Super Manga Blast

     You can't judge a book by its uncover...in Japan.

     Imagine reading Archie as Veronica walks into the comic book panel stark naked. Imagine chuckling over Dennis The Menace as his mother dances across the funny pages au natural.

     Unnerving, huh?

     Jarring.

     It is not going to happen in America.

     It is apparently commonplace in Japan and certainly placed commonly in Super Manga Blast, a new anthology featuring five manga series, "3 X 3 Eyes", "What's Michael?', "Shadow Star", "Seraphic Feather" and "Oh My Goddess".

     What is also unnerving is trying to decide if these stories are aimed at an adult or juvenile reader.

     The confusion begins with the minimalist or "cartoon" style of art in Super Manga. It could easily fit in the lineup of any Saturday morning cartoon show on American television. That is considered kid stuff in the U.S. of A.

     Not so in Japan.

     The confusion continues with the plot, characterization and writing style of these five tales. All are a mixture of fantasy and reality, but with a heavy dose of cute that is generally yawned at by adult readers in the fifty states.

     That cute can be suddenly interrupted by profanity. Admittedly, it isn't often, but it is there. It may strike you like Thumper cursing at Bambi or Winnie the Pooh swearing at Christopher Robin.

     Does that mean these are poorly written and drawn manga? Nope.

     These are well written and drawn manga. These are creative and entertaining manga. Funny. Exciting.

     These are manga, however, that I wouldn't let a six-year-old read.

     It isn't healthy to sexualize young children, but were these manga originally created for kids? Admitting ignorance, my best recommendation is that Super Manga Blast is for readers who aren't offended by occasional nudity and profanity, or befuddled by adult situations in a child's playroom.

     Super Manga Blast #1, 128 pages, $4.95. From Dark Horse and Studio Proteus with various writers and artists.

     Review by Michael Vance