【Artbook】Robot Super Color Comic Vol.1

First time doing an artbook(?) review(??), please go easy on me. Also this post is really long. 1213 words of terribility.

Robot Vol.1 Cover. Click to enlarge.(Illust: Range Murata)

Robot Super Color Comic is a colour manga anthology series with 10 volumes in total and consists of illustrators and manga artists selected by Range Murata, who illustrates all the covers for the series. The first 3 volumes have been translated and published in English by Digital Manga Publishing, and volumes 4 and 5 have been published by Udon Entertainment.

Although it’s billed as a colour comic book, it’s more accurate to describe it as an artbook due to the focus on art and also for how it’s “packaged”: it’s printed in an oversized book format with thick, heavy paper and a jacket around the actual book. Despite being printed in China (Not that I have anything against China), this localized release is high quality, especially in terms of printing and material, and most likely does justice to the original Japanese release. This first volume weighs in at more than 700 grams, with 164 pages in total.

A list of comics in the book by their corresponding artist is listed below, by their English translated titles and in order of appearance:

1. Groundpass Drive – MURATA Range (4 themed illustrations)
2. Picnic – NARUCO Hanaharu (8 page manga)
3. Pez & Hot Strawberry – ASADA Hiroyuki (11 page manga)
4. Angels at the Planetarium – TAJIMA Sho-U (12 page B&W manga + 1 illustration)
5. Carogna – ITOU Mami (4 page manga)
6. Wasteland – YOSHITOSHI ABe (8 page manga)
7. There Goes Suzume Robo!! – Sabe (4 page manga)
8. Hemohemo – Yug (6 page manga)
9. Oputon – OKAMA (4 page manga)
10. Dragon Fly – MAESHIMA Shigeki (12 page manga)
11. Dream of the Empty Cage – Miggy (4 themed illustartions)
12. Biting Summer Play – MIURA Yasuto (8 page manga)
13. Sedouka – NAGASAWA Shin (8 page manga)
14. Ebony & Ivory – YASUDA Suzuhito (8 page manga)
15. Primary Color Book – HAKUA Ugetsu (4 illustrations)
16. Eventyr – HACCAN (11 page story w/ inset illustrations)
17. Dragon’s Heaven – KOBAYASHI Makoto (4 page manga)
18. Angels – KINUTANI Yu (8 page manga)
19. Clash!-Revenge of Hunk Kung Fu vs Ugly Kung Fu-Find a Groom! – NEKOI Mie (8 page manga)
20. Moonlight – SANBE Kei (8 page manga)

Opinion: Awesome anthology. More than half of the stories in this are to my liking, and for the ones I really liked, I really, really liked. Since all the artists featured in the book were given free reign to do whatever they wanted, the result was that everything was creative and experimental, which is something I love.

My favourite story was definitely HACCAN’s “Eventyr”, though. Thank you to HACCAN for exceeding all of my expectations. Not only are the illustrations beautiful and colourful, the story is one of the most (truly!) innocent ones I’ve read in a long time. The gist is that in a fantasy world, the only two surviving witches left in the world decide to go out into the human world for the first time, and to their joy, they’re accepted and praised by the humans, who used to fear and hate witches. However, something happens and the humans hate them again. The witches are portrayed as a pair of bright-eyed, curious youths (a boy and a girl), and one could really feel the innocent and sincere tone of the whole story, further emphasized by the artwork because they’re smiling in 98% of them! Best thing ever!

Different shots of the cover. The sticker is easy to peel off. Click to enlarge.

To be honest, I was only really wanting to see what HACCAN came up with, but I was also really impressed by Naruco Hanaharu’s “Picnic”, Asada Hiroyuki’s “Pez & Hot Strawberry”, Itou Mami’s “Carogna”, Maeshima Shigeki’s “Dragon Fly”, and Yasuda Suzuhito’s “Ebony & Ivory”. “Picnic” in particular I found especially incredible, with a great short story and superb artwork, and I didn’t like “Pez & Hot Strawberry”‘s artwork at first, but the story is heartwarming and sincere. Even though “Carogna” is grotesque and disturbing, the (very short) story is so impressionable that I can’t help liking (and remembering) it, and the protagonist in “Dragon Fly” is so slick and cool I couldn’t help comparing her to the female characters in No More Heroes, which is a very good thing in my book. “Ebony & Ivory” surprised me with its creativity and bold artwork too, despite not really being a fan of Yasuda, and is easily one of the best manga in the book. OKAMA’s “Oputon” is worth a mention too, because it is perverted and slightly cute at the same time. There goes my impression of beds. If you were waiting for me to mention the godly Yoshitoshi ABe, I can only say that I wasn’t really able to make an opinion on his contribution, because it was far too short to say much, and that opinion will probably form when I see the contination of the comic in Vol.2. Cool and nice Yoshitoshi art as usual, but since it’s a comic, it’s far from being as polished as his standalone illustrations.

Page samples from the book. Illustrator names are listed above each picture. Click to enlarge. (Warning: 21MB PNG)

The translations are alright: Everything makes sense and they even wrote some accented dialogue to make it seem more uh, cultural, but the bolded words seem jarring and odd at times. It’s like, “Why this word?” Also, The typesetting leaves a bit to be desired, and the most terrible example would be in Miggy’s “Biting Summer Play”. Dark-coloured font with a white shadow doesn’t exactly have high visibility, and especially not when it’s placed over stuff like dark-coloured hair or cluttered desks with lots of objects on them. I also wanted to punch a typesetter or two when I saw the font used in HACCAN’s lovely story (which happened to be my favourite), where they used a fantasy-style font intended for headings and accents, and not for whole paragraphs. Thanks guys, you just made it that much harder to reread something I want to reread over and over again. What is wrong with using normal serifs for paragraphs, anyways?! But however angry I sounded about the type, it’s definitely not a decision breaker.

Binding + paper thickness details and size comparison. Click to enlarge.

On another note, I cannot be more pleased by how well they treated this book. The thick paper, the crisp and fine printing, the matte jacket, the large format, and best of all, the weight of the book. It just screams HQ. How can anyone go back to pixels after holding this kind of thing in their hands?! And especially after seeing such poor excuses for artbooks by overseas publishers (Read: Tokyopop) in a few bookstores, it’s a big surprise that DMP was able to stick so close to the original. GJ! I should also add that this volume has NO annoying publisher ads (usu. in the back of the book and stuff) whatsoever.

In conclusion, get this book if you don’t mind seeing lots of variety (with some being of questionable quality), like stuff in English that stays true to their JPN counterparts, love heavy paper, and/or want to find new artists to love. HACCAN fans should also not miss out, because his awesome works are pretty rare, but to get an entire anthology book for a single artist is never a very good choice. Please don’t get this book only because you like Range Murata, since he has a total of 4 illustrations in this book, which is way too insubstantial to be a reason for purchase.