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Tomodachi x Monster Volume One – Review

Tomodachi-X-Monster-Volume-1-Cover-IMage-01Imagine the absolute devastation that a Pokemon roaming around in our reality could cause simply by existing. While in the realm of the Pokemon franchise most Pocket Monsters wouldn’t dare attack a human, but add their variable to the equation we call “real life” and what you’ll find is chaos, death, and destruction. While the Fire Blast of a Charizard may cause a Venusaur to faint in-game, it’s effects in our dimension would be much more dire: Not only would that poor creature simply burn to death, but the environment surrounding it as well! I wont even bother going into detail regarding the varying nature of these monsters, the likes of which could result in many human deaths. We often hear about domestic animals like a family dog attacking someone due to a variety of reasons, and while that canine can leave you with a nasty bite wound, it is nowhere near as bad as a Hyper Beam to the chest.

In Yoshihiko Inui’s latest Manga masterpiece Tomodachi x Monster, licensed by Seven Seas Entertainment here in the West, we get to see what life would truly be like if powerful monsters did indeed exist in our world. Unlike franchises like Pokemon, Digimon, Monster Rancher, and Yo-Kai Watch, Tomodachi x Monster’s addition to the Monster-Taming sub-genre is one that is a little more, let’s say…macabre. Compared only to Pokemon for the sake of scene-setting, Tomodachi x Monster is unlike all that have come before it. Instead of being a light-hearted series that deals with themes of friendship and care for your fellow living creature, it instead relies on the value of shock and awe to tell as realistic a tale as possible.

What WOULD life be like with powerful creatures at your very beck and call? If it’s Yoshihiko Inui you’re asking; it wouldn’t be a good one, and I believe I have to agree! Welcome to the gruesome world of Tomodachi x Monster where losing a battle doesn’t send you to the nearest Pokemon Center…it sends you to an early grave.

In a small mountainous village in rural Japan, strange creatures lurk. It’s here that young Wataru hears a voice calling out to him. Wandering from his school, he soon discovers a new “friend” that will transform his life forever – or drastically shorten it. Wataru learns of a hidden world of monsters who seek to befriend young children, and together with them enter a horrifying death match. – Seven Seas

Unlike what many other online publications are saying about Tomodachi x Monster, it is not a blatant replication of Pokemon with the addition of blood and gore. Unfortunately for series’ featuring companion monsters they will always be compared to the pioneers of the genre, but it must be noted that Tomodachi x Monster has a lot more to offer than basic parody. The story is mostly simple, but remains interesting from the first page to the last thanks to it’s cringe-worthy, attention-grabbing themes of combat and torture. As the Manga begins it seems as though this is going to be a story about a boy and his pet blob, but quickly it becomes less like a light-hearted adventure and more akin to that of a Junji Ito horror tale. Within the initial chapter we’re subjected to the very first death of the short series which comes in the form of a young man having his neck brutally snapped by the rock-hard web of a small, worm-like monster, quickly followed up by a young girl who is sliced to ribbons by a creature that originally appeared to be nothing more than your standard Kendama (cup and ball toy from Japan).

As you may already be thinking; this series does indeed feature a great deal of violence. It comes as quite a shock when it happens, and the fact that it is happening to children can be enough to turn people away, but let me assure you that it is not only the series’ severity that makes it worth reading, it is, in fact, it’s easily-missable subtleties that kept me intrigued throughout the first volume. As the Manga goes on, the audience is slowly fed more and more information regarding the strange creatures known as “Friends”, or “Tomodachi”. After encountering what seems to be a small group of “Friend” users led by a young man with a clear God complex, it is somewhat revealed that the connection between a human and a “Friend”, over time, grows to a level wherein which the human is left with nothing more than a love for combat and an unquenchable thirst for blood. What makes this a well-written Manga is that it wasn’t just explained to the audience as if they were children needing to be spoon-fed, instead it was quickly mentioned before moving on with the story at hand, not giving us nor Wataru (the protagonist) a chance to truly think about what had just been said.

Now to say that the series’ gore isn’t a huge part of it’s charm would be a blatant lie. This is, in fact, what drew me to it in the first place. As a fan of the genre, I find it hard to deny myself a chance to experience what else it can offer, and the addition of real-world consequences made this Manga all the more sweet. Yoshihiko Inui is a fantastic illustrator that has a charming drawing style that is made up mostly by clean line work and dynamic shading. His panel structure is, in a word; masterful, and his unique illustrative style lends well to cinematic action scenes. Inui knows how to draw everything incredibly well, but nothing better than simple blood and guts. He understands how to catch a reader by surprise, which is quite hard when you’re working with a medium as controllable as Manga. Despite the fact that I could have flipped the page at any given time, peering at what was waiting for me the next page over, the layout of the Manga forced me to focus on certain panels before moving onto the next page and being blindsided by something as gruesome as a boy being electrocuted to death.

This Manga took me by surprise. When I saw it, without knowing much about it, I had to have it! Looking on it’s back page and reading the tagline “Gotta’ Kill ’em All” had me sold, but never in a million years did I think I was going to enjoy it this much. It is only a three volume series, we know this because it’s run has already concluded in Japan, but whilst reading through volume one I couldn’t help but wish that Tomodachi x Monster was a series so much longer. I simply could not get enough! Fans of the Monster-Taming genre will have a lot of love for this new title because of it’s deep connection to other genre greats with some great representations of tropes that feature heavily within them. It will also pique the interest of those who’re fans of horror and gore seeing as, well…it features both of those things. This isn’t a series for everyone, that much is certain, but no series is. What Tomodachi x Monster does is it takes something once innocent and plunges it to an all-new depth of depravity. I freaking love it!

Grab volume one of Tomodachi x Monster through Seven Seas Entertainment’s official website: Click Here

Grade: A+

-30-

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