Shen Yin Wang Zuo: Knights in the dark city

A lot of style covering up a lot of awkwardness. In the metropolis of Dark City, 250 “knights” (the proud bearers of 250 “treasure keys”) compete with one another by hook or crook, dueling and stealing in search of Dream Gold, the ultimate treasure hidden somewhere in the city. Like its clear influence Jing: King of Bandits, Dream Gold aims for a fanciful fairy-tale mood, but the art is inferior and the action is confusing, crammed with poorly explained gimmicks: “rei sourcers,” “heresy cards,” “night points,” “mobile weapons,” and a shônen-manga-esque competition to be the best. The noseless, stylized character art is more crude than charming. The characters’ names are a good example of the manga’s spirit of trying too hard: Dragon W. Fabulous, Shad Heavymate, Lost-fraye J. Odysseus, Kurorat Jio Clocks. Shen Yin Wang Zuo

 

Short story anthology revolving around the small hotel Villa D’Etrangers and its new manager, the selfless Yutaro. The nice premise provides the potential for human drama, but Dream Hotel missteps in almost all areas, from the art and characters (which channel a high schooler’s bad sketches) to the convoluted, melodramatic plots. (“What, you do love me? What, you amazingly recovered your hearing? What, you’re finally ready to tell your mother that you love her but her plane crashed en route to Japan from America? No, wait, amazingly she decided to take an earlier plane!”) The manga is a mess of simplistic resolutions, and the motley crew of badly drawn characters gets old quickly. Read Star martial god technique

Like Fushigi Yûgi for eight-year-olds, this simplified shôjo fantasy adventure combines an environmental theme and Japanese mythology. When the sun goddess Amaterasu is imprisoned, fifth-grader Yuuki must travel to the dreamworld of Takamagahara (the land of the gods in Shinto religion) to save the world from darkness. Her male classmates also have counterparts in the dreamworld, and they form her entourage, assisting her when her ability to talk to animals and plants is not enough. As it turns out, Takamagahara is much like the real world, in that it is plagued by pollution (caused by the bad guys); all the “monsters” are actually friendly giant animals angered by human maltreatment, and the characters even discuss auto pollution and alternative energy sources. The plot ties together neatly by Tachikawa’s standards, and the series has nice moments of silly, self-referential comedy, but it’s too juvenile to hold the attention of any but the youngest readers.

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