I imagine my reputation as a super-fan of Nintendo’s Splatoon IP likely precedes me, but what you may not know is that I’m not one of those rabid Japanese culture types. When my taste in animation leans toward the east, it’s usually to childhood classics like Robotech, Captain Harlock, or Astro Boy, and I can count on one hand the number of traditional manga volumes I’ve read. I write this so that when I tell you that VIZ has localized the first edition of Sankichi Hinodeya’s Splatoon manga and I am already completely on board, you realize that goes against type.
Weaving a tale of Team Blue—a four Inkling squad of big, lovable personalities otherwise hopelessly outmatched by the competition—as they progress up the ranks in Inkopolis’s Turf War competition, it’s a fun but slightly predictable loser-makes-good story told with a distinct Splatoon slant. The characters, like protagonists Goggles, Specs, Headphones, and Bobble Hat, are easily identified by their game-accurate gear and weapons, and their battles take place in familiar locations such as the Arowana Mall and Mahi-Mahi Resort.
The Squid Sisters are also there to provide sparkling color commentary along with customary official Judd the Cat. And it’s important to note that the commentary is the only thing in color here, as, much in the same way that it reads back-to-front and right-to-left, this is a standard black and white manga. Still, gorgeous crosshatching and strong line work make it easy to tell who’s who even if their colorful team names like pink and cyan aren’t exactly represented in print.
The story’s enemies—the S+-ranked Rider and the sinister S4—are generally stronger and more accomplished, but plucky Team Blue always seems to come through thanks to a mix of moxie, friendship, and dumb luck. There’s also no shortage of the game’s Special Weapon attacks, massive damage-dealing super moves that are nicely represented via frenetic splash pages.
Featuring the first four chapters of the ongoing story, as well as a scene-setting one-shot and an “Inkling Almanac” boasting bonus character designs and often humorous biographical information, this is a must-have for Splatoon diehards. While translated for grade levels 4 to 6, it can also be enjoyed by younger fans, providing they have some familiarity with manga’s unorthodox layout.
Much like in the video game series, the violence is purely ink-based, and injured characters quickly re-spawn none the worse for wear. In fact, the only thing remotely questionable, as far as content goes, is Goggles’ tendency to lose his clothes. Yet even this is a distinctly non-sexual sight gag, played for laughs and always humorously censored to cover… whatever naughty bits male-identifying squid-people have.
Available today for an MSRP of US$9.99 (or $6.55 via Amazon), Splatoon, Vol. 1 is a great stocking-stuffer for your resident gamer and the perfect pick-up for any fan. Even those of us who usually eschew manga in favor of good, ol’ fashioned front-to-back readin’.
Review materials provided by: VIZ Media LLC