Eagle is the story of a US Presidential election in which the Democratic Party nominee is a Japanese-American, seen largely through the eyes of a young Japanese reporter covering the campaign for a major newspaper.
Economy, immigration, defense, education, health care, as well as other numerous categories are problems for most countries and that is what makes Eagle timeless. Although it was written with the American presidential election of 2000 in mind, the issues it delves into make it a part of today and most probably, tomorrow too, a thought that is a bit disheartening.
Kenneth Yamaoka, a biracial man, has the dream and conviction to become the next president of America and the whole work is dedicated on his campaign almost from scratch. Although most people know more or less the basic of politics, it is a refreshing feeling to
follow every step of the way seeing the truth and the deceit behind every word or decision and truly realize how hard it is to actually achieve that goal and if it is really possible to trust any politician. The work does a good job portraying the hardships everyone has to go though as not only the candidate, but his family and staff have to pull their own weight. Amidst all this, the main protagonist Jo Takashi, a lowly Japanese non-political reporter, has been given the job of covering this journey while he tries to understand what kind of a person Yamaoka is and what his own role is truly. Although this is the secondary plotline in the grand scale of things, it plays an important role as to how things develop and how relationships change and it is easy to relate to Takashi as the readers are in the dark themselves.
Despite the fact that the pacing is good and has a variety of themes resembling a true campaign, its mold is similar to a generic battle shounen manga; they are the underdogs and everything that could possibly go wrong happens only to them, whereas there is plot armor protecting them from obstacles that normally would be really more troublesome. Sometimes it does give the feel that the sudden problems only go as far as they are solvable and then they disappear into thin air moving on to the next, which can be putting off at times. That being said, it never truly becomes boring as it is realistic to a big extent and seeing the characters struggles and feelings gives a new perspective on things.
Most of the characters are given a thorough background, granting them a sense of purpose allowing the readers to relate to them. Everyone has problems and watching them trying to hide or sort them out without sacrificing all those efforts is a bit heavy. What it lacks though, is connecting some of the dots concerning the development of them. As the work tries to showcase some problems through the characters, they jump from one point to another while they could be forgotten as another story has replaced theirs, until they re-appear again and they seem just a bit different. It makes up with the developing story and their part in it, but it is something annoying.
The art is really detailed and most of the American sites are true to the original. Although this is a manga and lacks color, there is a vibe of a western comic which is welcome in such a story and puts you right away in the right mood. The designs are serious and most characters are distinct, which is a plus for a long-running manga that has many new faces appearing in every other chapter. There are also definite signs of stereotypes used for different states, such as Texas, but this is just to make it easier to the reader who is not really familiar with the country and it is not offensive, thankfully.
Having said that, I enjoyed it sufficiently and even learnt more about how elections work and was interested to actually get to know more about it. It nudges you to want to participate in your country’s future more, which means that the work has succeeded partly in its goal! Another thing that I personally liked was that people, such as Bill and Hillary (Ellery) Clinton made an appearance, making this all the more realistic and fun to read. This is a great read if you want something serious with a hint of mystery and a lot of talking.
Eagle was the first Manga series I ever purchased and it was essentially the beginning of what has blossomed into a considerable collection. I'm only disclosing this information because it might explain any bias in my review.
(Edit - Since the review is being voted down to hell, I'd also disclose that I'm Black! For context; I doubted this country's President as being anything other than White (at the time). thankfully I was proven quite wrong.)
That said I enjoyed this series at the time because of the premise that at the time seemed so improbable. An Asian (see:minority)-American US President? Combined with the considerable heft of
each volume made it a purchase at the comic book store.
Fortunately everything within the first (and succeeding volumes) was just as interesting. The art is detailed reflects the efforts of an artist who did his homework. Kawaguchi's depictions of major US Cities and landmarks is considerable, and visually everything seems authentic and American. Characters are drawn with an obvious western influence which may turn off some of the less informed enthusiasts who argue over things like what manga is "supposed" to look like. The only criticisms I might have might be the occasional lack of character and environment detail but overall the art is impressive.
But backtracking to the story, the premise is simple; A Japanese reporter has been flown out to the States to follow the campaign for the very first Asian American for President starting of course at the his efforts to become the democratic nominee. I won't spoil the plot details but rest assured the drama extends well beyond politics even though one or two major plot points are revealed early in the story and with little fanfare.
Of course now that we actually do have a minority president from such a diverse background the premise doesn't seem quite as ridiculous anymore. A quick re-read from this perspective should yield some interesting interpretations and I look forward to seeing if Kawaguchi's insights into what this sort of historic event would look like!
Overall a great read for anyone vaguely interested in Politics (and Political Drama) and in a good story. But definitely an acquired taste for just everyone else.