animefringe february 2003 / reviews

Cannon God Exaxxion Vol.1
Format: Left-Right manga / 208 pages
Production: Dark Horse Comics / Sonoda Kenichi
Comments: Manga's answer to those old black and white science fiction invasion movies.
Animefringe Reviews:
Cannon God Exaxxion Vol.1

I haven't really gotten into Gunsmith Cats yet, but I most certainly have experienced one of Sonoda's other projects. The original Bubblegum Crisis series was a few of the first DVDs I purchased back in the day, and I'll always I have a soft spot for his excellent character designs. While plenty of design similarities can be found here, this is a much newer work than BGC (this was produced in 1998), and it seems that time has only honed Sonoda's already considerable artistic skill. Quite some time ago, Animefringe featured this as an upcoming series, but here it is, finally. All I can say is, I hope the wait between volumes is brief...

I can't help but think of Evangelion when I read this, though there is a huge difference between the two series. Yes, this is about a boy called upon to defend the Earth from attacks from space. Yes, he pilots a gigantic robot to ward off these attacks. Really, though, the similarities end there. Years after an alien race called the Riofaldians makes first contact with our planet, things appear to be going swimmingly. All of mankind's technology has some sort of Riofaldian enhancements increasing efficiency and lowering costs. Members of the alien race have seamlessly integrated themselves into human society at every level, from diplomatic positions to blue-collar jobs. Things couldn't be better...until the aliens reveal their true nature and take control of the Earth in a single day, claiming it as their newest colony. The Riofaldians cripple every piece of technology on the planet instantly thanks to secret features implanted on their hybrid devices, and they threaten lethal force against any form of resistance. Hope for mankind's freedom is extinguished before most people even realize they've been conquered.

At least, it would've been, if it weren't for the eccentric Hosuke Kano and his grandson, Hoichi Kano. Ever since the Riofaldians landed, Hosuke had nothing but distrust for the race. Over the years they spent infiltrating human societies, Hosuke used his scientific brilliance (and some clever reverse-engineering) to arm the planet with weapons for a counter-attack against the invasion Hosuke knew was in the future.

Years had passed since Hoichi saw his grandfather, and he was having a typical day at school when an outrageously top-heavy female transfer student comes looking for him. As it turns out, Isaka Minagata - the transfer student - is far more than she appears to be. In the greatest justification ever for an artist giving a girl a huge chest in a comic book, we learn that Minagata is actually an artificial life form that utilizes nanotechnology to take on any shape. She is actually far more massive than she appears, and her chest is actually - get this - a mass reservoir. Good job, Kenichi! After all, I was wondering how such a small person could take on the form of a flying vehicle, and I suppose giving her insanely plump mammary glands is a believable sacrifice to make. Right. Not that I'm complaining...

Of course, a well-endowed super computer/hot chick isn't Hoichi's only weapon against the Riofaldians. He's also given a "Gunner Suit" that conceals his identity and enhances his physical abilities and, most importantly, the building-sized robot called Exaxxion. Now, if this were Evangelion (one of my favorite shows of all time despite the hard time I'm giving it here), we'd be dealing with Hoichi's feelings of inadequacy as people died left and right, and he'd be scared stiff by his unbelievably attractive new...companion. Rather than be a reluctant pilot, however, Hoichi accepts his fate as Earth's protector with relative ease, assuming the mantle of Earth's protector and getting to work swiftly. It's refreshing to see a character happily accept drastic changes, embracing them with eagerness bordering on egotism. Sure, it's not as realistic as other works, but I want to see something that isn't real, not something as boring as regular daily life.

The artwork is just as exciting as the plot, featuring very solid mechanical designs, interesting character designs (especially the Riofaldians...they're creepy!), and a sleek clean look throughout. Some characters are more realistic in appearance than others, depending on whether they are serving a dramatic or a comedic purpose. Everything looks like black and white still shots from a recently released anime series. That is, shading has multiple layers of depth, boundaries are clearly defined, and there is some impressive detail work in some of the background shots. Overall, it's very impressive.

If you're keen on Bubblegum Crisis or you just want to read a series starring an android with a large...mass reservoir...then this is a great title to pick up. Dark Horse has done a great job localizing this one, as usual, and my only complaint is the fact that it's been mirrored so that it doesn't scare away silly Western readers. Now that so many books are being released in the right-left format, it's odd to see manga printed to read from left to right. Essentially, however, that's my only complaint. I'd love to see more of this series, and I'm fairly certain that if you read Cannon God Exaxxion, you'll agree with me.