MANGA REVIEW | "Choujin X" - Volume Three
Sometimes it takes great sacrifice to be given great power. But we’ve heard the Spider-Man motto enough to know that some folks may not wield great power with the right amount of intelligence. In the case of Azuma in Choujin X, his desire for power comes from the fact that his friends Tokio and Ely have the skills to save plenty from greater evil. All he needs is a chance to prove himself, which arrives in the third volume. However, what happens to Azuma isn’t what any reader would’ve expected.
Of the two current Choujin users, Ely has demonstrated the concentration and care to use her powers for the greater good. As for Tokio, he’s the kind of guy who needs an extra push just so he can get out of bed. While both have great skills, it’s Ely’s motivation that one-ups Tokio in the crime-fighting department, something that’s proven when a paper-based Choujin user enters the fray. There’s also a weird tentacle-faced guy, but we’ll get to him in just a bit.
Before the paper-based villain appears, Tokio and Ely try their hand at a cardboard user, who has taken to boxing up any person in his vicinity. Tokio’s handling of the perp is pretty humorous, as the vulture Choujin winds up really mucking up the plan right at the get-go. It’s Ely who winds up having to save Tokio’s hide, as his capture is pretty embarrassing. (Funny, but embarrassing nonetheless.)
The greater threat in this volume of Choujin X soon arrives, with scissors and paper powers in tow. It winds up being too much for Ely, as Tokio is taken as a hostage to a seedy motel. There he faces the Cthulhu-like foe, who winds up being not as bad as a perp as he seems. (I mean, he does offer Tokio pizza, which is a nice gesture, even if he might be on the wrong side of the law.)
This is where Azuma comes into the narrative more. He wants to help, but his lack of power makes him more of a nuisance than an aid. And while it’s brave of him to face off against the paper-using Choujin, it’s a gesture that winds up being incredibly stupid on his part. Kudos to creator Sui Ishida for not holding back the grotesque parts of the fight, as it gives way to why it’s sometimes not a good idea to try to play the hero.
It’s this moment when Azuma finally plays a bigger role in the story. As it felt like Choujin X was going to be about him in the beginning, it’s good to see Ishida giving that transformation moment to Tokio’s friend. But just when you think this manga’s going to make Azuma another hero, it makes a hard left turn into something far more disturbing. And from what Tokio sees in his friend, it’s clear that Azuma isn’t all about using his power responsibility.
One of the things that stands out about this volume is how expressive it is. Although Ishida has a knack for giving his characters many way to emote, it’s here when we witness the uncanniness of it all. Perhaps the most striking of these moments is when Tokio sees what becomes of Azuma. His eyes are sunken in, with a face of terror that feels akin to a Sam Kieth comic. Ishida knows how to make his creations look like their brains have snapped, and this moment demonstrates it perfectly!
It now feels like the key players of Choujin X have finally arrived. Volume Three delivers the usual action and humor we've come to read in the past. However, it's when it veers toward a much darker route when we start to see just what this narrative is aiming to offer. Although this reviewer couldn't get into Tokyo Ghoul no matter how hard he tried, Choujin X for some reason has transformed my curiosity into full-fledged attention. And if you read this particular volume, you'll know exactly why!
Promotional consideration provided by Chantelle Sturt of VIZ Media.