Comic Books Magazine

Captain Ken Vol 1 Review

Posted on the 20 May 2015 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

Captain Ken is a Tezuka mangaTitle: Captain Ken
Genre: Space Western
Publisher: Shogakukan (JP), Digital Manga (US)
Artist: Osamu Tezuka
Serialized in: Weekly Shonen Sunday
Original Release Date: April 28, 2015

Successfully Kickstarted last year, Captain Ken is a Tezuka work that is probably not as great as Ayako, Ode to Kirihito, or A Message To Adolf. It’s currently a notch below those three, with a chance to come close to them in Volume 2. Dealing with racism and control, it starts out slow but turns into a enjoyable romp with fun characters, fresh panels, and weird, yet fun action.

Published way back in 1960 (it’s so old there’s a one page disclaimer by Tezuka Productions explaining why now it is definitely considered a racist book, but Tezuka is not racist himself, among other things), the story is set on Mars, where a long time ago people from Earth landed there and met the Martian people. Instead of trying to get to know them though, they panicked and fired on the aliens. Soon after, they decided to enslave them and twist the world into a version of the Wild West in clothing, buildings, and areas. However, there is one person who’s aiming to change that — that would be Captain Ken, a young man sent to the Hoshino family who doesn’t believe that the Aliens should be treated the way they are. He’s going to have a lot of work to do as he has to deal with the Mayor, the Mayor’s son, and even some of his family — for entirely different reasons.

I admit I’m always kind of skeptical about Tezuka’s work that gets backed by Kickstarter, and I dunno why. I can only attribute that to Digital Manga consistently trying to kickstart most of their Tezuka manga, and it makes me wonder why it has to to always go through Kickstarter for a Tezuka manga to be released. This in turn has already put into my mind that a Tezuka work is not gonna be as good if it can’t be published by the company on its own merits. Let’s just say I know nothing, since Captain Ken is really good.

What makes Captain Ken work, aside from its story, is the style. It’s a Tezuka trademark, with his really cartoonish designs, more panels than most manga do nowadays, and everything somehow seems upbeat, even when it really isn’t. Moments where Captain Ken interacts with the cast, from the notorious Mayor Deven and his son Double, to Mamoru and very adapt sidekick who still has not been named, is entertaining and worth a read. It is annoying to see a panel where the only thing that happens is horses “clippity clop”-ing from panel to panel, but that’s how we can only get Tezuka — at his earnest.

Of course, being earnest can also be misguided sometimes, which can be a problem if you want to get into this manga. It heavily mirrors the times Tezuka grew up in, where you were treated differently because of your race after WWII. It’s even stronger here as it has aliens getting machine gunned to death and working in poor environments until they die. And it has young kids — well at least one young kid — expressing anti-alien statements. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, as I feel it doesn’t undermine what Tezuka’s trying to accomplish here, which is to ultimately change backwards views. But it can be for some.

While that theme is being played, the bigger plot that’s getting much play here is who exactly is Captain Ken and what is his relationship with Kenn, who everyone says he looks like? It could legitimately be the real reason he’s going through all these hoops to meet her, even though it is a possibility that his other driving reasons will get explained later on. Who exactly is Kenn, who has supposedly been raised on Earth and has attracted the confusion of Ken? A decent amount of questions, which will only be solved in Volume 2. But based on what it has to offer, I’m looking forward to seeing how it concludes.

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