Birdmen (BIRDMEN -バードメン-)
by Yellow Tanabe
After the initial chapter of Birdmen, I found myself scratching my head. Nothing was clear in chapter one (which is a prologue), I didn’t know what the story was going to be about at all. But there is a hook: a repeated rumor about a mysterious man with wings. Then, we get a glimpse of him at the end of chapter two (also the prologue) just as a bus containing all our main characters goes careening off a cliff. Then, chapter three returns to seemingly normal life, but something is just off as glimpses of memory and powers begin.
The way Yellow Tanabe constructs the beginning of Birdmen creates the tension and unease you might expect from a horror story, which it somewhat is, but Birdmen is more like Ms. Tanabe’s version of superheroes.
Two sets of friends, Karasuma and Kamoda, Tsubame and Sagisawa, who have only just met find themselves on the verge of death as their bus crashes. The Birdman saves them which endows them with the same powers as he. Just as the group starts to realize their abilities, a portal in the sky drops a monster into their town.
Yellow Tanabe takes these elements and combines them with a good sense of humor, popping up only at the appropriate times. There is even a classic superhero moment as Karasuma realizes he doesn’t need his glasses anymore after gaining his powers.
The entire first volume is an origin story which sets up everything that is to come. We have a five person team, each with a distinctive personality but so far it hasn’t felt like the well trodden path you might expect. Karasuma attitude feels downright out-of-place as he feels the world just doesn’t measure up and has no appreciation for his intellect. Kamoda’s shaved head and mean face make him an odd bestie for reserved and sheeple-hating Karasuma. None of the cast are particularly keen on their powers. So far everything feels right without feeling over done.
Birdmen has a winning combination of superheroes, humor, and horror. The more I read, the more I want to read.