Manga of the Month: Birdmen

Birdmen (BIRDMEN -バードメン-)
by Yellow Tanabe

narutaki_icon_4040 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.

~ kate


Ongoing Investigations: Case #224

narutaki_icon_4040 Hey everyone, did you know that the Axe Cop cartoon is now on? I have been looking forward to this ever since it was teased. With eps. 1-2 you get a great sampling of what you’re in for if for some inexplicable reason you have never read the comic.

The opening of the show gives you a very quick rundown of how Axe Cop became Axe Cop, a perfectly necessary thing to do. What elevates it is the kid narrating, who may very well be writer Ethan Nicolle, giving just the right amount of gravitas to the premise. So already each and every episode starts off on the right foot.

Axe Cop’s voice is perfect and the delivery of the absurd dialogue is spot on. The animators capture the world of Axe Cop quite well and they have a good idea for funny background details.

The stories so far are an amalgam of what has been in the comic but put together in different ways to create semi-new insane tales with different interactions and jokes. Flute Cop’s role comes off as the most changed as he is a straight man to the wackiness often times. I hope that he turns into Dinosaur Soldier in an upcoming episode.

This show is a perfect fit for Fox’s animation block.

hisui_icon_4040 If there is one thing you cannot accuse Axe Cop of it is a slavish devotion to the conventional narrative structures we all know. I mean there is some semblance of your standard plot. It is not Ulysses or Gravity’s Rainbow here. (Somewhere a literature major threw up inside their mouth when I put Axe Cop in the same paragraph as those two books. But they are a literature major … so no one cares.) It is just a show that hops from plot point to plot point with an extremely stream of consciousness sense of progression.

That actually makes sense since Axe Cop in the creation of the adult Ethan Nicolle, who does the art, and his young son who is the writer. Is it theoretically about a cop who has an axe that fights crime. It is actually about the strange adventures of testosterone laden Gary Stu who goes around being a man’s man in a way that would make Brock Samson and Golgo 13 look like the forgotten members of the Golden Girls. That means he kills zombies, ninjas, dinosaurs, and the King of all Bad Guys with extreme violence and kid logic.

And that is the selling point of the series. When Bat Warthog Man’s friends are all eaten by the King of All Bad Guys it is up to Axe Cop to assemble a team so he can blow a horn inside the huge villains head. This lets dinosaurs can eat the villain’s brain. Mr T, a dinosaur rental store, scatological humor, and giant chicken bodied generalissimos get involved along the way. And that is the first episode. The second episode has super intelligent poop as a villain. Also we learn that Axe Cop is too cool to defecate like normal people.

I think the real question comes down to  how does this compare to the original comic. The original comic just feels tighter. Things just HAPPEN. But since it is all centered around one page stories so it just feels odd organic despite its almost absurdest nature. With 11 minutes to fill they try to keep that same vibe while centering everything around an actual plot structure. In a way that loses a bit of the original’s charm. Not enough to kill the momentum but enough to make one a clear winner.

Also at 11 minute half episodes this still works but if they take these plots and try to make them half an hour episodes they are just going to meander most of the time. Maybe two 11 minute half episodes in each episode would work but full episodes would stretch the premise too thin. Also something makes me roll my eyes at the thought of Axe Cop episodes trying to have B plots.

Also despite what Naruatki says the real reasons she likes this so much is because they often involve dinosaurs in the comic. It really makes you think how badly Terra Nova had to botch things up for her not to like that series.

The Ongoing Investigations are little peeks into what we are watching and reading outside of our main posts on the blog. We each pick three things that we were interested in a week and talk a bit about them. There is often not much rhyme or reason to what we pick. They are just the most interesting things we saw since the last Ongoing Investigation.

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