The Tokyo 5
Andrew Archer (story), NICE (art)
Seinen – Action, mature, mystery, sci-fi, supernatural, war
4 Issues / 1 Volume (ongoing)
Discontent with her life, Yama’s latent psychic ability causes her to kill her boss and a customer. Confused, Yama is drawn to an old school where four other girls claim she is their former classmate. But Yama’s confusion grows deeper as war breaks out with China and mysterious beings attack!
The Tokyo 5 is still very much in its opening stages, but the manga* shows a lot of promise.
The Tokyo 5 is available in single issues or collected format, but the latter includes a prologue. If you buy the singles, you can download the prologue for free on the website.
*Note that that The Tokyo 5 isn’t a manga in the strict technical sense that it was made in Japan. The artist is Filipino and the writer Australian. The creators consider this a manga, but some may classify this as a comic or manga-inspired graphic novel. The Tokyo 5 is read in right-to-left Western order.
Let’s move on to the actual story.
After a seemingly long and vivid nightmare, Yama reflects about how disconnecting she feels from the rest of the world. Getting scolded at work for standing up to a sexually harassing customer finally makes her snap, and her special powers cause their heads to explode. For reasons unknown to her, Yama heads a facility where she meet the twin-tailed Indra. Indra says she and “the others” have been wondering where Yama was, but a confused Yama can’t ask any more questions as Attack on Titan-like monsters start attacking.
(Even though titans weren’t the first to look like this, all monsters of this type are going to be compared to Attack on Titan. Fact.)
If that weren’t enough, the daughter of the large Tomo Corporation has the will and the way to stop anyone who interferes in the company’s plans. Plans that, as Yama learns, appear to involve her own psychic abilities, interdimensional travel, and even more dark secrets.
While The Tokyo 5 classifies itself as seinen, it is highly unusual for the titular characters to all be female. Well, maybe I should correct myself: it’s highly unusual to have a female-dominated cast in a seinen manga where boobs and a disturbing lack of clothing are not essential elements. Visually, the leads are pretty much divided into the two adults and the two younger (arguably loli) ones. While office lady Yama, lightsaber-wielding Arni, and the steampunk-inspired Simi all have considerable figures, they are at least covered up. Meanwhile, Indra appears to be cosplaying Mine from Akame ga KILL! and Furi walks around in a tiger-like onesie pajamas. Hardly the stripper-riffic casts you often see, particularly in male-oriented works.
Despite being called The Tokyo 5, the five don’t spend a lot of time interacting with each other here. Firstly, as you may have noticed, Furi is on the side of Tomo Corporation while the others want to see it destroyed. Some of the summaries make it seem as if this series is a dark take on the magical girl genre, with five girls fighting against beings from across time and space. Maybe it will in the future, but right now, it’s a lot of Yama trying to drive out the voice(s) in her head and the various schemes others are plotting against Tomo and vise versa. The fourth chapter lays out more of the background story (especially surrounding Yama, the amnesiac), but it’s a little murky with so many different levels of conflicts in the story: Yama’s background to her somewhat emo self, Furi’s father’s true goals, a war with China, and general crime outbreaks. There’s a lot going on, and because of it, there’s not a lot of room for characterization. Outside of Yama, it was even hard to remember the girls’ names. Considering how devoted Indra and the others are to taking down Tomo, I do hope we get to see more of how they were in the past and how the others have come to hate Tomo Corporation.
Furi is particular is shaping up to be the most interesting of the girls. If Yama is the protagonist, the kigurumi-wearing Furi is the deuteragonist. The Tokyo 5 may note Yama’s mouthiness, but it’s Furi who steals the show with a brilliant “customer service” speech that thanks customers for their interest… in stealing their products. And then she threatens them with a promise that the worldwide supply of cleaning products wouldn’t be enough to disinfect the place if she finds out the would-be thieves are lying to her. I hope Yama borrows some of Furi’s confidence since right now she’s mostly an angsty teenager (although it’s understandable).
Since this is still only halfway through the first part, there should be plenty of opportunity for character growth later. Meanwhile, my biggest complaint is the small font and speech bubbles. My eyesight isn’t great, but I can comfortably read a book without my glasses. The Tokyo 5 tries to include a lot of dialogue with minimal invasion on the art, and what happens is we get significant plot development packed into a single bubble. This is most notable in the third chapter, but almost everywhere I wish someone had hit the CTRL and + (or the equivalent on a Mac) when laying out the text. Artist NICE does a nice (heh, punny) job with the art. However, oftentimes I wish a little more of the background would have be obfuscated if it meant I could read without straining my eyes. Heck, sometimes there wasn’t much that would be covered up! I was reading The Tokyo 5 WITH my glasses on on my iPad, and even then I had to bring it up close to read. The font itself is on the tiny and thin side, which doesn’t help matters either.
The actual layout of the panels wasn’t an issue, as NICE provides plenty of room for all the gore and horror. What The Tokyo 5 lacks in the sexual mature themes it makes up in spades with violence. As I mentioned, Yama causes heads to explode in the opening pages — literally. I hope no young children are reading this, because I don’t want to them to see the above assassination. I’m sure the battles against the monsters will start to take precedence, but right now, the manga is full of dead humans. Fighting the supernatural can be pretty gruesome, but it’s not nearly as realistic as images like the one above. There are some non-gun action sequences, and fortunately, they’re easy to follow. The chapters themselves don’t segue smoothly to each other, but I’m not sure if this was unintentional or intentional because of the whole time-space and other dimension aspects. Hopefully subsequent chapters will make it more clear on what’s a memory and what is happening in real-time.
The Tokyo 5 has a lot of potential, and I am loving the fact that this is a female-lead mature action series that isn’t focusing on titillating the readers with panty shots and naked girls. But above all else, the text needs to be easier on the eyes.