Time Killers: Kazue Kato Short Story Collection
TIME KILLERS 加藤和恵短編集 (Time Killers Kato Kazue Tanpenshu)
Shounen – Drama, historical, supernatural
1 Volume (complete)
A man with a rabbit-like mask. Unusual bodyguards. Invaders from outer space. An mysterious exorcist. No matter the time or place, life is a strange adventure.
Combined with the cover (which continues onto the back), Time Killers sounds like a cool, mysterious volume. Instead, it’s about several rabbits, aliens, exorcists, and more. There is even a bizarre 1-page story about a young lady imagining that changing clothes was as simple as changing a paper doll’s — and the obvious issue with that.
First, though, I want to talk about this volume’s presentation. The physical version is seriously an amazing release. Although it’s more expensive than most Shonen Jump or Shonen Jump Advanced titles, is an incredible step up. It’s a little larger, the cover smooth and not a fingerprint magnet, a mini-poster, several full color pages, and beautiful print quality. Time Killers looks thin, but it’s actually over 230 pages. Take a look at Time Killers compared to the slightly shorter Haikyu!! Volume 5 with 216 pages.
You can see how much thinner it is and how much brighter the pages are. It’s almost as big of a difference between a magazine version of a manga and the tankouban version. If you’re worried about the paper quality, Time Killers‘ pages are smoother and don’t feel like they’re susceptible to rips. This is just a really nice volume, especially for a one-shot collection. I wish some actual series had this nice of a release.
The blurb on the back makes it clear that Timer Killers is a compilation of Kato’s early works before Blue Exorcist and that some of her ideas and designs would be reused and/or refined in her long-running series. I believe the stories are arranged chronologically, so you can see her art become more refined over the years. It’s not nearly as rough as some newbie artists, but the drawings are weaker and sloppier in “The Rabbit and Me” than “The Miyama-Uguisu Mansion Incident”.
Let’s start with the last one. Lots of long-running series start off with a pilot or test chapter, gauging readers’ responses “The Miyama-Uguisu Mansion Incident” reads like a proto-Blue Exorcist, but Kato reveals she based this off a rejected section of Blue Exorcist. It’s not really clear whether Blue Exorcist had launched yet, but it does seem like it had started. Either way, whether it was released before or during Blue Exorcist, you can consider this to be Blue Exorcist: Another. The main characters are expys of Rin and Shiemi, and there are some crossover attributes that could make this set in the world of Blue Exorcist.
If you haven’t read Blue Exorcist though, don’t worry. Despite the similarities, the plot has some significant differences from Blue Exorcist‘s opening and overall storyline. An heiress to a flower arranging company meets an exorcist who seems familiar. For me, it’s a little too tame compared to the opening of Blue Exorcist, but that could be the way the manga decides to narrate the “mystery” — which isn’t a mystery anyway, but it’s still a boring way to present the information.
The story preceding this, “Astronerd”, also has a connection to Blue Exorcist: the protagonist is a glasses-wearing smart guy named Yoshio. It’s a little bizarre, but it is an enjoyable one-shot. Meanwhile, the opening “The Rabbit and Me” stars a teenage murderer-for-hire, a decision even Kato questions in her end-of-volume notes.
However, the key to Time Killers comes in the form of the full title: it’s a short story collection, not necessarily a manga one-shot collection. Some feel like illustrated versions of school literature collections, and others could be part of a children’s graphic novel series. One, for instance, is about (or inspired by) Native Americans while another features a superhero family. Kato mentions she had just been drawing whatever she liked and wanted to, and it wasn’t until later that she realized she needed to consider what readers want to read.
It’s a tough balance for authors to balance their ideas with readers’ wants, but I doubt a title like “Tomatoes” excites most readers. Yes, focusing on tomatoes is different than the usual flower gardens. However, I bet you wouldn’t expect “Tomatoes” to focus on relationships between humans and anthropomorphized rabbits.
Oh, and ninjas and a middle-age heroine.
Yeah, a little too much of whatever struck Kato’s fancy.
Still, though, it’s to be expected that some of these stories are a miss. However, some of the fairy tale-ish stories are a welcome change from the usual shorts starring plucky young lads or lassies hoping to get readers’ votes into returning for a full series. It’s a variety volume, and I honestly had no idea what would come up next. There are 11 titled stories, and four are presented as traditional Shonen Jump one-shot manga. The others are quick reads at only a few pages in length each.
I already talked a bit about the art, so I won’t dive in to it too much. But the full color chapters, like the one about the Native Americans, are amazing. Kato needs to do more realistic works like this. Plus, it proves that if Kato needs a break from manga, she could do books. If it weren’t for the fact that the volume is written in Japanese reading order, a lot of these could fit in a Western graphic novel collection. A couple of chapters feature violence, most notably the opening story about the assassin. (I know, no surprise there.)
Still, though, despite some of the awkward faces, “The Rabbit and Me” is much more tolerable than some other artists’ debut works. I don’t like the story, but I wasn’t wincing from the visuals at least.
Color pages are also inserted at various points throughout the volume, and, again, Time Killers feels like a deluxe release more suited to a major AAA series instead of a popular author’s first works.
No honorifics are used. I don’t think the manga explained that usa comes from usagi, rabbit. Otherwise, not much to say.
Time Killers: Kazue Kato Short Story Collection is a bit of a grab bag. It’s an interesting collection with a fantastic release, but the whole thing about serving as inspirations to Blue Exorcist is a bit overblown in my opinion. It can and should be enjoyed as its own volume, and I wouldn’t mind seeing a Time Killers 2. Maybe now with a lot more experience, she can unleash her full creativity without randomly deciding her idea-of-the-day is a faceless mermaid-dolphin.
Blue Exorcist is also available from VIZ Media.