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Marionette Generation Vol. 2: Pulling Strings
Graphic Novel
132 Pages
Haruhiko Mikimoto
VIZ Communications
The well-drawn manga finally starts to go somewhere...
Overall Rating:

Animefringe Reviews:
Marionette Generation Vol. 2: Pulling Strings
By Patrick King

This is what happens when we let a character designer write and draw his own manga. Not quite at the level of popularity outside of Asia as Rumiko Takahashi, CLAMP, or Yu Watase, Haruhiko Mikimoto is the original character designer for Superdimensional Fortress Macross - what eventually became Robotech Part I. The pretty picture on the cover of volume one of Marionette Generation was what caught my eye and convinced me to buy it, but the story in the first volume was not nearly as interesting as the artwork. Ever the optimist, I snagged the second volume the day it came out and was pleased to discover that there was more to this series than I previously suspected.

This manga focuses on Izumi Morino, a twenty-something illustrator who lives with a perky junior high student (his "de facto" assistant) named Kinoko and a sentient amnesiac doll, whom Izumi names Lunch. While the first volume was primarily about the relationships between Izumi, Kinoko, and Lunch, volume two finally begins to answer some of the questions concerning Lunch's origin. For those of you who may have missed the first installment of the story, Marionette Generation begins when Izumi wakes up to find Lunch, the doll with no memory, in his bed. The remainder of the first book features Kinoko and Lunch both vying for Izumi's attention. Another sentient doll makes a brief cameo in volume one, but her appearance merely suggested more depth to the story than the first volume actually delivered.

Fantasy works best when bound by a coherent set of internal rules, and volume two finally introduces some of the rules of this reality-based fantastic tale. For me, "Pulling Strings" makes Lunch's existence much easier to accept and removes much of the "what the heck?" sentiment I was feeling throughout the manga's first volume. The story advances in more than one way, for in this volume, Izumi has finally attained wider public recognition as an artist. There are a bunch of great scenes where Izumi has to deal with his budding popularity with the fans, and his character is developed slowly but believably throughout the tale.

In fact, one of the strongest elements of this work so far is the characters and the manner in which they develop. The story progression is more sluggish than other manga, but each character has an interesting and unique personality, and each character's personality changes in a believable way as time goes on.

Another strength for this particular series is Mikimoto's beautiful artwork. He has an undeniable knack for illustrating characters that clearly convey their emotions. Lunch's confusion over her place in reality, Kinoko's energetic spirit, and Izumi's quiet resolve as an artist are all captured admirably by Mikimoto's talent. His artwork was what brought me to Marionette Generation in the first place, and it's what kept me going even when the story failed to.

Thus, while this isn't the most action-packed adventure tale one could find, it possesses an inner strength that has become more apparent with each new volume. If volume three continues this trend, then I'll most likely love it. As individual works, this manga does not hold up too well, but as a cohesive story, it should turn out to be very impressive. For now, we'll just have to wait and see. Something tells me that Haruhiko Mikimoto's Asian fame is not without reason, so I'll remain optimistic for the time being.

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