animefringe august 2003 / reviews

Saber Marionette J Vol.1
Format: right-left manga
Production: TOKYOPOP / Satoru Akahori / Yumisuke Kotoyoshi
Comments: Humorous and sexy, the long awaited Saber Marionette manga finally arrives!
Animefringe Reviews:
Saber Marionette J Vol.1

I usually have a tendency to do things backwards, but this time, it wasn't my fault. I'd have gladly read the Saber Marionette J manga series before watching the anime version of Saber Marionette J to X if I had the chance, but as it turns out, the manga has just arrived, whereas the anime's been available for more than a year now.

I'm not complaining, though. No matter what order you experience them in, this is a charming series in any of its considerable number of incarnations.

The story here is set in the future. While searching for a new planet to call home, a terrible tragedy strikes the colonization ship Mesopotamia, killing all but six passengers - all men. Luckily, they made it to a habitable landing area, but without any women, the fate of humanity on Terra 2 is threatened from the start.

Using their considerable scientific knowledge, the men decide to use clones to populate the planet. However, there is one problem with their cloning technology - they are unable to create women. Thus, they make the next best thing - Marionettes. These androids were fashioned in the image of women and put to work serving the needs of mankind for generations. Physically, these beings were virtually indistinguishable from real women, but no artificial intelligence programming was sophisticated enough to allow them to take on the true emotional mannerisms of the fairer sex.

Since they were handy for manual labor and not too great on the interpersonal side of things, practically everyone on Terra 2 treated Marionettes as if they were merely objects. As time went by, eventually, humanity learned to live without women, relying upon cloning for reproduction and other men or Marionettes for physical satisfaction.

That is, until Otaru Mamiya came along.

All his life, Otaru felt that Marionettes deserved more respect than they were given. Perhaps it was due to his obsession with the 300-year-old painting of a woman in his nation's museum, or simply because of his inherently kind nature, but Otaru liked Marionettes. Sadly, he never had enough money to own one himself.

When this story begins, his situation changes completely around. Suddenly, Otaru becomes the master of three Marionettes, the spunky Lime, the motherly Cherry, and the buxom Bloodberry, as he is pulled into the first stages of a war that could potentially change the face of Terra 2 forever. The Marionettes he is given are no ordinary machines, either, equipped with a mysterious device called the "Maiden Circuit." This circuit bestows upon the Marionettes the ability to experience human emotions, effectively granting them each a soul. As each one attempts to grab more of his attention than the others, Otaru becomes the first man in hundreds of years to be forced to deal with women again. How he handles it is a joy to behold.

Like Kikaider (featured this month) or a number of other shows, this series deals largely with the question of whether or not a machine can be human. However, there are actually quite a few other social commentaries buried beneath the surface of the wild humor, engaging action, and oversized mammary glands that proliferate Saber Marionette J. Seeing a world devoid of women actually raises some heavy gender-based questions, and the treatment of Marionettes as inferior to women is uncomfortable reminiscent of the way real women were treated not too long ago in our own past. There is indeed a message here, for those who are interested in hearing it. Everyone else can still enjoy the ride, of course.

As can be expected from the creator of Sorcerer Hunters, there is a generous amount of fan service and sex-related humor. However, while it can be a bit gratuitous at times, the innocent nature of the Marionettes and Otaru's obvious inexperience turns every little bit of nudity into something charming and cute rather than vulgar and offensive. The Marionettes are each filled to the brim with personality, and the way they complement one another while each trying to outdo the other for Otaru's love is one of the things that make this series so enjoyable.

The artwork, by Yumisuke Kotoyoshi, is drawn with an emphasis on action. The character designs are unique and eye pleasing, but the constant barrage of bouncing watermelon-sized breasts may turn off some readers. You have to remember that the Marionettes were built and designed by men. It's a wonder they didn't just make giant stand-alone robotic breasts, when you think about it. Really, everything is drawn with a skew towards exaggeration, and the oversized breasts go along with the big eyes and wild hair of other characters.

As fans of the anime version will notice, the series has undergone some changes in the character designs over the years. Personally, I'm quite fond of each of the variations. This manga edition features artwork that is more rounded than the angular guys and marionettes seen in J to X.

Overall, this is an exciting series with lovable characters, and the ups and downs they experience should keep readers interested through the span of the entire manga line. If you haven't seen the anime version yet, you should at least give the manga a try to see if you'd like Saber Marionette. It has so many different entertaining aspects, it's hard to dislike.