Taken from my first take post (with accompanying picture snaps) on http://sekijitsu.com/2011/01/26/first-take-oumagadoki-zoo/
While the name doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue, the manga itself is pretty unique. Previously known as Oumagadoki Doubutsuen and originally appearing in Jump as a oneshot, OZ follows a young female high school student, Aoi Hana, who stumbles on a part-time job in a local zoo. With her love for animals, it seems like the perfect match but little does she know that by night, the zoo inhabitants take on a different form altogether. Led by their egotistic and childish director Shiina, the animals acquire Aoi’s help to make the zoo the most popular park in the world.
Shiina has his own motives for wanting to make the zoo popular, since 13 years ago he had been cursed by a rabbit ghost, resulting in him taking the form of a large rabbit. In order to break the curse, he needed to show love to animals, through the powers of his curse. Due to the curse, he has an excessive amount of magic, which he uses to turn members of the animal kingdom into humanized versions of themselves. With their help along with Aoi Hana, he hopes to achieve his goal and help break the curse in order to become human again.
OZ is one of the most creative and original manga I’ve read in while. As Jump is now infested with new manga in the stereotypical highschool setting, OZ manages to create it’s own world with something that many would not even consider: a zoo. Written and drawn by a young new mangaka, Kōhei Horikoshi, the story and art itself feels pretty well layered, especially given that it is the mangakas first serialized work.
While it may not be as captivating during the first few chapters to some, I personally found that the mangas art and unique setting was enough to help me follow through with the story. I have to say though, the manga ramps up in quality with the addition of new animals and new enemies not long into its serialization.
The second arc is where things really get interesting, as the manga begins to find it’s niche as a surprisingly captivating battle manga. Looking back at the first few chapters, this development was a surprise to me but the transition was executed so well that it was an absolute blast to follow the animals through their battles. With the amount of possible characters to choose from in the entire animal kingdom, the possibilities for future enemies and new characters are really endless, so I’m certain that it would not stale too early in it’s run.
It also helps that the designs of the humanized animals themselves are pretty creative. You can sense that the mangaka has taken some inspiration from some other animal based animes and movies, since I saw some resemblances with characters from series like Pokemon, Summer Wars and the like. Still, they each have their own brand of personality so they definitely feel one of a kind (a particular favourite of mine is the badass Orca, whose features have been modified to resemble a suit. Also, Shiina reminds me of Hiruma from Eyeshield 21, in that they are both conniving and share that evil huge grin. A huge win right there).
While this is a relatively new manga, it is starting to gain a certain following, especially from the western half of the world. Not being particularly popular yet in Japan, you can see a lot of people voice their concerns over the possible dropping of the manga given it’s consistently low ratings in the TOC rankings. I have a feeling that it will avoid the drop however, since the story and setting is too unique to have it dropped so soon, especially since it is beginning to develop more.
The editors of Jump themselves seem to agree as well, since OZ always manages to get a lot of coloured spreads and extra pages, a sign that it is given the benefit of the doubt from Jump, even though ratings haven’t been stellar. High sales of the tankobon volumes recently may soon influence it’s popularity, so I have faith that the ratings will steadily increase in due time.
Even though this is a first take on the manga, I found it good enough to warrant a recommendation to y’all. It’s relatively new, with only 18 translated chapters to this date, so it isn’t one of those monster mangas that will take ages to read. Released scanlations are pretty sporadic at the moment though, which is a bit of a bummer since it’s already behind the Jump releases by quite a bit. Still, it shouldn’t be long before more groups start picking up this series, since I have a feeling that it’s going to explode in 2011. Fingers crossed it manages to get that far, as I really have high hopes for this (vote Japan, vote!).
If you liked the review, you can find more of my work on my blog www.sekijitsu.com