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Ontology on the gone!

The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/19/2007 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Witchblade Takeru Manga, Vol. 1"

Witchblade Takeru Manga, Vol. 1
by Kazasa Sumita and Yasuko Kobayashi
Bandai Entertainment / Top Cow

Review by Tom Good

I'm a fan of the Witchblade TV show and comic series, so when I bought this book I was excited to find out how the Witchblade story would work as a manga. But this isn't really the same story at all. The characters are all different, and only the supernatural gauntlet called the Witchblade connects this with the other series. This is too bad, because the original series has some great characters, like the female lead Sara Pezzini, a tough cop who would be formidable with or without supernatural enhancement. Instead, here a Japanese schoolgirl named Takeru wields the Witchblade while Japanese schoolboy Kou tries to keep her from going completely out of control.

The story sets up Takeru as a virgin and a prude, who warns a promiscuous classmate that "Budda will severely punish" her for having sex. But while repressing her own sexual desires, Takeru becomes consumed with a lust for horrific violence when possessed by the Witchblade. She always expresses her violent urges in sexual terms. Before a battle with demons she says, "Ooh . . . my body burning . . . feels so hot . . . I feel so hot . . . and sweet!" Afterwards, covered in blood, she says, "It's over. How boring . . . I was just getting started. I wish there was more." As if to erase all doubt about the intent of the metaphor, towards the end when a demon tries to surrender, Takeru says, "We're not quitting . . . not until . . . I reach my climax!!!" Then she decapitates him.

Sumita's artwork is very good, the action scenes are strong, and everything from the detailed backgrounds to the flowing arcs of Takeru's hair has a pleasing look. The drawings have a nice sense of depth, and the characters seem to inhabit a realistic three-dimensional space rather than being posed in front of flat scenery. Normally Takeru is drawn as a typical slender schoolgirl, but when she uses the Witchblade her hips and thighs become larger, and her hair doubles in length so that it reaches the floor. These visual cues also make her seem older, more mature, and more sexualized.

But the racy parts of this manga seem more unintentionally funny than sexy. This is the type of fan-service manga that constantly includes shots of Takeru's underwear for no apparent reason, and often at the most illogical times. For example, in one scene Takeru wakes from a violent nightmare and races home, convinced that her grandmother is in terrible danger. Just as she reaches the front door and shouts "Grandma!" we get a view that looks up at her from the floor, staring up her skirt at her panties. This makes no sense, as it suggests that the really important thing about this moment is that it happens to lift the back of her skirt.

We see so much of Takeru's underwear -- and the underwear of other female characters -- that it starts to look as if a demon war has broken out in the middle of a Victoria's Secret catalog. I don't object to pinup-style art in manga, but other books like Enchanter make the style work more smoothly and effectively, without seeming so odd. Yes, Takeru has a nice body, but it's hard to ignore the fact that she's an immature, vacuous girl who loves hacking people's limbs off.

This manga was mildly amusing, and I liked the art, but unfortunately it didn't live up to my expectations for a new approach to the Witchblade world.

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