Sabtu, 25 Agustus 2007

Review: Time Guardian, vols. 1-2

Time Guardian, vols. 1 and 2
Written by Daimuro Kishi
Art by Tamao Ichinose
Rated E, for Everyone
CMX, $9.99

Time Guardian is easy to slip into and easy to read. The characters are likeable, the stories have just enough imagination to keep me turning the pages, and at two volumes, it doesn’t even demand much of a commitment. I just wish that the creators and the publisher had tried a little harder on a few things.

The setting is a pawnshop that lends time, which is something that people never seem to have enough of. Our heroine is standard-issue shoujo girl Miu Asahina, who, true to stereotype, is always late for everything. By chance, she stumbles into just the right combination of actions to open the secret gate to Time Alley, home of the Kusaka Time Shop. The shop is presided over by cute guy Tokiya Kusaka, who would look about 14 if it weren’t for his bow tie and monocle, and a smart-alecky frog. Kusaka lends time to his customers in a variety of ways, taking their memories as collateral.

In the usual way these things happen, it turns out that Miu is a Very Special Person: She’s Time’s Go-Between, and her job is to follow the customers around and make sure that all goes well with their borrowed time. So now we have our framing tale, and the various customers that come in provide a series of little stories about the uses of borrowed time. Each one has pretty standard characters but enough of a twist to keep it from being totally predictable. Still, this is not “The Monkey’s Paw,” where changing the rules has dire consequences, or “Pet Shop of Horrors,” in which a person’s desires reveals their fatal flaw. This is a light, shoujo manga where every story has a happy ending. It’s a fine read, but I can’t help thinking that the creators had a great idea that they could have pushed a lot farther.

Then, in the second half of the second volume, the story shifts into a fantasy tale. Kusaka closes up the store and heads off to his native land, where people get off on watching other people’s memories and use time as a means of wielding power over others. It’s entertaining enough, but the shift is a bit disconcerting, and there are a couple of violent deaths that don’t fit at all into the otherwise light tone of the story. It’s as if the manga-kas were told their story was cancelled and given two chapters to wrap the whole thing up.

The art is quite attractive, and the action is always easy to follow. The character designs are standard-issue shoujo style, but the detail in the watches and backgrounds puts this book a notch above most shoujo manga. Maybe I noticed it more because this is a book about time, but the creators seemed to play with the pacing a lot. Sometimes the action moves very quickly, and there’s a lot of slapstick inside the store. Other times, a large, wordless panel seems to make time stop for a moment. Often this signals a flashback or the beginning of distorted time in the story.

While Time Guardian is an easy summer read, I am a bit disappointed that the creators didn’t try a little bit harder to come up with clever stories. The premise certainly lends itself to mind-bending plot developments, but the stories stay in the realm of soap opera. There was also a problem with the print quality in these books—a number of panels in volume 1 were blurred, as if they had been double-printed. Aside from that, the production is pretty good, with attractive covers and extras in the front and back.

Time Guardian won’t blow your mind, but it is a nice, quick, easy read for these last dog days of summer. With its E rating and straightforward storytelling, it would be a particularly good choice for younger children (although some youngsters might be upset by elements in the ending story).

This review is based on complimentary copies supplied by the publisher.

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