MANGA REVIEW | "TISTA" - Volume One
It’s interesting reading manga from famous writers before they made their big hit. Sometimes it gives hints of their future greatness, like when looking through the early works of Osamu Tezuka and Go Nagai. However, sometimes a manga writer has many bumps on the road to smooth out before they hit their first home run. TISTA, the 2007 debut manga from Spy × Family creator Tatsuya Endo, is one such example.
Like the hit that’d be made years later, much of TISTA plays with keeping a major secret from the public eye. In this case, it’s a high schooler named Tista Lone, who moonlights as the deadly assassin Sister Militia. Her task is to kill those who seem evil in the eyes of God, ranging from crooked politicians to low-life drug dealers. However, a run-in with her classmate Arty during a job makes her start questioning her role as a killer-for-hire.
One of the strongest aspects of TISTA is how it questions morality. Despite having dozens of kills under her belt, Tista doesn’t question her actions because of her having “God on her side”. But once a guy like Arty, who aims to be a famous painter, enters her life and gives her a taste of normalcy, Tista starts having a mental breakdown. Her once-clean assassinations start getting sloppy, and her eyes begin to worsen. Yet those who should be watching over her are instead drugging her up and pushing her to keep on killing.
The situation would be an interesting one, if it weren’t for how one-dimensional almost every character is. I should be feeling something for Tista’s predicament, especially when she’s on the verge of having a massive brain malfunction. But alas, there’s not enough here that makes me want to both sympathize or empathize for her or any of these characters. Even Arty, who takes center stage for half of this narrative, is presented in a mediocre display. He’s supposed to be a great artist-to-be, but he’s got nothing spewing from his heart that says otherwise.
When an action scene hits, we see Endo’s future on display, with every angle and kill showcased with style and grace. There are headshots on display that look like a Gerald Scarfe painting, with the target’s last living moments captured with grotesque facial expressions and violent contortion. It’s in these moments where Endo’s artwork truly comes alive, as the carnage screams with animalistic pride. The same can be said for when Tista deals with her inner demons, with a miniature version of herself gnawing on the assassin like a tick on a pig.
Sadly, when there’s no kills on display, TISTA gets boring very fast. It tries to hide it behind some pretty Christian-styled artwork and foreboding angles, but it does nothing to raise the stakes of the narrative. Instead, all it does is make you wish something exciting would happen soon, so as to avoid having the book fall from your hands as you fall asleep. An exciting adventure with the Forgers, this is definitely not!
Visually, TISTA has some jaw-dropping moments. Story-wise, it’s uneven and lacking depth & character. It’s clear that Tatsuya Endo was still green in 2007 when it came to writing manga, and was a far-cry from the man who’d create Spy × Family a decade later. Although it’s got some great action, TISTA’s narrative has nary a heart or soul to be found.
Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media.