Sunday, April 4, 2010

Manga Review: Bokurano Ours Volume 1

Every once in a while you read or see something that hits you in a way that's unexpected. When VIZ's latest release, Bokurano: Ours, was announced everything I read about the title suggested it was just another giant mech piloted by kid manga. To be quite fair the genre has been played to death and anything remotely close to the genre feels stereotyped somehow. Now that the first volume of Bokurano: Ours has come out, I dare say that my preconception of this manga has been shattered.

Bokurano: Ours follows fifteen children over the course of a summer as they take part in a program called "Seaside Friendship and Nature School". The kids all attend the same junior high school and are in the seventh grade together (the exception being one girl who is in the fourth grade). When the book opens the kids are all on a beach doing some natural research for a project. After a while they discover a cave entrance and head inside to see what they can find. The cave is dark, but just a little ways ahead of them is a source of light so they decide to keep going. What they find is more than they bargained for.

A strange man named Kokopelli has apparently been working out of this area, as evident by a lot of computer hardware and such. He tells the children that he's working on a game and asks if they would like to participate. He convinces them to sign up by touching an object, and the next thing they know they all wake up on the beach thinking it was a dream or something. When a giant beast is summoned into existence before their very eyes the reality of their "game" hits home.

As it turns out Kokopelli is an alien of unknown origin who invites them to each take a shot at piloting the massive mech. In turn the kids will all have to defeat other massive monsters in an effort to save the world. Naturally some of the children are fearful of that prospect, and others jump at the chance to sit in the pilot's chair. What happens next once they start playing is something that simply has to be seen to be appreciated, in all fairness. There are some heavy duty spoilers that would be dropped if I continued going on about the plot, so I'll refrain from that direction.

Aside from the story, another thing that stands out about Bokurano: Ours is the dark nature of it all. Some unexpected stuff happens and a lot of people die. Adding to that sense of tragedy is the way it is played out with the children as they all deal with the gravity of the situation. It's quite unique in many regards and in between all the drama is the sense of a foreboding mystery working in the background.

Bokurano: Ours was created by Mohiro Kitoh and features some fascinating, unique artwork. There's a frantic look to every line and one really gets a sense of movement and emotion in each frame. There's a lot of detail in the book and some of the designs truly speak for themselves. The translation is smooth as well and there really is no problem as far as editing is concerned.

The first volume of Bokurano: Ours is quite a success. The book is fascinating and messes with readers in many ways. The mystery is compelling, the relationship the kids form shows promise, and the dark undertones really leave a sense of unease after putting the book down. It's not quite a horror, but rather a manga that's more adult and suspenseful than one might think. It'll be fascinating to see where the series goes from here and I for one look forward to the next installment.

Maki Rating:

Review material provided by VIZ Media. Bokurano: Ours is rated for Older Teen.

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