Daphne in the Brilliant Blue vol 1 (of 1)

Distributor:  Tokyopop

Author:  Satoshi Shiki

Suggested Retail Price (SRP):  6.99

Number of Pages:  216

ISBN:  978-1598165975

Reviewed:  17th January 2009

Reviewer:  Rich (Webmaster)


With the anime of Daphne in the Brilliant Blue currently being released by MVM I was a little surprised to find that the manga version was released over a year ago.  The manga only seems to stretch to a single volume, but I thought I'd give it a go anyway.

Interestingly the story in the manga is not the same as the anime.  The manga follows Ai Mayuzumi, an ace jet-bike test pilot and the daughter of a leading scientist and engineer in the deep-sea city of Noimon.  The deep-sea cities have been cut off from the surface for years following an unexplained disaster, and believing the land above the waves to be toxic they have continued life as the last bastions of mankind.  However, all is not well.  A terrorist group known as Error is battling against the deep sea city administration, their aim is to return the city to the surface and overthrown a government they believe is misleading the people.  Ai has a reason to hate Error, several years before the start of the manga story they killed her mother and wounded her, so when she hears that they have stolen important research data from her father's lab she isn't going to leave them to it.  Ai manages to catch up to the perpetrators after giving chase on a prototype jetbike, but just when it looks like she's bitten off more than she can chew, a duo of beautiful and deadly women arrive.  The two women - Kei and Kourei - are members of an organisation called Stelnas who are tasked with stopping Error once and for all, and after witnessing them in action Ai vows to join them.  However, it's not as simple as that, Ai has attracted the interest of Error as well as Stelnas, and the conflict may not be as black and white as she first thought.  With her loyalties torn, Ai is going to have to make some big decisions, and they could have more of an impact than she could possibly imagine...

I'll et this out of the way now, if you're expecting the anime in manga form you are going to be disappointed with Daphne in the Brilliant Blue.  That's not to say it's bad, far from it, but it's a completely different kettle of fish from the tongue-in-cheek, fanservice-laden anime series.  The manga is a lot more of a straightforward sci-fi action series, with plenty of thrills and spills

and chase sequences galore.  There are a few minor comic moments - particularly from the uncouth Emily - but this is by no means a comedy series, and it's probably better because of it.  The action flies thick and fast and it's backed up by a surprisingly interesting story that has a good twist to it.  In places the story is reminiscent of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, with subplots about mental control through electronic implants and a heady mix of high technology and conspiracy.  And the similarities don't just end with story elements, the art owes a very obvious debt to Ghost in the Shell as well.  As you can see from the image on the right the artwork is superb and highly detailed, but in places things have too much of a whiff of familiarity.  The general character design is similar, in particular Kei who looks pretty much exactly the same as Ghost in the Shell's Motoko Kusanagi, even down to her hairstyle and the clothes she wears.

It's a shame considering it's diverged so much from its own anime incarnation that Daphne in the Brilliant Blue can't manage a bit more originality in manga form.  Taking it on its own merit though Daphne in the Brilliant Blue vol 1 is a cut above the anime.  It has a better story, a better lead character and doesn't need to put the cast in incredibly skimpy outfits in order to cover its deficiencies.  The artwork is excellent, with superb detail throughout and

real clarity even in the more crowded action scenes.  The visuals are striking and really back up a plot that isn't as clear-cut as it first seems.  The manga appears to be a kind of prequel to the anime, but I kind of wish the anime had followed this plot instead of the one it actually has up to the point I have seen (about vol 3).

Apart from the lack of originality the only real issue with this is that there's only one volume of it.  Apparently the series is still ongoing in Japan, but only one collected volume has been released there in two years which doesn't really bode well for the its future.  The story is strong and the art is excellent, but it owes too much of a debt to Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex to really forge its own path.  It's a shame as Daphne in the Brilliant Blue vol 1 is excellent for the most part, and the plot twist really makes things less clear cut and a lot more interesting.  Most of the characters are good (although I found Emily a bit annoying), and the series has promise, I just hope we get to see if it can fulfil it.  More volumes please Mr Shiki!


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