A-DO Volume 1: Classic Science-Fiction



Now, I entirely understand that a ton of readers will immediately aim to liken A-DO to specific science fiction manga from the era it’s inspired by, but let me promise you one thing- there’s nothing quite like it. It fills a void in science fiction, and really steps up to the plate to own that decision. Everything will feel vaguely familiar and nostalgic, but it remains entirely the work of Amano Jaku alone. Before that though, check out the meaning behind the mangaka’s name, pretty interesting stuff if not entirely unrelated to the manga.

Anyways, A-DO is posed an important question with its debut volume in English, “What makes for a good sci-fi manga?”. It’s response of choice was, “Everything.”. It really does speak for itself in that regard, deftly weaving together a number of excessively enjoyable and deeply engaging science fiction tropes, all the while injecting its own specific brand to create something totally new.

Anyone that exists with even the slightest bit of interest in science-fiction will find themselves immediately capture by A-DO because of that. It presents an incredible degree of familiarity, but hides behind that a wealth of individuality. I’m really trying hard to avoid naming names and comparing A-DO to other works to help drive the point home, but it’s a near impossible task. It’s such an electric and creative volume that it just immediately reminds you of that bygone golden age of science-fiction manga. And I really do mean that in every sense of the word.

Amano Jaku may be a first time mangaka with A-DO, but not a single page or panel in this volume would betray that lack of experience. Incredibly smooth flow, great layouts and blocking, expertly built pages, Jaku approaches this first volume like an old-hand of the craft. And that includes environment art too. Each page is packed with detail and life, working overtime to sell that overcrowded and painfully dense sci-fi world of the future. There’s hardly a chance for you to give your eyes a break with the manga because of it. Everywhere you look there’s little details and drawings that will help build your perception of the world, and how our lead characters Riko and Eito fit into it. It’s the kind of the effort and quality that almost feels impossible for these types of circumstances. I totally understand that this is a monthly manga, but more time doesn’t suddenly mean that the ability of the artist skyrockets.

Speaking of details, why not let the art example wait a little longer? A-DO has a pretty funky way with words, but it provides better context as to what this world is all about. The volume opens with a protest against immigration, but doesn’t really dive too far into the whole idea. Interestingly enough, it allows it to stew and age a little bit in the mind of the reader. The concept of multiculturalism is very well disseminated in A-DO to that end, but it doesn’t “really” offer readers a reason for its existence- yet. Though of course, it does address the ideas of population growth in such a contemporary world and how that’s felt on a global scale, but more than that it’s just a very interesting angle to establish with Japan as the focal point.

Alright, now that I’ve been forced into showing art from A-DO, I really want to touch on visual storytelling- one of my favorite things to chat about with manga. There’s one really big thing that I love with Jaku’s work, and it’s their panelling. It’s not anything as crazy or out there as MamaYuyu’s, for example, but it’s got a lot going for it in terms of boldness. Jaku isn’t worried about conveying enough information with every panel. They understand that in order to provide tension, to provide spirit and emotion, you can’t be concerned with delivering “information” (in the traditional sense) with each panel. There’s a lot that fills the gaps and provides the air of A-DO, and it’s incredibly valuable.

A personal favorite though is Jaku’s use of close ups in this volume. Rather than taking full panels or pages out for the standoffs in the volume, Jaku opts for very narrow rectangles to center the characters in, and it does a lot for how little space it ends up using. Two examples are provided below, and I’d love to talk about them.

Man oh man, Jaku knows their stuff with these panels alone, so let’s break these down one by one- starting with the left of course. First of all, the expressiveness of the characters is insane. The shape of the eyes, the structure of the face and other features, it speaks volumes to the animosity Eito possesses vs the fear and confusion Riko expresses. Secondly, the spacing and height of the panels. Of course, Eito takes up the majority of the layout because he’s the focus in this instance, but I really love how Jaku remains aware of the height of Eito vs Riko. Eito’s head is “lower down” in the frame, while Riko’s is higher up, and it very subtly maintains a sense of consistency with how the world is viewed by an outside perspective.

Similarly, the set of panels on the right accomplishes much of the same- with some really wonderful twists. Here, Jaku uses Riko to establish the standoff between our special forces captain and Eito. It does a lot to set the tension, but similarly to the panels on the left, really drives home the idea that Riko is our default narrator for A-DO. It’s really really interesting, but it’s pieces like these that help make a manga so much more readable. Moving onward though, the Riko panel helps even more than just that. Riko’s is the only that includes a background, shows more of the character’s face, and isn’t a head on shot. All three of these things help establish that Riko is decidedly not a part of the interaction, but is viewing/experiencing it. Then of course, much like the previous panels, Eito and the captain are situated in their panels to help sell the difference in height.

But, that’s not all. Alongside that, we have the captain initiating this stare down. You might not think that overly important, but compare it to the previous panels where Eito initiates, and then a later set of panels that does the same. It’s really simple work, but Jaku is employing it so effectively to give readers a story without saying a word.

And honestly, I could go on and on about so many of these different ideas and presentations within A-DO. I could make a dozen different posts atomizing this series because it’s just that good. The sci-fi itch is scratched wonderfully by this story that speaks volumes without saying a thing like little Eito has a tendency to do. It’s gripping, energetic, beautifully violent and flippant, full of life. It’s everything I would want a Science-Fiction story to be. So, it’s really a no-brainer that I think that everybody out there should be picking up A-DO.

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