Manga Review – Splatoon

Splatoon Volume 1

Splatoon
スプラトゥーン
HINODEYA Sankichi
Kodomo – Action, comedy, fantasy, sports
7 Volumes (ongoing)
VIZ Media

Summary:

For the squid-like Inklings in Inkopolis, there’s nothing like a game of Turf War! In Turf War, two teams of four compete to splash the area with their team’s color — the most color wins! The mediocre Team Blue is ready to compete in the latest tournament, but can they win when they’re up against elite players? Well, no matter what happens, one thing’s for sure: they’re going to have a blast!

Review:

Splatoon is targeted towards kids, but it brings up a great philosophical question…

Is pantsing someone in a match playing dirty or great strategy?

Splatoon, unsurprisingly, is based on the video games from Nintendo. Many of you probably have some familiarity with it either from actually playing the games, promos, or merchandise. Basically, it’s laser tag combined with paintball. Each player is armed with a main weapon (usually a fairly typical painting tool like a brush or sprayer), a subweapon (more crazy or cartoonish weapons like bombs), and perhaps a special ability. Whichever team colors the most area of the stage (neighborhood) wins. Get hit by a weapon or the opponent’s paint, though, and it’s back to start for you!

But Turf War isn’t played by people with advanced tech; it’s the favorite game of the cephalopod-ish Inklings. In fact, Inklings can switch between being squids and humanoids. In humanoid form, Inklings can use their weapons and special abilities, but as a squid, they can quickly travel on their paint and jump high.

One of the teams entering the latest tournament is Team Blue. Team Blue is made up of Specs, Goggles, Headphones, and Bobble Hat. Those are their actual names. Most Inklings (and the other species that show up) are named after an article of clothing. Judging from a side story, I guess then it’s only natural that they would want to wear their namesake. Or just chalk it up to how cartoon parents are either bad at coming up with names or really good at predicting their kid’s interest at birth.

Splatoon Sample 1

Anyway, Team Blue is best described as simply two sane and two idiots (two boke and two tsukkomi). Goggles and Bobble Hats are the definition of happy-go-lucky, and Specs and Headphones are either calling them out or apologizing for them. Well, mostly for Goggles. He tends to be food obsessed, can’t read the tense atmosphere, and is often forgetful. But his trademark insane behaviors are him flashing someone or causing someone else to drop trou.

Yes, there is a lot of rude humor in the manga. It’s still rated All Ages, but Goggles tends to lose his clothes after he reverts back to a humanoid and pull others’ pants down. The manga censors itself with a little squid. I mean, the losing clothes while being a squid is funny, but the fact that Goggles happily and randomly pulls down other player’s pants is less so. I think just about every chapter either someone gets pants or Goggles loses his entire wardrobe. I think if you hang around Goggles, you should invest in the best belt possible.

So it’s no surprise with a member like Goggles, the team’s nickname is Team Ridiculous. Their individual ranks are average to above average, but they hardly seem like competitive team when there are elite players — like the ones known as the S4 — waiting to take the trophy. But they certainly make an impression on the audience and their first opponent with their play style. In fact, they put the “play” in “play style”. They want to win, but the number one most important thing to them is to have fun. They’ve been friends for years, and they all support each other. Goggles charges ahead with his traditional blaster and keeps his team’s morale up. Despite Goggles being the main character, Specs is the leader and uses an oversized paintbrush. Headphones snipes opponents from a distance while Bobble Hat splashes paint everywhere with her bucket. Together, they may be able to score some upsets and remind the other teams about why Turf War is so popular in the first place.

The manga is so far divided into three main arcs. The first two are tournaments, with some training and interludes. The current arc involves a rescue mission and exploration. I can’t imagine Splatoon moving completely away from tournaments, but maybe instead it’s going to shift to various challenges versus a series of battle for the crown. Don’t expect a lot of high-tension, sophisticated battles. Most battles wrap up within a couple of chapters and in a similar fashion. Plus, Splatoon is very much comedic. There’s a reason Team Blue is referred to as Team Ridiculous.

As for their opponents, most of the leaders have their own eccentricities. One Inkling likes to be cool. Another adheres to a book of facts. You get the idea. Expect a good number of recurring gags in addition to the loss of clothes. No matter the outcome, Team Blue’s enthusiasm and teamwork gains them a lot of new friends and make their opponents’ own ridiculousness shine even more outside of battle.

Each volume is estimated to be 165 pages long, which doesn’t too bad. In the physical versions, the books do look rather thin. But no matter which version you buy, physical or digital, the actual manga is shorter than that. Each volume has a side story (or stories) along with some profile information on characters (name, gear, and a couple of sentences). These are nice, but that means the main story is only about 130 pages long. The books are probably decent length for readers on the younger side, especially since they may not have a lot of experience reading the Japanese way. But for veteran readers who have more options, this is going to be light on content. Not saying they definitely won’t be laughing at the slapstick humor, but they will probably are looking for something with a little more variety in the gags.

Splatoon Sample 2

The game’s cartoony style transitions well into print. A lot of the official game art has the Inklings with very serious and/or determined expression, but the manga is lighter. No one can stay serious with Goggles around. The Inklings use gear from the game, so expect a lot of modern fashion, including Japanese trend. There are a lot of “gah!” faces as Goggles acts outrageously, but Goggles and Bobble Hat are almost always smiling like the idiots they are. Of course, Goggles does his own “gah!” faces if he’s about to lose his favorite jar of pickled plums or realizes he’s lost his clothes again. We do see some other residents besides Inklings, but I do like how all the young ones style their hair-tentacles. Teams have their own color (obviously) when they play Turf War, and it’s these sections where you wish the manga was in color (or was an anime). Squids cover up the boys’ private areas, but there are still some shots of their rears. Maps are shown at the end to show how the paint was distributed, but it’s one of those situations were you wish the series was in color (or was an anime). All the weapons the characters use are likely to excite fans of games like paintball and laser tag, and the special abilities just rain paint down in a way that reminds me of doing cannonballs in a pool. But otherwise, this is a more kiddish version of the original artstyle, and it works well. Just don’t know about all those times where characters end up without their pants…

Translation:

No honorifics are used. Most of the translation is in line with the game localization. So like ニットキャップちゃん (Knit Cap-chan) is called “Bobble Hat”, which is the name of the gear type in English. Also, the naming format in English is “Team Blue” versus “Blue Team” in Japan. Jokes like the “CoroCoro Cup” are not explained, so if you don’t know that CoroCoro is the name of the magazine, you might miss this reference. Not a huge deal, of course. The manzai duo is explained as the usual straight man/woman vs funny man/woman.

Final Comments:

For children who love Splatoon, this manga will likely be a hit. Just make sure they and/or parents are okay with Goggles’ losing his clothing and pantsing others, and like a lot of cartoon gags, these should not be imitated. For older readers, this might be something to borrow, but with a lot of similar battles, it’s not a must-own for Splatoon fans.

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6 Comments

  1. alsmangablog

    Sounds wacky and like it would be a good read for kids. I haven’t played the games, but sounds like it’s a fun adaptation.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      It certainly is wacky! I’d love to be an Inkling and play, but I’d have to make sure to be wearing a one-piece to avoid losing my clothing! 😂

      Reply
  2. dreager1

    This one definitely looks pretty fun. I’m surprised it’s still going with 7+ volumes. I suppose I shouldn’t be since Splatoon got so big but I rarely see video game manga doing well for any title. I’ll definitely read this one soon, sounds like it’s best in short batches so it doesn’t feel repetitive, but I’m liking the art

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      It definitely captures the spirit of the game with all the Inklings and their designs and teams. Like you said, better in short batches than constantly seeing pants come down.

      Reply
  3. Denny Sinnoh

    My son likes to play online with his friends, but I had no idea there would be a manga.

    As long as it can get kids reading something, then it is a good thing.

    They should always include some type of lesson about paint chemistry, color mixins etc. so that useful skills could be taught. Good for a future job at Sherman-Williams.

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      I think a manga like this kind of gets lost under the big My Hero Academia push, which is technically for an older audience. But it’s not like a lot of really young readers would want to read a book “backwards”, so I can see how this would be easily missed.

      I thought they’d have a corner where they talk about the game or give tips. But colors and paint info would have been neat. I know when I played Detective Pikachu, I blanked out on my color mixing!

      Reply

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