Sep 8, 2010
IceAndCream (All reviews)
ARAGO combines the police/detective story with the classic undercover superhero story into an exciting manga by the creator of the "Darren Shan" manga series.

Twin brothers Arago and Ewan meet after many years apart. Since they were children, they had been planning revenge on the "Patchman," a serial killer with supernatural power, who attacked their home and killed their parents. Ewan decided to hunt down the Patchman by joining Scotland Yard. Arago was too impatient for that, and roamed London on his own, seeking to carry out vigilante justice on the monster.

Their reunion is all too brief. After their car crashes, the Patchman scrapes their bodies off the pavement and uses Ewan's body parts to repair Arago's. His diabolical plan is to use Arago's body as his new "vessel."

The brothers manage to escape, but Ewan soon dies. Arago survives, and joins the police force. But he finds he now has supernatural abilities, courtesy of the Patchman. He can see people's auras, as well as objects and creatures normally invisible to others. He also inherited the Patchman's less desirable abilities of being able to pull people's souls out, and having caustic skin that burns anyone who touches it.

Since the Patchman's death was never really confirmed, there are still detectives investigating the case. Arago keeps his abilities secret from everyone, hoping that he won't be suspected as the monster himself. The rest of the time, he carries out his special investigation duties, and takes care of the occasional supernatural baddie that comes his way.

Author Takahiro Arai uses his familiarity with British life and culture to make a European setting that's more realistic than you usually find in manga. The modern London setting is also unusual. The atmosphere is good, and believable. (It doesn't feel like a Japanese story with English names.) It also uses a lot of Celtic and British mythology and folklore (Brioniac, leprechauns, gremlins).

The art style is also similar to that in "Darren," just more free and loose. It fits well with the supernatural creatures and mild horror. The only drawback with the art is that the action scenes can be a bit confusing. It's sometimes hard to tell what's going on. And there were a few non-action panels where I also couldn't quite tell what was happening.

Arago and Ewan have a somewhat tragic relationship. Looking back, Arago can see that it was filled with misunderstanding. Each tried to protect the other through lies, but that only backfired and caused resentment. Each felt inferior to the other; felt weak and pitiful, and thought the other was braver. They'd been competing. And it's only after Ewan's death that Arago realizes that he was a really great guy, and tries to find out more about him. He also becomes an emotional support for Rio (their childhood friend and Ewan's fiancee).

There's something "Clark Kent-ish" about Arago. He uses his special skills a lot: as long as nobody's looking. And he tries desperately to keep his skills hidden. That's hard when he's in a crowd and needs to talk to an invisible creature. Or needs to save somebody's life with his super strength.

ARAGO is interesting enough. It's not the most brilliant, exciting, or thoughtful series out there. The characters don't have a whole lot of depth. But it's enjoyable nonetheless. If you don't mind the traditional American superhero genre, you'll probably like this series. I will say that there are a number of unexpected twists and turns as the series progresses, so if during chapter 2 or 3 you start getting a bit bored, you should hold in there for a bit longer. It DOES get more interesting.

For a manga that has a lot of horror themes, stuff is more implied than shown, so there is little gruesomeness or strong violence. We hear that the Patchman repairs his body by "borrowing" parts from other people, but we don't see the deed or aftermath. So if you like police/mystery/action, but don't like to see gory stuff, this would probably be good for you. Also, it avoids the ecchi themes which are almost a given for half the shounen genre. (Aside from Arago's fanny-pinching coworker, and an oogly spirit or two.)

Even though it's certainly a shounen, I think a lot of female readers will like it too.

Overall, definitely not a 10/10 series. But still pretty good, and had enough interest and excitement to keep it a page-turner.