animefringe march 2003 / reviews

MegaTokyo Vol.1
Format: graphic novel / 144 pgs.
Production: I.C. Entertainment / Fred Gallagher / Rodney Caston
Comments: Finally, a hard copy of one of the best web comics out there.
Animefringe Reviews:
MegaTokyo Vol.1

MegaTokyo is so good, I'm not sure where to begin. I'm a huge fan of manga and anime, but what really got me into Japanese culture in the first place were video games. Thanks to the gaming industry, I majored in Computer Science (hoping to land a job there some day), I took years of Japanese in high school and college, and I inevitably was introduced to anime. Thus, I have a frighteningly close bond to aspects of both Piro and Largo, which is in some ways incredibly cool, and in others deeply disturbing. I try to focus on the cool parts.

MegaTokyo follows the adventures of Piro, an introspective otaku, and Largo, a sometimes delusional hardcore gamer with a penchant for slipping into l33t speak. After creating a ruckus at one of the E3 conventions, the two end up in Japan with no way of getting back. The great thing about this release is that it allows readers to trace the evolution of MegaTokyo from a simple web comic to an increasingly complex plot-driven story that still maintains the charm of its origins.

First of all, a warning is in order. MegaTokyo may not be for everyone. Many of the jokes will only apply to people who are up to speed on the anime and gaming industry (that's console and PC gaming, ladies and gentlemen), and thus there are plenty of times it may not make any sense if you're not in the know. However, for those of us who understand the references, this is a top-notch humorous treatment of Japanese culture and anime/gaming fandom. Nothing is sacred, and there are jokes that cover everything from Excel Saga to Metal Gear Solid. Fred Gallagher and Rodney Caston aren't afraid to prod their own lifestyles as well, and there are plenty of scenes that parody the life of the typical obsessed anime/gaming fan. While Piro and Largo aren't quite Fred and Rodney, they do represent in some way a hybrid of every fan out there, and there's most likely going to be many instances where the characters in the book say, do, or think something their readers have said, done, or thought before. For me, this is easily some of the funniest stuff I've ever read.

Though the core of the series is its excellent writing and humor, it would be a folly to ignore Fred's beautiful artwork. An attractive hybrid between Japanese and American comics, it was Fred's illustrations that caught my eye in the first place. The amount of detail that went into MegaTokyo is astonishing - especially considering the fact that this series was produced without pay during the creators' spare time. For some, spare time is just a legend spoken of but never experienced, and Fred and Rodney have donated more than their fair share of time to this project.

I can't express enough gratitude to I.C. Entertainment (formerly Studio Ironcat) for stepping up to publish this work. I never really thought I'd see the day when I could walk into my local bookstore and pick up a copy of MegaTokyo, and it's all thanks to the publisher that we have this excellent work in physical form. The book is about the size of TOKYOPOP's "100% Authentic" lineup of manga, with an attractive cover illustration and a dust jacket that gives the book a manga feel. Due to the formatting of MegaTokyo at its start, there is some extra space at the bottom of the first group of comics, but rather than leave the room blank, Fred has filled it with commentary on every page. There are also extensive "extras" for the release, including introductions by Fred, Rodney, and Dominic "Dom" Nguyen. This is an excellent release, and at $9.95 it feels completely worth the price.

Any person who enjoys any aspect of anime or gaming culture should find something to appreciate in MegaTokyo. Its humor is only surpassed by the strength of its characters, which will most likely keep me visiting the website as long as I have access to the Internet. With this series, you can come for the hilarious comedy and stay for the engrossing storyline. If you've been a fan of the website (www.MegaTokyo.com) for a while, then do us all a favor and support this release of the book so we can see more books like this. If you're new to MegaTokyo, then try out the website for a while and see how you like it. The beautiful thing about MegaTokyo is that you can buy it if you wish, but it will always be offered free of charge at the website. Personally, I'm probably going to buy more than one copy -- one for me, and one for all of my friends.