, goggles and squinted eyes. His run of the mill appearance matches his pretty humble personality too. He’d a pretty laid back young guy, but the story revs up pretty fast and he’s soon caught up in one circumstance after another where he’s stuck going with the flow just to keep alive, which thankfully he does with all he can offer. He’s got a special ability granted to him by a traumatic event in his past but so far it seems more handy than granting him position of ‘WOW-super-powered-newbie!’ like so many more standard shonen series.
Likeable as I found Leonard, however, the story he’s in was a lot more difficult to digest. A New York separated from the world in a giant bubble, strange creatures living among human beings, and now some evil organization using a mix of beasts and technology to try and sever the connection by, well, making connections between the different worlds. Or something to that effect. Either way, it leaves a notorious group of do-gooders known as Libra chasing a tiny dopey looking monkey around the city with their newest member, Leonard. What could have been an exciting series of events is muddled by choppy scene transitions and a lack of coherency. I kept losing track of where they were and some times even the specifics as to why. At least a clear line between the good guys and bad guys was drawn.
The Libra team seems like a fun enough bunch – you’ve got the quick-to-anger, white-haired chain smoker (Zap), the attractive and sarcastic gun-toting female (Chain), and the heart of gold, super powerful leader who also sports a mean under bite and side burns (Klaus). With Leonard tossed in there, I liked reading the scenes where they interacted. There was some good humour and one-liners that prompted a chuckle or two.
Nightow’s artwork looks considerably cleaner than in Trigun and I found myself stopping to linger to on the solid ink more than once. Unfortunately I did the same thing on a few scenes for less positive reasons, namely some really awful proportions that lack enough consistency to be entirely a stylistic choice. A nude scene with Zap was especially hard to look at, sporting a body frame akin to someone who’s been decomposing awhile. In contrast, Dark Horse didn’t hold back on the book’s physical quality and I love the book’s matte cover and paper stock. It’s a great looking book design-wise as well with a snazzy title font and spine layout.
While I didn’t like Blood Blockade Battlefront as much as I wanted to, it’s still an improvement over Nightow’s older works when it comes to storytelling coherency, even if only just. Like Trigun, I feel this story would probably work better as an anime with colour making sequences easier to follow and some tidier exposition. As it is here, not even a lead character I liked and some fun with the other characters makes me want to pick up volume two. Regrettably B3 was a battle lost for me.
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Book purchased from Strange Adventures