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MANGA REVIEW: Akira Toriyama’s “Jaco”

MANGA REVIEW: Akira Toriyama's "Jaco"

The creator of the long-running hits “Dr. Slump,” “Dragon
Ball” and “Dragon Ball Z” (all of which were animated), Akira Toriyama ranks
among the most successful manga artists in history of the art form. To mark the
45th anniversary of the popular boys’ magazine Weekly Shonen Jump in July 2014, Toriyama wrote and drew  “Jaco,The Galactic Patrolman” his first new work since the one-shot
“Okintoki” in 2010. Viz Media has just released a 248-page trade paperback compilation of Jaco


Omori is a bitter old scientist who lives on a tiny,
abandoned island. Years ago, an assistant working with him on a government-funded
project to create a time machine made a mistake handling gas under high
pressure that resulted in the deaths of many people, including Omori’s wife. He
stays by her grave, trying to repair the machine and prevent the accident.


His grim, peaceful existence is shattered when Jaco crashes his
space ship into the nearby ocean. He announces he’s an alien patrol agent on
the track of a projectile heading to Earth from a planet of brutal aliens.
Omori dismisses this story, but Toriyama draws something falling from space in
the background. Jaco asks Omori to help repair his ship, and warns him that any
experiments with time travel are strictly forbidden throughout the galaxy.


In the best Toriyama tradition, Jaco blunders into trouble
when he and Omori visit a nearby city to get milk and cheese (the only Earth
products the alien eats). Fortunately, they’re aided by Tights, a bright,
resourceful girl who’s slated to ride in a rocket in the place of pop idol An
Azuki, who’s supposed to be going into space as part of a huge music promotion.
Tights quickly takes over Omori’s and Jaco’s lives–and the plot. At the
story’s climax, Jaco rescues her as the rocket fails. Her industrialist father
and genius sister visit Omori’s island to thank Jaco.


Fans of Toriyama’s other work will feel right at home with
his newest characters. Omori looks a bit like Master Roshi from “Dragon Ball,”
although he’s not a lecher or a martial arts master, and Tights recalls Bulma
and other brilliant girls in Toriyama’s work. Jaco’s simplified face can’t
communicate many expressions, so the author relies on body language and
dialogue. He’s undoubtedly a good guy, and makes sure everyone knows that by
repeatedly declaring he’s “a chosen super-elite member of those who protect the
peace of the galaxy.” Jaco is  simultaneously brilliant and thick-witted, but
he lacks Goku’s gee whiz charm.


“Jaco” is an enjoyable, lightweight tale, but it feels like business
as usual for Toriyama—until the last chapter, when he suddenly pulls a surprise
out of his back pocket that gives the story a new and exciting meaning. It’s
the manga equivalent of a coup de théâtre
that only a master storyteller could pull off.


No plans to animate “Jaco” have been announced, but the
manga could be made into a very entertaining film. The enormous success of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of the Gods (2013)
has revived interest in animating Toriyama’s work. The new feature Dragon Ball Z: Fukkatsu no F (“Dragon Ball Z: F Is For Fukkatsu, or “Resurrection”), which
brings back the arch-villain Freeza (or Frieza), is slated for
release in Japan on April 18th. 

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