animefringe november 2003 / reviews

Baby Birth Vol.1
Format: right-left manga
Production: TOKYOPOP / Sukehiro Tomita / Haruhiko Mikimoto
Comments: This baby crawls too long before taking its first step.
Animefringe Reviews:
Baby Birth Vol.1

Attractive Japanese teenagers destined to battle demonic invaders? I think we've heard this song before. In this particular case, the teens in question are a girl named Hizuru and a guy named Takuya. The two are descendants of a great hero from long ago, and Takuya uses music to change Hizuru into a demon-thumping heroine complete with splashy transformation sequence.

A brief description of the premise indicates very little originality, and unfortunately after reading most of volume one I still hadn't seen much. Plot-wise, Baby Birth seems to be a fairly generic book. There is very little to recommend the story -- just about everything you read here can be found in countless other anime and manga series.

Baby Birth isn't 100% dullsville, though. By the end of book one, I had seen a little promise. There are a couple of unusual wrinkles to Hizuru's transformation, and the cocky Takuya turned out to be a fairly engaging hero. But the few bits and pieces that did grab my attention came far too late in the piece. This series is not a good example of how to draw readers in from the start. Or indeed the middle...or even the three-quarter mark really.

A lack of freshness isn't the only potential problem either. Competing to undo the progress made by Takuya's charisma, we have Hizuru's best friend Ichigo. Ichigo chooses not to speak, instead communicating by typing text into her cell phone. While I'm sure this may strike some readers as cute, I found it pretty annoying. It might have worked better in some other series, but I though it was a trait that simply didn't fit well in the Baby Birth context. Everything else is played relatively seriously, so this kind of bizarre quirk stood out a little too much for my liking. Ichigo isn't the only fountain of cute either. To those who can't stomach her, Takuya's companion Rhythm will be similarly irritating.

So the writing pretty much scores a miss. Does the art have better aim? All signs point to "yes". Haruhiko Mikimoto is regarded almost as a divine being by many anime and manga fans. His career stretches a fair way back, and one hardly need go further than "chara designs for Macross" to understand his popularity. He also has a few manga outings under his belt, including Macross 7: Trash and Marionette Generation. His art style, generally speaking, is very distinctive and instantly recognizable. I say "generally speaking", because unfortunately I personally saw very little to indicate his presence in the pages of Baby Birth.

Don't get me wrong -- the art in Baby Birth is beautiful. It's gorgeous stuff. But like the book's plot, the art seems unusually average for work from such a stylistically obvious artist. Some readers may prefer this style over the more "traditionally" Mikimoto-esque designs showcased in earlier works. However, hardcore fans of the artist may be disappointed.

This book didn't do much for me, but I suspect volume two may pack a little more punch. I didn't dislike Baby Birth, but what little it shows of its potential wasn't quite enough to make book one work for me. There's plenty of stuff out there that's worse than Baby Birth, but you wouldn't have to look too hard to find something better.