Offered vol. 1
Dave Merrill rates it:
Author/artist: Kazuo Koike / Ryoichi Ikegami
If any manga release should dispel a few myths about Japan’s comic industry, OFFERED is it. OFFERED is trash, trash, trash. Trash in the grand sense of cheap, exploitative entertainment, designed to appeal directly to the pleasure centers of the bored salaryman brain. It’s so pulpy it ought to be labeled “fresh squeezed.” It’s tawdry, sexist, overblown junk food packaged as a thick hunk of Japanese comic.
What’s the plot? Yu Tachikawa is a top track and field athlete from MIT. While competing in Brazil, he’s kidnapped by Hitler’s granddaughter Payetta, who explains that Yu is not his father’s son, but actually the result of artifical insemination using the sperm of Gilgamesh, the semi-mythical Babylonian king. Hence the title OFFERED – Yu is the “offered”, the child of a sperm donor. Yeah, I know, whatever. After forcing Yu to have non-stop sex with her for a week in an attempt to bear a super-child destined to conquer the world, Payetta is murdered by agents of an American named Colonel Douglas, who found Hitler’s body at the end of WWII and learned that Hitler had been on the track of the mythical underground kingdom of Agartha. Now a millionaire heroin dealer, Douglas’s assassins kill Payetta, but while dying, Payetta uses hypnosis to force Douglas’s assassins to follow Yu’s orders instead, and they travel to Douglas’s mansion to confront the Colonel.
And THEN things get REALLY weird.
OFFERED is full of ridiculous, wild plot contrivances, crazy twists, and the insane coincidences that you only find in the pulpiest of pulp fiction. Bare-breasted assassin women hang upside down outside high-rise apartments to knife tabloid photographers in the mouth. 4,000 year old shrunken Agarthan homonoculi are carried across the world in Yu’s backpack. Boston cops are laid low by tear gas as MIT erupts in riots. College professors, assassins, and Nazi grandchildren throw themselves shamelessly at Yu, begging to bear his children. The leadership of our band of adventurers is decided by a nude footrace. In short, if Russ Meyer shot a version of a Robert Ludlum potboiler with more gore and less boobs, it’d be OFFERED.
A lot of the more over-the-top atmosphere of OFFERED comes from Koike’s manly ideas of eugenics and natural selection; the sort of popular-science Leader Principle claptrap that insists Supermen walk among us and the will to power can be bred like we breed wiener dogs or prize-winning squash. Back in the 1930s, Doc Savage was sending criminals to Crime College, where the lawbreaking tendencies would be removed from their personalities by experimental brain surgery. In the 1990s, Gilgamesh’s sperm will naturally give you babies born with bulging muscles and a desire to conquer the known world. It’s kitchen table “science” like this that made Eichmann infamous, and while attempting to put this stuff into real life practice is a bad idea, it makes for delightfully trashy reading. Like a planet Venus covered in swamps and dinosaurs, it’s patently false but entertaining anyway.
Ikegami’s artwork suits Koike’s story perfectly. His grasp of the human form is flawless. What separates his work from any number of American super-suit cartoonists is the fact that Ikegami also knows how to draw clothes – his figures look sharp whether they’re in Armani or birthday suits. His females are idealized and attractive, but Ikegami knows how to make a woman look good and yet still be an individual. What’s more, he can render old people, hippies, bikers, fatties, and little kids with equal skill. Certainly this is the result of massive amounts of life drawing and photo research, but the end result is a manga style that can suspend the disbelief of even the most outlandish concept. For a minute, anyway. It’s a little stiffer than his work on Mai the Psychic Girl, but not as clumsy as some of his Crying Freeman.
Comic One’s package is a big fat tankoban, a 400-page hunk of comic that has heft and weight and manages to keep screentones intact. There’s a noticeable lack of retouching anywhere swastikas or United States Army uniforms crop up – flopping the pages means that Colonel Douglas is now in the Z.U. Army, which is disconcerting to say the least. (Hitler also didn’t kill himself with a Colt .45 auto, but that’s bad research on Ikegami’s part, so you can’t blame Comics One for that). The dialogue is naturalistic and has enough slang to keep things interesting; bikers talk like bikers, etc. At fifteen bucks for 400 pages it’s a steal.
Let me just say that this is not your grandfather’s Astro Boy, or even your brother’s Ranma 1/2. This is a R-rated comic meant for mature audiences who can handle sex, murder, hypnotism, crushed skulls, injury-to-the-eye, naked kung-fu, naked 100-yard dashes, and what’s known politely in the adult film industry as a “facial.” It is not a comic you bring home to mother. It is, however, a great way to show people who think Japanese comics are all cutesy anime-style SF comedies starring high school students. If you’re looking for the manga equivalent of a night spent drinking at a strip club – a cheap thrill notable only for outrageousness – I’d definitely offer OFFERED.
Added: Saturday, October 18, 2003
Related Link: Comics One