Saturday, December 19, 2015


Tokyo Ghoul was hardly the only Tokyo-titled manga to come out this year.  There was also this quiet little superhero story from the good folks at Vertical.

TOKYO ESP (Tokyo Iesupi), by Hajime Segawa.  First published in 2010 and first published in North America in 2015.


It all began with the mysterious spectral fish flying through the night sky.  Rinka Urushiba noticed them, sure, but she was too busy trying to keep herself and her father fed and housed.  Then she wakes up and phases right through the floor.  It seems that those mysterious fish imbued Rinka, her father, and a handful of others with strange, supernatural powers.  She meets up with Kyotaro, a teleporter who uses his powers to fight against evil.  They'll need all the allies they can find, though.  Some of the local Yakuza have teamed up with their own collection of ESPers and they're determined to get what they want by any means.


It seems like this was the year that manga finally started to get this whole Western-style superhero thing.  We had One Punch Man, My Hero Academia, and this series.  Ok, this one might be a bit of a stretch, but Tokyo ESP does feel like what would happen if you successfully combined X-Men with your standard shonen manga.  You've got a girl who phases through things, a guy who teleports, an older guy with magnetism powers penguin?

Unfortunately, like its sources of inspiration, it suffers from a protagonist that gets rather overshadowed by the supporting cast.  Rinko is a good, hard-working and noble girl, but she simply can't compete with the rather dashing Kyotaro or the adorable duo of Murasaki and her pet penguin Peggi.  Once she starts to get a grip on her powers, she simply quite keep the reader's focus by herself.  Even her archnemesis Kuroi is more intriguing, and she's simply a pissed-off teen girl with an ax to grind.  Still, that's better treatment that what her father Rindo gets; he's mostly forgotten by the narrative halfway through. 

So what about the story itself?  It takes half of the omnibus, but it does feel like it's finding its own direction.  It's just not always terribly organized when it comes to doing so.  The first half mostly deal with Rinko coming to terms with her powers and cementing her friendship with Kyotaro.  It's only in the second half that things take off as a rival gang of fellow ESPers try to take over a Yakuza clan only to have everything go tits up.  While it can still a bit messy at times, we do start to learn more about the variety of powers available and Kyotaro starts to get some background.  It's a solid beginning, even if takes a while to get there.  That's likely why this was published in omnibus form instead of single volumes.


Thankfully the artwork is a bit more accomplished than the writing.  Segawa favors a more stark look than one usually sees in shonen, with lots of solid black shadows.  His faces are a bit rough early on, but as the story progresses they get more consistent.  The same is true for the action setpieces, as the fights grow more and more dynamic thanks to some well-composed panels full of high-flying kicks and punches.  Backgrounds tend to be either rotoscoped cityscapes or plenty of grey gradients that work well with Segawa's dark shadows.  The place where the art really shines best is in the color pages.  His style is well suited to bright, bold colors, and it's little wonder that it was eventually translated to animation.


Tokyo ESP starts shakily, but both the story and art gain confidence as the volume goes on to become a quirky and enjoyable little series.

This series is published by Vertical.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 13 volumes available.  2 2-in-1 omnibuses have been released and all are currently in print.

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