Before I get to Wild Adapter, there are three other things I am very happy about right now:
1) Sharing manga leads to wonderful suprises: My sister has pre-ordered Bleach Volume 26 and Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 18 for me “in support of the manga industry” and as a thank you “for supplying happy, happy reading.” I was completely touched and more than a bit watery-eyed. Of course she will get to borrow these volumes from me when they arrive ;) Heh. Do I have an awesome sister or what? She’s even way ahead of me on reading Nana!
2) Mangatude. I’m having lots of fun there but I think I may be operating outside one of the goals of mangatude, which is to trade manga you don’t want for manga you really do want. Instead of stabilizing or shrinking, my manga collection keeps growing. You see, I have a lengthy wish list, but I did not have a lot to offer in trade. So instead of being patient I’ve been stocking up on popular titles from my local Half-Price Books stores that I can use to trade for the titles I cannot find. I’m hopeless. I know. But its an approach that is working.
3) Volume 1 of Natsuki Takaya’s new series Phantom Dream. It is now in my possession! I did a happy dance when it arrived. Its not often that I buy manga brand new, relying on my public library’s fairly extensive collection and haunting the used bookstores in the area, but for an author or series I love, I have a really hard time waiting.
Which brings me to my hopefully spoiler free review of Wild Adapter Volume 1, by Kazuya Minekura. I read a library copy of Volume 1 in December, was blown away by it, rushed to the computer to order the next volumes, only to discover they had not been purchased. [I should note that as of this post, the library has purchased volume 2.] Thanks to Amazon and Powell’s, I now own volumes 1-6.
I have to confess, I picked up this manga out of nostalgia for Banana Fish. The enigmatic leader of a youth gang, gets caught up in a war over a mysterious and deadly drug and forms a relationship with another young man who has a deep, emotional impact on him. Sound familiar? In spite of those similarities Wild Adapter is no copycat. It stands on its own. Whether it will be as emotionally resonant for me as Banana Fish, only time and the completion of the series will tell.
Volume 1 of Wild Adapter, is one of the strongest first volumes of manga I have ever read. Often with a good series, even some of my favorites, like Bleach and even xxxHolic, the first volume piques my interest enough to keep reading, but the series does not really grab hold of me, make me sit bolt upright and stop to reread passages over and over again, until several volumes (and in the case of Tsubasa, sixteen volumes) later. I found myself doing this from the first chapter onward in Wild Adapter, marvelling at various strikes to my emotional radar. This is great, character-driven storytelling from the get-go.
Volume 1 is actually a prologue to the main story, introducing most of the major players and establishing their motivations. We learn of Makoto Kubota’s initiation into the Izumo yakuza, his first encounter with the drug called Wild Adapter, or W.A., the abrupt and violent end to his seven-month stint as leader of the Izumo youth gang, and how he first meets Minoru Tokito, a young man with amnesia and an unusual right hand who may hold the key to solving the mystery of W.A.
Nobuo Komiya, the second in command of the youth gang, is our primary narrator for the first volume. In their first encounter, Kubota’s forced initiation, Komiya witnesses Kubota shoot and kill the former youth gang leader at boss Sanada’s request. Amazed, he remarks that Kubota did this without hesitation and that took guts. Kubota replies, “Not really. It was him or me, and I always choose me.” Komiya is equally frightened of and fascinated by this man, but gradually the two men form a sort of friendship and bits and pieces of Kubota begin to be revealed.
Completely ignored and disavowed by his parents from his birth, Kubota can be as willful and destructive as a child: skipping out on meetings to go to 7-11 for the new ice-cream flavor or breaking a man’s arm for falsely accusing Kubota of bumping into him. He is not particulary interested in people, female or male, but he does have an affinity for animals. He enjoys mahjong, plays video games, and is incredibly competitive, admitting to Komiya, “Unless I’m facing some challenge or contest…I’m not really alive. I disappear. Or something like that.” In one of my favorite early scenes, this statement is followed by Kubota unexpectedly flinging his shoe off into the air, remarking that he can put his laundry out the next day because of how the shoe landed, and hopping off toward the shoe while Komiya looks on, pondering how “this murderer just talks blandly about the weather.”
Wild Adapter is full of moments like this. Or more accurately, Makoto Kubota is. Juxtaposing emotional revelations with mundane or even absurd trivialities to maintain the barriers he has set up around himself. But we begin to see the breakdown of these barriers first through his relationship with Komiya and moreso in the future with Tokito (the young man without a past and a glove covering his right hand, who makes an uncredited mysterious appearance at the very beginning of the volume and gets picked up off the street by Kubota at the end of Volume 1). The mystery of the Wild Adapter drug is crucial to the story, but it is the relationships that people form and how they are forever changed by them that make Wild Adapter such a memorable manga for me.
Kazuya Minekura’s artwork is highly-detailed, uses angles quite effectively, and makes minimal use of screen tones and patterns, her panel layouts are straightforward but striking, and her dialogue – translated by Alexis Kirsch and adapted by Christine Boylan – is snappy and as rough as the characters who utter it. My one complaint about Tokyopop’s translation is the katakana sound effects that are left untranslated. I want a translation to come as close as possible to reflecting the mangaka’s original intentions. And part of what I love about sound effects in manga is the aural layer that is added to the reading experience, not to mention they are often important to the reader’s understanding of what is going on.
That minor complaint aside, I am really enjoying Wild Adapter. My enjoyment of Volume 1 has held up to repeated readings. I have read Volumes 2 through 6 now and feel almost as strongly about those as I do about Volume 1 and I am eagerly awaiting the announcement of a release date for Volume 7. In the meantime, I have been gathering volumes of Kazuya Minekura’s other manga, Saiyuki.
Wild Adapter is rated Mature Ages 18+ for sex, nudity, violence, and language.
jun saysFebruary 9, 2009 at 10:11 am
Thanks for the review! I have volume one, but haven’t read it. I just checked the Japanese Amazon site, and it doesn’t look like volume 7 has even come out over there yet, so it’ll probably be a long wait.
Deanna Gauthier saysFebruary 9, 2009 at 3:01 pm
Oh! I hope you like it!
I have been looking everywhere for scanlations or news about new chapters of Wild Adapter and my google-fu has utterly failed me. Its a great series. I just hope the magazine that carries it does not go under and that it continues to be licensed here in the U.S.!
Erl saysFebruary 12, 2009 at 10:58 am
You reminded me of myself when I first picked up volume 1 — I was blown away, and that made me dash out to the nearest bookstore the next day to get whatever volumes I could find.
And it got even better after volume 6 (God, whenever will volume 7 get in print), it’s quite crazy. I’m highly anticipating the next Dice, can’t believe I have to wait every other month for a couple of pages, but it’s always worth it. We’re finally getting answers about Tokito, and more light into the relationship between the two.
I totally agree on the sfx — what gives, Tokyopop? They sometime translate a minor one, then don’t for the next 20 pages, and then start translating some again. The manga is packed with action scenes, we need to know what’s blowing up and what is being shot. It was also noted that (in the first volume, I think?) Kubota was serving tea, but then Tokyopop went and changed it to “coffee”. I’m not sure, maybe the thought it’s more manly to have coffee?
Deanna Gauthier saysFebruary 12, 2009 at 2:46 pm
Its nice to hear I’m not the only one who had such a strong reaction to the book!
Its even better to hear that chapters are still coming out. Yay! Are you reading the chapters online? If so, I would love to know where they can be found.
I know Tokyopop is not the only publisher who does not translate some or all of the sound effects. Dark Horse, publisher of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, leaves the katakana sound effects untranslated in the panels, but has them translated and indexed by page and panel number in the back of the book. And there is no way I’m going to flip to the back of the book every panel to find out that, oh, that’s the sound of cicadas chirping, or hmm, so the body went thunk as it hit the floor. This also really bothers me, but its still better than not translating them at all.
Vicky saysMay 8, 2009 at 4:09 pm
I am, just like you, blown away by Wild Adapter. The characters are so complex, and along with the story and setting of the gritty city, it creates my ideal Manga.
“Juxtaposing emotional revelations with mundane or even absurd trivialities to maintain the barriers he has set up around himself.”
You couldn’t have been more correct. Kubota’s characteristics are so contradictory, which makes such a great mess of a role in the dark city he resembles.
Wow. I’ve never in my life analyzed something so much. Guess the Virgo’s coming out in me!
Deanna Gauthier saysMay 8, 2009 at 5:57 pm
This comment totally made my day! You have no idea, but your comment could not have come at a better time! Its been so long since I wrote a guest post on Melinda’s blog, I was in danger of growing too timid and self-conscious to do another one. You have given me a much-needed boost!
And thanks too, for sharing the Wild Adapter love! It is always great to find another fan of the series. Kazuya Minekura has been rapidly climbing my list of favorite mangakas. I am now caught up on Saiyuki and Saiyuki Reload (cannot wait for volume 10 to come out!).
Vicky saysMay 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm
Wow! I hadn’t thought it would make such an impact, but you’re very welcome!
No need to be self-conscious when you’re such a great writer. I really loved how in-depth your post was.
Yeah, I’m also a huge fan of Minekura’s.
I started off reading Saiyuki, then got into her other stuff. (I can’t wait for volume 10 either!) She really is a master storyteller.
Have you read Busgamer or Stigma yet?
Deanna Gauthier saysMay 13, 2009 at 1:50 am
Thank you! Really!
I agree, Minekura is a great storyteller! I read Wild Adapter first, and then picked up Saiyuki. I was surprised at the difference in the two – most notably, how much Saiyuki makes me laugh. Maybe its totally juvenile, but I really enjoy the crass humor and name-calling. Although once again, Minekura takes us to very dark places and poses more interesting questions about monsters, demons, life, death, loyalty, and friendship. Gah. I like Saiyuki alot! Can you tell? Although I’ve tried watching the anime it just does not do justice to the manga!
I have Bus Gamer, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. And Stigma does not seem to be in print here. Or am I wrong?
Shuu saysMarch 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm
I love this manga, but I wish she could draw the next one faster! I enjoy it a lot more than Saiyuki. I like mysteries, especially supernatural ones. And I certainly don’t mind the fluff…Pun intended. o uo b
Deanna Gauthier saysMarch 31, 2010 at 8:57 pm
Kazuya Minekura has definitely grown to be a more finely-honed storyteller since starting Saiyuki. Wild Adapter grabbed me so quickly, but I ended up loving Saiyuki as well. By the end of volume 9 of Saiyuki Reload, it had grown to be one of my favorite mangas. It is safe to say that I have completely fallen for Minekura’s brand of flawed, f’ed-up, anti-heroes. I too cannot wait for future volumes to be released!