Staff: Hamish Downie and Kaho Takamura
So I’m looking at Mirai today. This is a straight up manga style comic by Hamish Downie and Kaho Takamura. It’s not my usual fare for this site (though I’ve read my fair share of manga) but I’ll give anything a shot once.
The art is professional grade for manga-style artwork. It’s black and white but that doesn’t detract from this too much. The character designs are fun. There is an odd use of materials or textures that sometimes seems really out of place (see the plane’s nose cone on page 3 for an example- and yes I get it’s supposed to be made of an odd material).
One thing I’ll notes is that the compression on this comic is terrible. There is a lot of artifacting on the pages. I’ll also note that it appears that some of the art assets, particularly the dialogue balloons seem copy/pasted as they are (pixel to pixel) identical. This was also clearly written in Japanese first then translated to english for a second printing. That’s fine but it brings up some odd text placement/flow in the dialogue balloons at time as they are clearly trying to fit English words into balloons sized for the Japanese text. This means there are times when the text needs to be made significantly larger or smaller than it should be (or would have been for an English release) at times. This, in addition to the artifacting, makes it really hard to read (see bottom left of page 5). I had to keep zooming in and out to read it.
Writing / Story:
The plot is a little weird and, I’ve read weird plots before, but I’ll admit I had to go back and re-read a few pages to understand what’s going on. I still am only like 75% sure I got it all and I’ve reviewed like 70+ indie comics. I think a lot of it is due to the transitions and pacing. The transitions are very jumpy and not a lot of explanations are given (see end of page 9 to start of page 10) or establishing information given. The pacing is very odd- we get a lot of time devoted to some scenes and altogether skip over others (like the trip back to Japan).
The same can be said of characterization. We are told a lot of things, rather than shown (see page 12 for a rather blunt example). At one point a character fights like hell to return to Japan from a trip to Australia but then we have a tiny panel where she is scolded for trying to go to Australia.
There are lots of plot elements thrown at us that don’t really get fleshed out. We have a relatively realistic world but then we are introduced to planes “made of rice crackers, fueled by sun-flower oil, and love”, a subplot about a grandmother, a not-well-explored line about a mouse who the protagonist saved, a plot about an Empress that literally only fills half a page, something about winning a Karuta tournament, a robotic cat, and then shrinking. Like the first half was able for a reader to follow but then we just get into some rather dramatic lack of cohesion. It’s like the writer started out with a plot then realized they were running out of pages and just kind of starting throwing random things out to get all of it into issue #1 for some reason. If it was all one thing (“plants as technology”, “an exploration on the implications of life-like robots”, “environmentalism taken to an illogical extreme”, “magic garments”, etc) it has the potential to be a decent premise… but it seems like everything was just kind of tossed in the blender and nothing is explored. At all. Like, that list I did earlier? You literally have about as much information as the reader does about them. They are just kind of shown, as things.
The whole thing is just kind of a mish-mash that probably made sense to the author and might be better explored in subsequent issues but this was just a painful read. What they need to figure out a bit more solidly is pacing and tone. It might have behoved the author to start with the introduction to the Japanese cast (see page 10) and then, though flashbacks (even if it wasn’t in the first issue) explore the protagonist’s background.
So, a lot of people will probably be willing to give this a higher rating than I will because the art is very pretty, the characters adorable, and it’s an English manga. I grade art and writing separately. If you imagine this comic with poor art- it’d be a trainwreck of a plot. I really dislike giving poor scores, particularly to passion projects, but this one is one to skip.