Manga Review – Baron

Baron Volume 1

Baron
バロン
ROKUDA Noboru
Shounen – Adventure, mystery, sci-fi
3 Volumes of 8 Volumes (complete)
Media Do (MediBang)

Summary:

Namiro, nicknamed Baron, is a big guy with amazing strength. But he doesn’t get why his parents won’t get a divorce or why the girl he likes, Yoko, isn’t in a rush to get married. Yoko has other things on her mind, like a strange recurring dream and the UFO-like object she spotted. She feels like she needs to visit her brother in Australia, but he’s gone missing after taking photos of the local monolith. Could this all be connected?

Review:

Can a high schooler take on governments and aliens? Well, Baron is turning into quite an adventure to find out that answer.

Namiro, better known as Baron, looks like he should be starring in an action manga. He’s certainly got the strength to, as he’s borderline superhuman. But he’s frustrated by his parents’ marriage. His father, a former researcher, has run off and only contacts the family to get more money to spend on booze and women, and his mother, a dentist, won’t get a divorce since she doesn’t know how to feel. So Baron is a little insistent that he and his sort-of-but-not-really girlfriend get married and start their own family. Yoko doesn’t fully reject or accept his proposal, but she knows she wants to experience life a little more, like gain her credentials as a translator.

But her life is about to go off-track. She has been having a recurring dream starring an alien or fetus-like creature on a swing, and unbeknownst to her, she’s just one of many children and young adults seeing that image. But Yoko starts feeling ill, and she senses she needs to visit her brother. Kota has been working in Australia as a photographer, which also includes taking pictures of the glowing monument, Uluru (Ayers Rock). Long story short, Baron and Yoko make the journey up the rock to try to figure out where Kota is. The ground swallows up Yoko in a flurry of rock eruptions, Kota is found as an old man, and Baron spots the rumored UFO. Now he has to save Yoko and figure out what happened.

The keyword for this manga is “strange”. Strange things are happening to strange characters by strange creatures. Yoko and Baron find themselves at the center of the government’s secrets, and Japanese politicians — including Yoko’s own uncle — will do anything to keep them from becoming public knowledge. But they also sense a perfect opportunity to gain some new information, no matter what collateral damage they leave in their wake.

Baron is a little hard to describe, as it’s part survival/escape story and part alien investigation. The manga has some uneasy implications and imagery, so it’s not a typical save-the-world story. But it has a lot in common with a big budget movie or a TV miniseries: conspiracies, government secrets, supernatural powers, invaders, and a damsel in distress. The manga starts off a little slow as we see Baron trying to essentially create a new family since he feels lost in his. It’s a little hard to get a read on Yoko, whether she actually likes likes Baron or is just going along with things because they’re friends and she has what she thinks is a psychic vision. But by the time Yoko resurfaces after being swallowed up by rocks, Baron has to become a vigilante to avoid being a scapegoat and to protect her. That’s a lot of pressure on a 17-year-old kid, as while he is strong enough to easily break the ground underneath him, he’s suddenly looking for UFOs and looking down the barrels of guns.

Fortunately, Baron’s friends from school (who never get a proper introduction) all decide to back them up. While I don’t think I could name their names without looking, I have to say these are some amazing bros. They believe in their friend so much that they’re willing to risk their lives and their reputations, leaving their families behind to deal with the media storm. Plus, it’s not like they can easily go underground considering Baron’s build and the fact that they’re dealing with aliens. The group ends up getting help from additional allies, but considering Baron and the gang are fighting Japan as well as mysterious otherworlders, they need all the assistance they can get.

Like a lot of these stories, Baron and the others jump from one crisis to another. Baron may not be that long in terms of volumes, but it’s likely going to be quite a journey. It’s already taken them to the boonies of Japan to Australia, and they could end up having to sneak to other places to avoid detection. They could end up in space for all I know. I have to admit I want to see Baron — who isn’t without his flaws — find the happy life he wanted.

The art should be relatively familiar if you’ve read other manga from the late 80s and early 90s, most notably the rounded faces. The art is still very accessible, as it is smooth and solid right from the beginning. Each volume opens up with a partially-colored chapter (mostly reds), so that gives the series some uniqueness. The second and third required me to flip the pages in the Western way despite the first volume being in left-to-right reading order. The aliens and UFOs are the stereotypical versions, so that’s uninspiring. Baron’s strength leaves a lot of destruction in his wake, but most of the violence comes from gunshot wounds. The manga has a couple of asides where it breaks the fourth wall, so that ruins the immersion a bit. That was pretty common at the time though. Baron does a good job of connecting previous chapters, but characters can ramble a bit at times. Still, not much to complain about.

Translation:

Honorifics are not used. There is some stilted dialogue, and I was confused at points as to Baron’s dad’s former job because of “professor”.

Final Comments:

For fans of sci-fi where the hero must save his beloved from both planetary and interplanetary forces, Baron is going to be an intriguing, somewhat dark and somewhat ridiculous ride. But while Baron himself is a bit of a simpleminded muscular lunkhead, I admire his tenacity, even if I don’t fully understand his beloved.

Rokuda’s Sky and F have also been licensed through Media Do.

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2 Comments

  1. dreager1

    I feel like I’ll be most invested in the alien part here. I love a good conspiracy story and the whole thing sounds really crazy. Finding out why she’s getting those visions and all would probably be the big hook for me although I’m sure the drama is good too. With Baron having super strength like that it makes me wonder if he may end up being an alien or something

    Reply
    1. Krystallina (Post author)

      Yeah, there’s definitely a lot of WTF-ery going on. Really a lot of ways the story could play out, and I’m really curious as to the truths behind everything. Baron being an alien is an interesting theory.

      Reply

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