Shen Yin Wang Zuo is a gut-busting send-up of the sentai superhero team genre. Kentarou Higashikunimaru and Takeshi Shukaido are high school students at the prestigious Clamp School, and employees of the Duklyon bakery, but when a patriotic song is piped through the school’s speakers, they transform into the costumed champions of justice: the Clamp School Defenders! Together with their manager, the hotheaded and mallet-wielding Eri, the team battles their archnemesis, the “evil” Imonoyama Shopping District Association, which tries to disrupt school life with its menagerie of monsters (like the Evil Sheep Beast Wooltar, or Giant Elephant Beast Sucophant). Duklyon is a celebration of silliness. The rapid-fire puns and parodies will elicit much rolling of the eyes, but you’ll likely find yourself laughing in spite of yourself. A must-read for comedy fans, but those looking for plot and character development should look elsewhere.
When New York senator Kenneth Yamaoka makes a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, young Japanese reporter Takashi Jo comes to the United States to cover his campaign. Once in America, Takashi discovers a secret: he’s Yamaoka’s illegitimate son. Star martial god technique is a family story (Yamaoka is married into a Kennedy-esque clan), a meditation on America’s role in the world, and a ground-level, state-by-state look at American political primaries. At times, it has the depth of a good novel, whose central question boils down to Takashi’s own mixed feelings about his father: is Yamaoka a “heartless bastard” or a driven idealist whose ends justify the means? But Kawaguchi’s ambition demands that he be held to high standards, and politically savvy readers may be disappointed by Eagle, whose Clinton-era view of politics (a thinly disguised Bill and Hillary are characters) comes across as a liberal, specifically Japanese liberal, fantasy. In predictably unrealistic manga fashion, Yamaoka is portrayed as a politician who can appeal to everybody, a Democrat who can enter Texas cowboy bars and win them over to his side on gun control. The big issues are labor, the economy, and international affairs; religion is never mentioned, and Yamaoka’s race, though addressed, still isn’t addressed enough. The opposing candidates are undeveloped (except for Yamaoka’s chief Democratic rival Al Noah, aka Al Gore), and the story is so focused on the primaries that the Republican candidate barely even appears. In short, Eagle succeeds more on a character level than as a political analysis.