Game X Rush Volume 1

3.0 out of 5 stars Pretty pictures in search of a story

In the “Author’s Notes” for “Game X Rush,” Kusanagi Mizuho (NG Life) says that while she loves drawing manga, she really hates having to come up with a story. Sadly, I have to agree with her. The artwork here is fantastic, but the plot and storytelling is an absolute mess.

This is the sort of comic that starts off with a premise rather than a story. You have two guys, Shin Yuuki and Fujieda Memori, who are Japan’s greatest assassin (Yuuki) and greatest bodyguard (Memori). The assassin Yuuki is stalking Memori, playing a game of cat-and-mouse in order to test their respective skills against each other. At least that’s how things start out.

What seems like a recipe for a tense action-oriented manga soon just falls apart into an unfocused collection of scenes. Although the author tells of their respective skills as bodyguard and assassin, the two spend more time hanging out at school together or just palling around than in any sort of tense game. A thirteen-year old girl, who is the head of “G-ING,” Japan’s top bodyguard agency (why there is such a need for bodyguards in Japan is never really explained, although every client seems to be a young, vulnerable girl who also happens to be wealthy) attempts to recruit Yuuki and Memori to work for her company, and brings them in to train her men. Lots of little bits and pieces but no true story.

Kusanagi was clearly struggling to turn her premise into a story, even though she had little interest in the premise itself. What interests her is the tension between Yuuki and Memori, at times almost bordering on yaoi but never going there. What is Yuuki’s obsession with Memori? That is where “Game X Rush” is interesting, but the assassin/bodyguard dynamic or villain/hero seems almost to have been forgotten half-way through the story. There is one scene near the end, where Yuuki is finally infused with a bit of danger, but for the most of the book “Japan’s deadliest assassin” is about as scary as a kitten.

With art as great as Kusanagi Mizuho puts out, it makes me wish she had a writer to accompany her, as with an American comic book. She knows her way around a pen, but thinking up storylines and plot is where she fails.

“Game X Rush” is only a two-volume series, continued in volume 2. It was originally serialized in the popular shojo manga, “Hana to Yume. “

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