Manga Reviews

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Project ARMS

Projects ARMS
By Ryoji Minagawa and Kyoichi Nanatsuki
Licensed by Viz

Topic: Shounen, Action-Adventure, Paranormal

Warning: Death, Gore

Ryo Takatsuki is your average unassuming high-school student who lives what he believes to be a normal everyday life. He goes to school and hangs out with friends (especially a girl named Katsumi). But that all gets turned upside-down when Hayato Shingu transfers into the same class. After Hayato inexplicitly attacks Ryo, and Ryo counter-attacks, Hayato's left arm suddenly turns into a weapon. Meanwhile Ryo's right arm won't stop tingling.

Even weirder things begin to happen to Ryo, as various paramilitary units and even a few cyborgs begin to attack him. He's able to fend off their initial advances because of survival training his father taught him (which for some reason works surprisingly well against superior numbers of opponents). Ryo slowly learns that both he and Hayato are special children, who had a certain body-part replaced by a high-tech weapon known as ARMs. He also learns that there are two other children like them out there. But why were these ARMs created and placed into them? Why are other people constantly attacking them and trying to capture them? And will his abilities (both his training and his new-found weapons) be sufficient to protect those he loves the most? The four children will have to group together and set aside their differences if they want any chance to defeat their opponents and discover the truth.

The art for Project ARMs is above-average. The character art is excellent, with highly emotional and expressive facial features but the background art (although complete), fails to really evoke and feelings or add anything to the scene. The characters are surprisingly varied in terms of motivations and background stories. For example, Ryo is kind-hearted but wants to fight to protect himself and his loved ones. Hayato, on the other hand, is driven entirely by revenge for his family (which he saw murdered while hiding in a storage jar). Even the major enemies have time to develop personalities, which is a nice change from the typical "beat up one opponent, introduce and beat up the next opponent, repeat" motif that seems to pervade a lot of action mangas.

Surprisingly, the plot is both the strength and weakness of Project ARMs. The story moves along at a brisk pace, revealing secrets about the characters' pasts as it goes along. By itself, it makes for a very interesting story, full of conspiracies, biological engineering and a group more powerful than many governments, a shadow organization capable of influencing international policies. Yet there is no foreshadowing, nor any real plot-twists in Project ARMs. This keeps the reader at a distance from the events, rather than drawing the reader into the manga. You get to watch events from afar, rather then being drawn into their world and predicting what will happen next.

Project ARMs had much more potential than it realized. Afterall, who doesn't enjoy reading about kids fighting a shadowy group of super-soldiers and the government in an attempt to find out the truth behind their very existance. But the almost sterile presentation of the manga, without anyone thinking more than one-step ahead, makes for a far less engrossing read.

Rating: 6.5/10.0


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