Nov 27, 2018
Outlanders is a mid 80s manga series by Johji Manabe that was originally brought to the states via Dark Horse Comics. At thirty-three chapters — even with the chapters being forty pages on average — it won’t take you long to read. But brevity alone isn’t enough to recommend a work. Fortunately, Outlanders is has proven to be quite a good read.
Outlanders tells the story of Tetsuya Wakatsuki, a news photographer who finds himself in the middle of an alien invasion when the war-mongering Santovaski Empire touches down in Tokyo. Soon, he meets the Kahm, the princess of this empire, and the two grow closer
in spite of the war.
Before going on, as an aside, I just want to point out how one can get a very different picture of this manga just going by the description on the site. First off, it should be noted that the invasion is underway well before Kahm has met Tetsuya and her relationship with him isn’t what sparks the war, unlike what this description suggests. Additionally, unless I’m missing something,virtually none of the characters on the cover image appear in the actual story.
Most erroneously, the story is listed as a comedy, with romance nowhere in sight. Romance is a large part of Outlanders while comedy is decidedly not. There are comedic elements sure, but you’ll be in for a bad time if you’re expecting this to be a lighthearted comedy. Luckily, I was able to change gears and realize the type of story I was reading.
Space-opera is more of an apt genre for Outlanders than action and adventure are. I was impressed and taken aback by just how epic and grand in scale the story was. Realistically, the entire planet gets caught up in the war to defend the Earth. I appreciated how realistically the two powers — the Earth military and the Santovaski — were portrayed. Earth is the underdog in Outlanders and it serves to make the story more tense. There’s a grim tone throughout the story. While I wouldn’t say it’s crushingly dark, it’s something to keep in mind. The comedic moments help to brighten the mood.
The art is classic eighties fare. The characters look pleasing, though they’re nothing to write home about. They’re quite expressive, but their expressions lean more towards comedic. They’re sure to make you laugh, but they don’t quite hit the right notes during more dramatic moments. The alien architecture and ships however, are a beauty to behold and I can’t think of anything bad to say about them.
I should note that there’s fan-service. Kahm herself dresses in what’s basically bikini armor and there are a few occasions where she or other female characters are topless. If you’re not interested, for what it’s worth, they’re infrequent and don’t really detract from the plot. If fan-service is your thing, then the art looks good, though it’s not hypersexualized.
While romance is a big part of the story, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s written well. Specifically, it’s not developed well. Kham and Tetsuya’s relationship progresses unsatisfyingly quickly. There’s a part in the story where they’re at each other’s throats and the next chapter, they seem enamored with each other. It seems like the author rushed the development stages of the romance just so he could get them together and as a result, it feels a bit flat. It’s a substantial part of the story, so if you don’t like it, your impression of the story as a whole might be soured.
I’m a sucker for romance however, and even if it wasn’t very realistic, I was ultimately fine with the romance. It could have been better, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment too much. Even if was a bit out of nowhere, Kahm and Tetsuya make a cute couple.
If you’re a fan of sci-fi mixed with Fantasy in a tense setting, I think you’ll enjoy Outlanders. You’ll come to love the colorful cast of characters. Both the journey and the destination were well-executed. Pick it up if you want something quick and exciting to read. If you’re not a big fan of romance, however, you might want to sit this one out.
(P.S. There’s a Chapter 0, though it’s often referred to as Book 1. It’s a story about Kahm trying to obtain a mystical key. It definitely plays up the comedy and has no relation to the story as a whole. While it is a good introduction to Kahm’s personality, feel free to skip it, because it can feel a bit jarring starting the story after reading it. There’s also an epilogue. While it may seem bad at first, I suggest sticking to the end. It enhances the standard ending.)
What did you think of this review?