Monday, February 20, 2012

Review #33: Masamune's Mega Manga Magic!


Writer: Masamune Shirow
Artist: Masamune Shirow
Published: Dark Horse, 1991

I haven't looked at any manga since my first, underwhelming foray into the genre, and the honourable J. Booth lent me this a while ago, so I figured I should finally check it out. And check it out I did.

Orion was created by the same fella that made the critically acclaimed Ghost in the Shell franchise, which I recall reading about in an issue of Wizard when I was wee, way [alliteration!] back in the 90s. He also made Appleseed, which J. Booth calls “one of the best science fiction comics OF ALL TIME” [caps added for emphasis]. 

The story takes place in the Great Yamato Empire, which is basically one planet of a larger Galactic Empire of 25 planets. The Yamato Empire seems to have mastered something called “psycho-science”, some kind of magic/science combination. In any case, some big-wigs get the bright idea to eliminate all the negative karma in the galaxy by using a device called a Naga Generator. Master Fuzen, the head of the Fuze clan, realizes that this is a terribly bad idea, as it could end up destroying the universe or something. He summons Susano Orbatosgod of destruction and based on the similarly-named Shinto godto help him stop the impending armageddon. Dr. Habime, military counselor to the imperial court, is sent to arrest Fuzen and keep him from disrupting the plan. Fuzen's young, attractive, partially-naked-most-of-the-time daughter gets mixed up in the fiasco and hilarity and devastation ensue!

tentacle porn rears its ugly head, yet again

Orion is, in short, awesome. It is also, however, hard to fully understand. The technical details of psycho-science [of which there are many] are beyond my grasp, I'm afraid: There are psyche-levels and harmonic cycles [a harmonic cycle appears to be a unit of time that is around thirty seconds?] and cubular weapons; something called chrono-torsion; “dharmaquations” and an “octotrigrams”; yinerons and yangerons [apparently some kind of molecules?] and so on and so forth. A lotta stuff. 

so simple!

Despite all the technical mumbo-jumbo [which Shirow tries valiantly to explain in an afterword], Orion has a pretty straightforward/average plot: save the universe! So what makes it special? For one, the artwork is amazing. His artistic skill can match his wild imagination. The characters themselves look pretty standard-manga [as far as I know] but the weird, medieval/futuristic city-scapes are impressively detailed, as are all the spaceships and armor and mechanics, down to the tiniest gadget. I also get a very strong sense of motion from the drawings. Screws unscrewing, comically-huge swords swinging, nine-headed naga dharmaquations spinning, etc. 

Susano kicks ass with or without taking names
The second thing that makes me love Orion is the epic scale of the battles. Not epic in numbers, but in the level of powers [psycho-science or other] being unleashed. I mean, Susano is a god, and a god of destruction at that. He truly lives up to his title by the end of the book. It reminded me of Steven Erikson's Malazan Book of the Fallen series, which I have been reading on and off for a few years now, where a character is introduced who can level a city, and you think that is pretty badass, until a few pages later when a character who can totally own that first guy shows up. It also reminds me of Dragonball Z in that same way, so I am led to wonder if this is a prominent feature in works of manga. 

So, highly recommended. This second manga experience has definitely warmed me to the genre. I look forward to reading more, specifically more of Shirow's work.


  1. Glad you liked it. The Psycho-science stuff is complete gobbledygook, but it's fun gobbledygook, and the art is just amazing.

  2. Totally agree! There are some very fun vibrations going on in this hexalayer!

  3. Even in this medium known mainly for its nutty devotees, Shirow's fans come off as a little extreme.

  4. Power one-upmanship is indeed quite prominent in the world of manga.
    It seems to stem from the nature of manga publishing- series are published one chapter at a time on a weekly basis in compiled volumes containing multiple series.
    There is pressure to stand out from the competition (that is a dozen+ other manga in the same book) each and every week, and the stakes keep pace.
    It's a trend that pretty overwhelmed a generation of Japanese comics, but one that's very much on the wane.