Genres: Comedy, Slice of Life, Manga
Summary: Just when high school nears the close, a Japanese student names Kazuki and his girlfriend, is pulled by his scheming best friend Taishi into the world of fan comics. As Kazuki’s obsession with finishing his comic in time for the next convention threatens his schoolwork and his relationships, he must decide how he will use his time or risk losing Mizuki.
STORY – 4.1
Tragically, it has been a long time since I watched the show, and clearly my methods changed over the years. From the fragments I do remember comes a great, clean story of one named Kazuki and his introduction into Manga (specifically doujinshi) that takes us on a journey through an industry.
When people think of Manga in America, they might liken it to Marvel Comics, which is somewhat misleading. Manga is not reserved for super-heroes nor to trite concepts that may be disgusting in America (i.e. The Mask) but yet never quite puts us inside. This is not to say Comic Party attempts this, rather it expresses the deeply woven nature of the Manga universe that should give any foreigner a pause before stereotyping the industry negatively.
This is perhaps the biggest appeal and weakness to Comic Party, in that as an educational comedy it seeks to balance self-deprecating jokes with giving its audience a better comprehension of the work involved, all while not coming off as offensive or unimaginative.
Whether it succeeds is largely up to you, however it is a mistake to consider the anime like any of its supposed contemporaries. Comic Party, like Samurai Champloo, in a league of its own and openly engages its audience with factoid. Then is the bar set high like Samurai Champloo? Well, not necessarily in that it neither causes the audience to dash to writing manga (a significant amount of the main arc warns the viewer to be cautious at “success”) nor pushes them away. In fact, a significant part of the final arc deals with how important schooling and real life skills are for the protagonists.
One odd point about the show is how it takes a well-trodden theme about following your passions, and translates it into more of the manga than the actual characters. In fact, it can be argued that the main character is actually Taishi and his manga then either Kazuki or Mizuki. Again, is this successful? Maybe, again a satisfying answer reveals itself when considering the manga as the main element in the show.
To this end, around the midpoint, our main character, Kazuki, enters a comic convention where he attempts to sell off his manga while proving to his girlfriend his new-found love is a respectable one. What transpires is thoughtful dialogue and backstory, much a guide means to a museum as the audience is exposed to the different types of manga inside doujinshi.
Therefore, it is in this light that the show ends without resolving anything. While we are comforted Mizuki starting to open up to the world Kazuki has thrust himself into, given how close she is from graduating High School, is this truly the life she wants to live? Even the show pushes this point with an entire episode devoted to the characters high school exam and asks unanswered question regarding the end goal of our characters.
So it becomes clear that devices utilized are balanced around themes of balancing life and exploring what the manga industry goes through to succeed, all wrapped up in a responsible air regarding the monetary feasibility of the passion pursued. In that regard, Comic Party ends up being a great story.
EMOTIONAL DRAW – 3.8
Now in the first half, Comic Party was lackluster in the emotions department. A great part of this trouble comes from Kazuki himself…who is unfortunately bores you to tears in the beginning of the show. Sure, the comic’s side is intriguing and you quickly push for him…. but recall this was always Taishi’s dream and much of the enthusiasm the show garners could be attributed to Taishi.
Perhaps this was the intent, yet that begs the question why Taishi, as a device, is only used to encourage, humor, or stupefy his friend into action. Taishi, for his credit, is a blast and I laughed at quite of few of his antics…the least of which was implanting memories in Kazuki. Yet, was Taishi the main story? It just left the audience wishing this was how the rest of the show could be.
Not to say Kazuki is unlikable…just, not special. For a show that has an interesting premise, it has more to say about the genre one is watching than the actual end product, never fulfilling its promise. Even the ending itself was a mixed bag for me, since the characters do not deal with the impending question of how they are going to continue life in the real world.
It’s a dilemma that is never resolved and takes a bit from the show. Does that mean the manga factoids were pointless or steal way form the elements that are excellent? Well, no. But if you begin a passionate plea throughout the show to both follow your dreams and be responsible (both professionally and relationally), I felt gipped.
CHARACTERS – 3.88
Kazuki – 3.7
A character who is painted as a normal guy with normal ambitions is thrown into a world of oddities and comics as far as the imagination can take him, the character is limited yet decent enough to root for. His troubles with school were believable and I did feel as an actor, Jack Lingo hit enough points in the interactions with his love interest. Of course, anyone inclusive enough to have Taishi as your best friend is probably going to garner some sympathy for the character. This results in a solid figure.
Mizuki – 3.9
Solid as basic characters come, Rachael Lillis does a good job bouncing off Kazuki, and I felt her opposition towards his early work was believable. Does she blow your socks off? No, but I never felt much of Comic Party was ever this capable (save for Taishi). However, the two of them do make for a cute couple and her hopeless face you see from time to time was very endearing towards the character.
Overall, decent character on the eyes and ears if missing that uniqueness.
Yue – 3.5
Sometimes the voice is miscast, and here Yue suffers from it. Georgette Reilly tries her best, but the voice never meshes well in her screenplay, despite the important role that Yuu has on the show. Likeable and important to the show’s aim of educating its audience, Yue serves as a lead in for Kazuki’s entrance to the convention, there is enough interactions with the girl to wish for a softer voice and detracts from some of the more important scenes she has that solidifies Kazuki’s (and our’s) interest in manga.
Taishi – 4.4
Without the doubt where a majority of the comedy comes from, Taishi is always scheming Kazuki into one of his schemes to become a manga artist, even going as far as implanting memories and risking looking like a moron to push Kazuki along. Much of his humor nails timing and altogether makes fun of the same genre we are watching. Casting by Liam O’Brien was a fantastic choice and helped make Comic Party a memorable show.
CREATIVITY – 4.5
If images could achieve pinnacles in shows alone, then the creative manga drawings, costumes, and backgrounds would have won a medal. Matching the scenery and especially the characters well, even the convention avoided the typical stock figures other shows throw around. Definitely one aspect of Comic Party that is worth reminiscing over, I never felt bored and was always anticipating how the next costume or drawing that would appear.
Also, the music was consistent, particular around Taishi, and helped push some of Kazuki’s limited presence. Sure, the beginning intro is nothing to sing after, but with a show like Comic Party, you found yourself getting immersed with the new discoveries of the story of manga as the music travels along. Well done.
OVERALL SCORE – 4.03
Comic Party is a rare show that touches the development side of Manga while offering enough fantasy to not only amuse, but educate its audience. Though our protagonist is underdeveloped, the upshot is all of the side elements and characters are worth seeing.