Thursday, January 15, 2015

Akira Toriyama's Jaco the Galactic Patrolman

Akira Toriyama has been providing me and thousands of others with entertaining material for decades. He is definitely amongst the elite in my opinion, which is why he's safely within my "Top five" favorite mangaka. After creating many amazing and beloved works - such as the Dragonball series, Dr. Slump, Sandland, and others - he's returned to offer up another charming title, which I feel will soon find as dedicated a fanbase as his other creations (even one apart from the Dragonball/Z fanbase, **SPOILER** to which this title should technically be tied).

Jaco the Galactic Patrolman (or 銀河パトロール ジャコ Ginga Patorōru Jako) is a single volume manga which consists of 247 pages of what I think is some of Toriyama-sama's best work. It details the Earth-bound adventures of an egotistical, clumsy, "Elite" Galactic Patrolman, named Jaco, a member of a galactic police agency which serves the Galactic King. After bumping into the moon on his way to Earth, Jaco makes a less-than-graceful landing in the ocean just a few feet from the docks of an unnamed island upon which only an old man resides. After bringing his damaged craft ashore the relationship between this quirky alien cop and old man Omori, the narrator of the tale and a scientist/engineer living amongst the ruins of his failed time travel experiment, begins to awkwardly grow. Through the events which follow their meeting a bizarre friendship is formed, one which I would gladly continue to read if Toriyama ever decides to revisit these characters.

In terms of characters, this manga has some interesting folks to offer. Omori is a quiet, aged, misanthropic man who keeps a simple home, overlooking the destruction caused by his attempts to meddle with time - meddling which cost him his wife's life. He remains in a sort of hermitage away from the rest of the world and even harbors a strong resentment toward other humans. Jaco, somewhat annoying yet fascinating to Omori, is a braggart who fails to grasp the gravity of his consistently clumsy nature. He is on Earth, though stuck here because of the damage caused by his moon collision, in advance of the arrival of a potential world-destroying alien being who is supposed to land on Earth sometime in the days following his arrival. He is to eliminate the alien threat or, if he proves unable to do so, he must use an "Extinction Bomb," which would wipe out all human life on Earth. It would also be of tremendous interest to him to be able to acquire some "Sky Gold" in order to power his ship so that he can return home, though he and Omori realize that this would require something like seventy-six million yen to pull off. So, not easily attainable, to say the least.

Eventually the two head toward the mainland for supplies (Jaco craves milk and cheese, the closest approximations to items from his regular diet) and encounter the first of several other characters, a girl named Tights (I'm sure some of you might note that this is yet another Toriyama character named after clothing, hmm...wonder what the connection could be?). Jaco meets her as he goes to her aid while she is being harassed by a gang of anachronistic street toughs, which Jaco pummels along with two policemen which he mistakes as being part of the gang. To show her gratitude she helps the two escape the attention of the police and get back to the island. Other characters show up as the story progresses, most of them are tie bear-collecting government agents trying to take the island from Omori or capture the "Mask Man," the name applied by the media to Jaco, much to his supreme dislike. Eventually we learn who Tights is and how she connects to an annoying (annoying to Omori) background element of a pop idol who is soon to be soaring into space aboard a rocket as a publicity stunt, according to the television media. That's not the only or most interesting connection Tights has within this world, though, but I'll let you read the manga to find out the rest.

Regarding the style and feel of this manga, as I've already state, I feel that this is one of Toriyama's best works. I found myself constantly studying his simple, beautiful line work. The dynamic posing and simple character design of Jaco is something I feel only an experienced artist, such as Toiryama, can attain. With any character created by someone who has been doing such work for years, Jaco is minimal in detail and yet so very expressive. He might be my favorite manga character in terms of design alone. Also, I was often lost in the detail of Omori's face, and speaking of Omori's design, the scars marking his body tell his back story better than any flashback sequence. You only need to read that he was present for a technical accident and see him to know that some rough stuff occurred in his past. 

The world has some wonderful design as well. Occasionally you'll see crabs, cats, some dinosaurs, or the random ant-eater on the island or in the city on the mainland. This is typical if you've read Dragonball, but it's such a nice touch which does so much to place you in this unfamiliar yet Earth-like world. In terms of landscape design, I think that Omori's island is one of my favorite sets from any graphic story. I badly want to live on that island, so much so that I've been dreaming about it since I started reading this manga!

Now, the ending chapters of this title are what will matter most to long-time fans of Toriyama, especially those who are dedicated to the Dragonball universe. That being said, this manga is a perfect stand-alone which offers a complete story and incredible characters, so don't be turned off by the end tie-in to Dragonball if you're not interested in that series. What you get at the end is a look at the Saiyan people and Goku's origin, which is advertised on the cover of the manga so this isn't really a spoiler. Turns out, and this is a spoiler, the world-destroying alien Jaco was sent to destroy is a sort of refugee from planet Vegeta. If I tell you that a certain Son Gohan discovers this child alien and adopts him I would have done enough to tell you just who was meant to be in Jaco's sights, but since Jaco is Jaco, and you'll understand this better when you've read the manga, he misses his opportunity. Would you believe me if I told you it's because he was explaining how his species pees to Tights? This is surprisingly the most immature moment of this manga, one obviously meant for the shonen audience.

So, there you have it. My review of one of the best new manga I've read in a while. I first learned of it through an email advert from Viz, and after looking over the preview chapter (available for reading through the Viz Media app on Android or iOS) I decided to rush out and buy a physical copy (because paper is always going to be better to me!). I'm happy with that choice, and if you do the same I'm certain you will be, too. Here's hoping we see more of Jaco in the future, but if we don't I'm happy with what we have. What we have, by the way, is a fun and endearing manga. 

Thank you for reading.

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