animefringe december 2003 / reviews

Cannon God Exaxxion Stage 2
Format: left-right manga / 184 pgs.
Production: Dark Horse / Studio Proteus / Kenichi Sonoda
Comments: Easily one of the best science fiction mangas out there.
Animefringe Reviews:
Cannon God Exaxxion Stage 2

I had almost forgotten about this series. I read the first volume back in January, but since it's a newer release, Dark Horse is trying to balance its domestication so that we don't have a huge gap between unfinished issues.

Now that volume two has finally arrived (it actually came out this August), I got around to picking it up, and I can't believe something this great was out of my mind for half a year.

Cannon God Exaxxion, from fan-favorite creator Kenichi Sonoda (creator of Bubblegum Crisis and Gunsmith Cats) contains everything I look for in a good manga series. From artwork to storyline to translation quality, the only downfalls I personally detected were the book's flipped nature and translated sound effects. For some readers, these aren't really an issue, in which case I'd have to say Cannon God Exaxxion is darn near perfect from my point of view.

What makes this series so great? The artwork is probably the first thing a curious manga fan may notice, with outstanding character designs, unique mechs, and Sonoda's high level of skill. Fine lines are used to construct this near-future alternate reality, and the use of contrast and shading is excellent.

While I enjoyed it, some fans may be turned off by the blatant fan-service that consistently pops up. For some of us, this is a benign trait of an excellent manga, for others, the random nudity featuring buxom women is an unnecessary annoyance. Be warned --there are plenty of female androids in Cannon God Exaxxion that aren't afraid to display their assets. This isn't a series that is only good because of the nudity, however, but rather one that is good despite of it.

After getting past the surface traits, the greatest quality Exaxxion has to boast is its compelling plot. I love the story. It has traces of Evangelion, Macross, and any other alien invasion story you'd care to mention, but the characters and circumstances elevate Exaxxion beyond the level of a standard sci-fi manga.

The race of aliens calling themselves Riofaldians approached the people of Earth as friends, eagerly sharing their advanced technology with mankind. After enough time had passed to completely infiltrate every level of life on Earth, they revealed their dark plan of colonizing the blue planet. Unfortunately for the indigenous inhabitants, they carry the same attitude of colonization that every Earthling in history has displayed. Their concern is not for the millions of humans they'll need to exterminate to make room for their own people, or for the culture that existed before their arrival, but merely for their own beliefs.

The neat thing is, Hoichi Kano, thanks to ancient technology of the Riofaldians themselves and his brilliant (if lecherous) grandfather, ends up being more of a concern than they expected. As the pilot of the almost invincible anti-matter driven XXX unit, called the Exaxxion ("All the best giant robots have a name ending in 'on.' Ideon, Evangelion, Garon, Voltron, Mekron, Rahxephon..."), there may yet be hope for the human race.

Sonoda isn't afraid to pull punches with the storyline. Women, children, and the elderly - these are all among the first to be murdered under the Riofaldian's eugenic logic. Hoichi must swiftly come to grips with the terrible events unfolding around him, and take control of his own destiny. Just getting a hero that doesn't whine as much as other giant robot pilots is a wonder on its own.

Dark Horse has always produced manga releases of impeccable quality, and this book certainly helps to maintain that standard. As I mentioned, the book has been flipped and the sound effects translated, but it's a very nice book otherwise. It's larger than average and priced pretty well --only $14.95.

I can't help but strongly recommend that any fan of giant robots, science fiction, or fan-service nab this series as soon as possible. It has plenty of drama, action, and comedy. It was a blast to read, and now that I've become reacquainted with Exaxxion, it's almost painful having to wait for the next volume. If the current pattern holds, it should be due out around June or so. Let's hope it's sooner!