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INFO FILE
Title:
Shidima, Vol 1, Chapter 1: Outlaws Return
Format:
Monthly comic
Production:
Image Comics
Dreamwave Productions
Comments:
A samurai by any other name would kick as much butt.
Overall Rating: B

Animefringe Reviews:
Shidima, Vol 1, Chapter 1: Outlaws Return
By Jake Forbes


When Pat Lee and Dreamwave Studios introduced Warlands last year, it created quite a stir in the otaku community. As Pat and his associates are quick to admit, their style is very heavily influenced by the "anime look," or more specifically, by the work of Nobuteru Yuuki (Lodoss Wars), Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira), and Capcom games. Their formula of muscular anime characters in naturalistic environments caught on like wildfire, and now the Dreamwave look is helping to change the face of American comics. This month Warlands splits off in a new direction with the side story Shidima, and despite some initial similarities, it's a very separate entity.

First of all, the inspiration for Shidima is entirely different. Essentially, it's a samurai story, although the term samurai is never used. Aside from a couple of periphery uses of magic, the story thus far could easily have been a Kurosawa film. A corrupt emperor has been oppressing his people for years. Now, a wandering warrior named Aldaran, who once helped the rebellion, has found evidence of a new insurgence (Alaran, Rebellion, evil Empire. wasn't that in a movie?). Will this one fail like the last one? Aldaran's determined to find out. So far the story is a little clichéd, but if Warlands is any indication, writer Adrian Tsang will take the story in some very interesting and unexpected directions.

Visually, Shidima is also differentiates itself from its parent series. The colors are much earthier and the characters much more realistic. Clothing and weapons are an interesting mix of feudal Japan and western fantasy art. The village where the first episode is set looks like a well-researched, historical setting. Very appropriate for the samurai story.

Like in Warlands, Dreamwave productions uses a simulated out-of-focus technique for fast moving objects and to show perspective. Usually this is very effective and adds a bizarre realism to the very stylized characters, but occasionally it can be a confusing blur. When they get the effect right, especially to show lighting effects, the technique can be quite beautiful.

While some critics have called the Dreamwave look a soulless imitation of anime, I believe they have created something new and unique. Like the Spawn animation, the PS2 game Oni, and the Matrix movies, Warlands and its ilk are a uniquely Western interpretation of Japanese themes, which were in turn interpretations of western styles. As the anime look spreads throughout comics, new artists interpret things differently and soon the style will become so removed from its original roots that American readers won't see any Asian influence at all.

Despite a rather cliché introduction, I heartily recommend Shidima. Just as Warlands brought back epic fantasy to mainstream audiences, Shidima will introduce a new generation to the Samurai tradition. With this, and the upcoming vampire themed Warlands: Banished Nights, Pat Lee and his team show that there is a lot of life left in the Warlands saga.

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