To judge from all the shonen manga I’ve read, the fate of the world rests in teenage boys’ hands: not only do they have the power to kill demons and thwart alien invasions, they’re also blessed with the kind of superior intelligence that makes them natural partners with law enforcement.
Bloody Monday is a textbook example of the teen-genius genre: high school student Fujimaru Takagi dabbles in crime-solving, hacking into secure networks and decoding encrypted files on behalf of the Public Security Intelligence Agency. (Naturally, he works for the PSIA’s super-secret “Third-I” division, which is “comprised solely of elites.”) Fujimaru’s deductive skills are put to the ultimate test when his father is falsely implicated in a murder. To find the real killer, Fujimaru must uncover the connection between his father and the “Christmas Massacre,” a terrorist attack that left thousands of Russian civilians dead, their bodies covered in boils.
In the right hands, Bloody Monday might have been good, silly fun, 24 for the under-twenty-four crowd. The script, however, is pointed and obvious, explaining hacker culture and internet technology to an audience that has grown up on the world-wide web: are there any fifteen-year-olds who don’t grasp the basics of computer viruses? The characters, too, seem impossibly dim, thinking out loud, missing obvious connections, and reminding each other how they’re related, whether they’re fellow reporters for the school newspaper or siblings. Small wonder they don’t realize that their school has been infiltrated by an enemy agent.
The art is more skillful than the script, with polished character designs and detailed backgrounds. The adults actually look like adults, not teenagers with unfortunate laugh lines, while the scenes aboard the Transsiberian Railroad convey the harshness of the Russian landscape. Though artist Kouji Megumi nevers misses an opportunity to show us an attractive woman in her underwear — and really, what well-trained assassin doesn’t snuff a target or two while wearing only a matching bra-and-panty set? — the fanservice never overwhelms the plot. The action sequences, too, are well-staged, using swift cross-cuts and imaginative camera angles to heighten the suspense.
In the end, however, the slick visuals aren’t enough to compensate for the flat-footed storytelling. A plot as potentially interesting and complex as Bloody Monday‘s should challenge the reader to arrive the solution independently, not spoon-feed it; too often, the story seems to have been written in boldface, depriving the reader of an opportunity to guess the outcome of the story for herself.
CJ saysAugust 31, 2011 at 3:11 am
I remember reading maybe the first few volumes through…less than ideal means, but I remember dropping it because I got annoyed by the main. For being a “super genius”, he’s frustratingly naive and stupid where it actually counts (or maybe he’s just handed the idiot ball for plot’s sake, either way he sure acts infuriatingly stupid). I don’t recall him acting that stupid right away, but don’t worry, he’ll get there, that “missing obvious connections” thing will only get worse
And yeah, explaining computers is just pointless for the audience. I also felt like the series should’ve been an exciting “figure it out” thing, but I don’t recall getting that because it was all spelled out pretty quickly.
Still, hope it’s a big seller for Kodansha so they could, say, rescue Moyashimon for the microbiology major crowd?
Katherine Dacey saysAugust 31, 2011 at 7:54 am
“Maybe he’s just handed the idio ball for plot’s sake…”
Could I trademark that phrase? That is such an apt description of what happens in Bloody Monday it isn’t even funny.
Blackmokona saysAugust 31, 2011 at 10:10 am
Idiot ball on TVtropes http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/IdiotBall
Yeah it violates every condition for a good mystery and keeps insulting general public’s inteligence. It has absolutely no specialized knowledge and reads like the cheap thriller it is, which is not cheap at all, actually. I have to resume leeching from now on, because that’s the last time I’m going cover shopping. (This is Sakura Taisen all over again, cover was really nice for Tokyopop)
Katherine Dacey saysAugust 31, 2011 at 12:39 pm
Thanks for the education—I had no idea that the term “idiot ball” was in wide use!
FWIW, I also fell for the cover of Sakura Taisen and was horribly disappointed; it was such a choppy, sloppy mess that no amount of pretty costumes or cool machinery could distract from the awful script.
Aaron saysAugust 31, 2011 at 9:57 am
I read it and had high hopes for it since Bloody Monday earned some comparesons to Code Breaker wich I thought was smart, raised some intresting moral questions, and for a Shonen Manga had *gasp* (sarcasm) a competant femlae lead.
Bloody Monday on the other hand just seems like the charcters have one demensonal personalities that can be summed up in one discription “the sick sister,” “the Tsundere childhood friend,” etc, etc, Also it felt like Dengeki Diasy if you removed the Shojo romance elment and wrote it from Kurosaki’s perespective. I just don’t think it’s good sign for a sereis when you go “oh hay this reminds me of…” or “this is just like”
Katherine Dacey saysAugust 31, 2011 at 12:53 pm
To some extent, imitation is a hallmark of the medium: if one manga about pirates is successful, other publishers will try to capitalize on its popularity by developing their own pirate series. But I agree with your observation about Bloody Monday: it’s frustrating when a manga seems so derivative that it lacks its own identity. I suffered deja vu almost from the first page!
Jade Harris saysAugust 31, 2011 at 4:35 pm
I like a good mystery story like Kindaichi, but it can even be fun to see an eccentric genius at work, playing his clues close to the chest like House or classic Sherlock Holmes.
Watching someone just bumble along, waiting for clues to fall into their laps is just tedious when played straight though. It doesn’t even play up to the over-achieving ubermench protagonist we’ve had shoved in our faces. This is exactly why I can’t stand most of those awful shows like CSI and NCIS and Whatever:DNA Pro-Analysis Super Squad:Portland. Peter Sellers could pull that kind of plot off because it was, y’know, comedy.
Anyhoo, like Aaron was getting at, I think more attention was placed on contrived, derivative character types than the actual mystery aspects here. As much as Light Yagami grated on me, an imitation reads pretty pathetically.
Katherine Dacey saysSeptember 1, 2011 at 8:13 am
Watching someone just bumble along, waiting for clues to fall into their laps is just tedious when played straight though. It doesn’t even play up to the over-achieving ubermench protagonist we’ve had shoved in our faces.
I think you’ve nailed it: throughout Bloody Monday, we’re told that the hero is a genius, but he behaves like such an idiot, and misses so many obvious clues, that it’s hard to believe he could possibly decrypt the contents of a damaged microchip faster than a supercomputer could. I wasn’t a Death Note fan, either, but at least Light seemed intelligent; his interior monologues could be laughably obvious, but he didn’t act foolish.