Bokurano Ours vol. 1 (VIZ Media)

The first volume in this popular manga series is "sort of Lord of the Flies meets A Separate Peace with a lot of robot battles mixed in."



200 pgs., B&W; $12.99
(W  & A:Mohiro Kitoh)
Bokurano Ours is a strange science fiction manga which combines your basic giant mecha battles with some surprisingly grim and insightful commentary on life as a young teenager. This is only the first volume so I don’t want to be too harsh about it, but I found the clash of genres a bit uncomfortable and many of the elements to be too first choice. On the other hand, Bokurano Ours is a popular manga series in Japan (originally published in Ikki magazine and then as tankoubon) and has also appeared as an anime on television, and many good series don’t look that promising in their initial volumes, so maybe it will grow on me.
The series starts out promisingly enough. Fifteen kids (all 7th graders but one, who is the younger sister of one of the other kids) are at a seaside summer program which is supposed to teach them about nature. Of course, they think they’re terribly sophisticated and above it all (as one of the kids puts it: “We thought we knew all there was to life…We considered ourselves all grown up. We thought we could do anything.”) but very quickly encounter forces which will demonstrate otherwise. So far, so good: if you’ve spend any time around middle-schoolers the attitudes rings true.
The kids venture into a cave which turns out to be full of computer equipment, presided over by a cool older guy named Kokopelli (if that’s not first choice, what is?) who invites them to “play a little game”. Bad idea, I know—especially when Kokopelli insists they sign a contract before they know what they are agreeing to—and before they know it, they’re piloting a giant robot against alien invaders. Oh, and the fate of the earth now rests on their skinny shoulders.
You get to know the characters gradually: one at a time they come to the forefront and narrate their own back stories, which are not the happiest you have ever heard. Takashi Waku is the first to take center stage, and you learn that he was once a soccer star but gave it up when he realized he didn’t know why he was playing (pretty deep for a 13-year-old, huh?). His dad was also a talented soccer player in childhood, but is now a faceless salaryman who seems to take no interest in his son or his talents—or at least that’s Waku’s interpretation of things. So Waku has an edge to him and a hunger for attention which causes him to volunteer to be the first to pilot the robot: he successfully channels his repressed anger into a victory on the robot front only to have it undermined, fatally, by an inexplicable action by one of the other kids. It’s sort of Lord of the Flies meets A Separate Peace with a lot of robot battles mixed in, which I find disconcerting but others may find intriguing.
Kitoh’s art is in the realistic manga mold, and he does a particularly good job of differentiating all the characters and mixing up angles and frame sizes in the scenes in which they interact. The battle scenes are less successful: they’re oddly static and more conventional, as if the artist spent most of his effort on the humans and threw in the robots and alien invaders as an afterthought. But don’t take my word for it: you can read the series online. Bokurano Ours is rated T+ for older teens due to violence and the nihilistic tone of the series. | Sarah Boslaugh

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