GRAPHIC NOVEL
Megatokyo
Volume 4

Author: Fred Gallagher
Artist: Fred Gallagher
Titan Books
RRP: 5.99, US $9.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 8457 6476 0
ISBN-10: 1 84576 476 5
Available 27 April 2007


Piro and Largo are trapped in Japan. Having found jobs, of a sort, the anime/manga obsessed Piro and the hard-core gamer Largo find their lives being inextricably linked with two young women...

Megatokyo is an original online manga by American artist Fred Gallagher. The online strip has been going for some considerable years having started life in 2000. Originally created by Gallagher and Rodney Caston, Gallagher took full control of Megatokyo in 2002.

The manga is hand drawn in pencil, and lampoons many aspects of anime, manga and computer gaming. Although draw by an American - and I mean no slight here - Megatokyo is a convincing Manga adhering to the forms and format of manga, with one acceptation - that it can be read front to back, which should make it a little easier for the uninitiated.

We have the strange spiky hair, that helps to differentiate the characters; appropriate levels of blushing and facial contortions are also thrown in, as are lots of little vignettes poking fun at manga traditions or just thrown in for a quick gag.

As with any long running series, being introduced to the characters at Volume Four is going to be a confusing matter. Of course, if you are interested, you can pop along to www.megatokyo.com and view all the strips from the beginning. Which brings up a bit of a dilemma for the artist and publisher, in that, this volume, like all the others, is free to view online. Ok, you could make the argument that by doing so you will be supporting the artist in his endeavours and there's nothing wrong with that, or you may be like me and have never really found reading off a screen all that easy, especially on the bus.

The strip originally started as a gag a day set-up, but by this point in the story Gallagher has moved the plot on to the interrelationships between the characters, though without loosing any of the underlying anarchic humour. The layout of the strip uses numerous differing numbers of panels, which stops the overall look of the book from becoming boring. If categorisation was required then I guess you would have to say that by this point in the strip's history it was quickly transforming itself into the equivalent of a shojo manga.

If Volume Four had represented an original, never before published book, then it would have been rated very highly. However, the question has to be asked about value for money. There is some original content, but not really enough to please anyone other than an already committed fan. Whilst the bulk of the book is free to view; their strip numbers are helpfully reproduced at the back of the book.

So, really it comes down to whether you are happy to read it online or whether you'd rather have the book in your hands.

Charles Packer

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