Manga: Speed Grapher
Mangaka: GONZO(Story) & TOMOZO(Art)
Publisher: Carlsen (Germany)
Original Publisher: Mediaworks
Published in: Dengeki Comic Gao!
Price: 7,50€
Released so far: Volume 1
Release Schedule: Volume 2: May 2008
Licensed in the US: Yes, Tokyopop.com
Additional Information: Complete with 3 Volumes, contains an omake and one colored double-page.

Speed Grapher is based on the anime by the same name produced by GONZO. Usually I try to stay away from adaptations because they often lack the uniqueness and subtlety of the original. An exception is anime adapted to manga. I usually find the adaptation more appealing than the original (Neon Genesis Evangelion and Tsukihime). Reasons for that might be my general dislike of anime, specifically the two I named above. I also watched the Speed Grapher anime and it’s one of the worst anime I watched. Long story short: I gave the manga the benefit of the doubt and blindly purchased it.

The cover is left pretty much intact. I’m happy that they didn’t change the colored double-page into black & white. Sadly, the colored page is only one of the few positives in this manga.

Now on to Speed Grapher: The first two chapters are used to introduce us to the two main characters: a once-famous war photographer, who came back injured and traumatized, named Taitsumi Saiga, and Kagura, a young girl, the sole inheritor of the “Tenzou group”, one of the wealthiest and most powerful companies in this fictional Japan and their evil “counter-parts”. A very basic setup so far.

Saiga is trying to uncover one of the biggest corruption scandals in Japan. The scandal involves the Tenzou group and Kagura, who’s being used by Suitengu, the bad guy. Kagura has a special ability; she can bless people by kissing them, causing some weird reaction, either killing them or granting them extremely powerful abilities. These blessed ones are called “Euphorias”. Some are said to be “natural hosts”, while others are probably “artificial ones”. The difference received no further elaboration. To be a “natural host”, one has to have experienced the atrocities of war, which Taitsumi Saiga has and therefore fulfills the requirement.

In his investigations, Saiga meets a Euphoria and only barely escapes; however he’s able to follow the trail to a party for the elite being held under the city of Tokyo. Saiga manages to sneak in with a membership card of another person (it seems they’ve never heard of security). He observes the party for a while, seeing every VIP participating and enjoying the pleasure feast. Then the main event, Kagura, descends in a trance-like condition and the would-be chosen excitingly await her blessing. Saiga is not able to hold still and storms to the front, frantically taking pictures, not caring about causing a ruckus. Naturally, they soon realize that he’s an intruder. Just when they’re about to kill him, Kagura blesses him instead.

After that, Kagura collapses and Saiga uses her as a shield to escape from Suitengu’s secret club below Roppongi. Now up against the influential Tenzou group, supported by corrupt officials, they find themselves attacked by various Euphorias and other henchmen. With an unknown future, they both struggle to survive.

I have to say it is one of the worst seinen manga I’ve read so far. Story-wise it’s nothing new: a guy saves a horrible helpless girl and then continues to fight for her freedom; sound familiar? And of course the people fighting possess superpowers! However, their powers only activate when getting kissed by a drugged girl and ONLY when the person has witnessed the atrocities of war…one lucky coincidence too much? I would say, yes.

Story: 6/10 – A story full of coincidences, most of the plot seems forced; no naturally occuring incidents
Art: 7/10 – The chapter cover pages are very beautifully illustrated, but throughout the manga there have been many flaws, like wrong body proportions and so on…
Enjoyment: 5/10 – A bad story and only decent art execution throws this potential hit into the sea of mediocrity.
Final: 6/10

Comment on Carlsen’s Release: There’s nothing Carlsen could’ve done to make this into a good manga. Everything where they have influence on was executed nicely, except that they forgot to translate a panel on page 152, not that it was an important panel, but still it’s fairly obvious that a publisher should not forget to translate something; maybe I have a bad copy?