INFINI-T FORCE (Infiniti Fosu), based on multiple series by Tatsunoko Productions, written by Ukyou Kodachi and art by Tatsuma Ejiri. First published in 2015 and first published in North America in 2017.
Emi Kaido's ordinary high school life is changed forever when she receives a mysterious package with a pencil that claims to grant wishes. Then during a store hold-up she finds herself wishing for a hero and involuntary drawing four different figures. These turn out to be four costumed heroes from four different universes, each of them with their own motivations. Together with Emi and her magic pencil, they must find a way to work together and protect Emi's universe from evil forces gathering within Emi's universe.
This franchise exists for one reason: to promote and update some of Tatsunoko's old animated properties by turning them into a superhero team. There's just one problem: most of these properties are completely unknown to your average American otaku. Some of them might remember Gatchaman from Gatchaman Crowds, that weird Tatsunoko vs. Capcom fighting game, or possibly even from its time as Battle of the Planets. The rest range from "obscure" (Casshan and Tekkaman) to "never localized in the US" (Hurricane Polymar). It's hard to get excited for the appearance of a hero one has never heard of, no matter how much of a production the manga tries to make of it.
It's not like any of these guys are all that interesting on their own. Ken is an scold, Takeshi (aka Polymar) is an aloof vigilante, Casshan is a sad robot boy, and Joji (aka Tekkaman) is gentle and fatherly. Then there's Emi, who is meant to be a high-schooler but is written more like a ditzy preteen. She tends to plunge herself into danger needlessly in the name of 'helping,' which most of the time serves only to turn her into a damsel for one of the guys to save. If it wasn't for the fact that Emi is the only one who can activiate the pencil's powers and has a conveniently huge and empty apartment on hand, she could be written out of the story entirely.
The Avengers worked as a superhero mash-up because Marvel had taken the time to establish most of the players in the hearts and minds of the world and make them compelling characters in their own right before bringing them all together. Infini-T Force tries to do the latter without doing the former, and the result is a manga that feels hollow and forced.
At least some care was put into the art...at least, the art for the heroes. Their character designs are great, as each of them are distinct and handsome both in and out of costume. Ejiri clearly tries to dress up the goofy old sentai-style costumes into more stylized body armor, and for the most part his efforts were a success. What's less successful is trying to integrate these guys with Emi and the other ladies in this series, who might as well be another species. While the guys are tall and well-defined, the girls are round and squishy and (at least in Emi's case) prone to goofy SD reactions. The fights are also something of a mixed bag. The poses themselves are clear and strong, but the panels flow stiffly from one to the next, which defuses a lot of the thrill that should be there.
Infini-T Force is just one of the many examples of a corporation trying to create a shared universe out of nothing. It turns out when you mash up a bunch of old characters without context or charm, you end up with a big pile of nothing to show for it.
This series is published by Udon. This series is ongoing in Japan with 4 volumes available. 1 volume has been released and is currently in print.
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