Review: Btooom! Volume 2 / Author: Junya Inoue / Publisher: Yen press / Release Date: Out now
Meditations upon video game violence, big explosions and senseless carnage – Btooom! is shaping up to be a worthy successor to Battle Royale, capitalising on all the shared elements that have worked so well in other media.
As in Lost, we’re introduced to the backstories of the characters after seeing how they interact on the island, comparing and contrasting their civilised personae with the actions that they take in a fight for survival. Like The Hunger Games, there’s enough of a sci-fi element to add the unexpected into the mix, the flavour of a world where the rules are slightly different, which accounts for interesting pieces of technology like the hand-embedded sonar radar that “players” use to track each other.
The characters lean towards caricature in some places, but no more so than in is common in a lot of manga. It seems to be the case that in more realistic Japanese comics, creators have a tendency to exaggerate the natural traits of their characters, making the cowards and heroes more pronounced, though it would be wrong to say that this is a story lacking in shades of grey. With themes that include domestic abuse, suicide and the practicalities of pacifism, Btooom! isn’t afraid to depict well-rounded characters or sully your impression of the protagonists. The only real shortfall is that it’s all over so quickly. By comparison there were more characters in Battle Royale, more conflicts and more death. However densely populated the island is in Btooom!, we're hoping that the pace will pick up in future volumes.
There’s nothing original about Btoom!’s concept, but it’s brilliant nonetheless, reading like Dot Hack by-way-of Battle Royale. The art is solid and emotive, the forests dense and full of life, the conflict is believable and tense, and the characters are varied enough to give the series some real scope. More explosions please!