MANGA REVIEW | "Rocopon" - Volume One
You have every right to stare at an alien. In a world filled with humans, it’s easy to be captivated by something that’s otherworldly. But what happens if an alien overstays their welcome due to a lack of societal contributions? And what if it’s because the alien can’t talk at all about how it contributes to society? Rocopon demonstrates this dilemma in ways both standard and unique.
The titular character is a cat-headed alien. He has no idea where he came from, but it seems like the world has welcomed him with open arms. Unfortunately, said arms are in danger of closing, as he’s given nothing to humanity in the eight years it’s been living on Earth. This causes a major headache, as the reason why Rocopon’s contributions haven’t hit commoner ears is because of what he’s tasked with.
Basically, Rocopon’s an assassin. He’s tasked by the Ministry of Defense to take out the most dangerous criminals in the world. From other hit men to yakuza leaders, Rocopon uses his alien skills to kill in the name of good without making too much of a fuss. Now eight years after his arrival, Rocopon’s about to be given something he desperately doesn’t want: a partner, and one that he’s very familiar with.
What follows is something very much in the buddy cop formula. Teaming up with Rocopon is Mei Himeno, a policewoman whose life he saved years back. No longer the cop seeking a peaceful solution, Mei is now a balls-to-the-wall support agent who’ll take down targets by any means necessary. But that doesn’t mean that she’s lost her sweet side, as she’ll gladly takes any Rocopon merch that’s handed to her. But with Mei now in his life, Rocopon’s daily routines will go from being somewhat-exciting a classic episode of 24.
There is a good balance of humor and action in Rocopon. The alien’s reaction to him not being cared by the public is pretty funny, as it’s clear the people think he’s overstayed his residency. Then there is the design of Rocopon himself, as he looks just like a human with a giant cat head. He’s not exactly intimidating, but perhaps this is what makes him the perfect assassin. After all, who would want their life taken by someone looking like a mascot character?
Sadly, it’s when Mei enters the picture when the manga suffers from a lack of creativity. Her arrival is a good twist to the narrative, as it gives Rocopon reason enough to become more motivated at his job. But c’mon, how many mismatched buddy cop stories have there been since the 1970s? Whether it’s Clint Eastwood, Denis Leary, Burt Reynolds, Mel Gibson, or Tom Hanks at the helm, every one of these mixed tag-team adventures results in the same damn outcome!
How long will this series go for until Rocopon goes from, “I don’t need a partner!” to “I’m glad I have a partner like you by my side”? Will it be a movie-length’s period, or will it take as many chapters as it does a first season of a TV cop drama? Although the action is pretty impressive in this manga, it doesn’t do much to bring something fresh to the buddy cop formula. Even with the twist towards the end of the volume, the moment feels like it would result in an “Oh, they’re doing this already” reaction than a “Oh, I didn’t see that coming!” one.
Rocopon has a very interesting premise, but it lacks proper execution. The premiere volume does a decent job setting up the scenario, but where it lacks in is creativity. A story that follows a cat-headed assassin should be brimming with uniqueness. Instead, Rocopon seems like it needs to work harder before this series overstays its welcome.