Kia Asamiya loves American superheroes; he even worked as an artist on Uncanny X-Men and Batman: Child of Dreams. If you’re up to your eyeballs in regular manga, Asamiya’s borrowing of American comic themes may seem like a breath of fresh air, but actually, like the grim and gritty superhero comics of the 90s, it’s not so much deep as it is dark.
Hiro (“hero?”), a socially withdrawn, idol-singer-obsessed teenage hikikomori, receives a mysterious tokusatsu-style superhero suit in the mail and uses it to go on nightly rampages, leaping on rooftops and beating up bullies (and, in one excellent chapter, tracking down and threatening people who said bad things about him on the Internet). While journalists and police speculate about the vigilante’s identity, Hiro battles another possessor of a “Junk” suit.
But fighting is only an afterthought; the real purpose of the series is to show how Hiro uses his power, and it isn’t pretty. As a main character he is so unsympathetic, such a cold-hearted jerk to everyone around him, that the reader longs for the series to end with him getting his ass kicked rather than the more likely outcome of redemption. The reason why this creep received a “Junk” suit remains shrouded in mystery (which is good because there’s probably no satisfying explanation), and instead of criminal masterminds or supervillains, Hiro and his friends find themselves fighting disappointingly mundane molesters, stalkers, and rapists. (Starting in Volume 2, there’s enough seinen-manga sex and perversion that if the hero said “my junk,” you wouldn’t be sure what he’s talking about.)Meanwhile, characters debate pretentious superhero-philosophy in the midst of combat (“So, which did you choose to become? A god? A devil?”).
On the upside, Asamiya’s processed art is a good fit for the cold, inorganic story. Where other manga artists focus on faces and expressions, Asamiya (perhaps realizing he can’t draw faces) allows his camera to drift over cityscapes and backgrounds, occasionally revealing subtle clues. Unlike many manga artists, Asamiya has a true style of his own, and some of his plot twists are surprising and unexpected; the question is whether this grim combination of children’s superheroes and adult themes will build up to a payoff, or whether he’s just reinventing the wheel.
Story and Art: Kia Asamiya