animefringe february 2003 / reviews

Red Prowling Devil Vol.1
Format: Left-Right manga, 187 pages
Production: ComicsOne / Shimizu Toshimitsu
Comments: A dramatic manga that should please fans of Top Gun from the creator of Maico 2010.
Animefringe Reviews:
Red Prowling Devil Vol.1

After accidentally killing dozens of people on a passenger plane while piloting a fighter jet, Naomi becomes bound to a secret organization as an assassin in order to make amends for her error. Her brother, Chilian, is her only family member, and he has a terrible disease that keeps him under surveillance in a hospital all the time. For each job the mercenary group takes, Naomi gets a portion of the money to apply towards Chilian's hospital bills and to help eventually buy her freedom back. Naomi may be a victim on the ground, but in the cockpit of her custom-made Mig-29, she is an unbeatable flying ace with a reputation that spans the globe - and the nickname "Red Prowling Devil."

This manga was written and drawn by the same artist that wrote Maico 2010, and I've always had a soft spot for that title since it was one of the first Japanese comics my bookstore carried not too long ago. Shimizu's artwork is distinctive with somewhat of a pencil-sketch flair to each panel alongside some nicely dynamic shading. This particular series flaunts his love of flying machines, and the detail and authenticity of each fighter jet is admirable. There's more than enough technical data in this volume to keep airplane buffs interested as the story progresses. And if that doesn't do it for you, there's also a healthy amount of fanservice for the more sex-crazed readers out there. I wouldn't call it over the top, but this title is recommended for mature readers for a good reason.

While I can always appreciate good artwork, it's the story here that leaves a little to be desired. The characters are interesting enough, and the situation is certainly a nice twist on the bound assassin theme, but it seems that everything is a little too episodic. Just when I was getting into a particular scenario, the chapter was over and Naomi was doing something else on some other part of the planet. Perhaps more clearly defined chapter stops would help my brain accept the fact that the current story is finished and then I could happily move on to the next piece...but as it is, the plot seems slightly compressed and a little jumbled at times. This doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy the manga; it simply means that I wanted to see more than what was there. If anything, it's a sign that I liked it, because I wasn't satisfied by what was given.

Another factor that lead to the deflation of the score you see to the side there is the fact that this is a flipped manga, reading from left to right instead of the more authentic right to left. Also, unlike most of ComicsOne's other titles, it doesn't come with a glossy dust jacket. The proximity to real (Japanese) manga was what attracted me to Maico 2010 in the first place, and to see this one arrive without that feature is a little bit of a letdown. However, the price is still nice at $9.95, even with increasingly stiff competition from companies such as TOKYOPOP.

This was an entertaining title to read, though it may not appeal to everybody. Yet, its low price and exciting (if a bit rough) storyline makes it a good value for anyone who wants to see Crying Freeman in the sky.