Welcome to Lodoss Island vol. 1
Chad Clayton rates it:
Author: Rei Hyakuyashiki
Welcome to Lodoss Island immediately presents the reader with an interesting concept: it aims to retell the original Record of Lodoss War story (featured in the OVAs and the Grey Witch manga) as a lighthearted comedy. That’s right; Rei Hyakuyashiki once took it upon himself to take a dreary, dead-serious swords n’ sorcery epic and convert it into a cute, sunny, super-deformed gag strip format, perfect for copying and sticking onto doors and refrigerators (assuming you’re the type to do such things). And on one level or another, it actually works. Yes, surprisingly enough, Welcome to Lodoss Island isn’t horrible. In fact, it’s pretty nifty for a one-time read… but not so nifty that I’m gagging to read it again.
If you’re interested in this manga, chances are you already know the original Lodoss story – wannabe knight Parn and his rag-tag band of heroes fight for the peace of Lodoss island. I’ll eschew the plot and character descriptions in this review, because let’s face it, this isn’t the place to start if you’re unfamiliar with Lodoss. I can’t see anyone having much appreciation for this comic if they’re not familiar with the work that inspired it, and all this comic will do for a Lodoss newbie is spoil them to death. Plus, this parody strips down the Lodoss characters and plot to the bare essentials, so trying to discuss these elements in depth would mostly be an exercise in futility.
Even though Welcome to Lodoss Island is marketed as a “parody” of the original Lodoss story, it’s really more of a tribute or celebratory spoof than the sort of snarky, mean-spirited sendups that we think of when we hear the term “parody.” You can tell that Hyakuyashiki is a big fan of Record of Lodoss War; it really shows in his respectful treatment of the source material. As a result, his work ultimately comes off as less of a true parody than a humorous retelling of the original story. It’s Lodoss War as silly comedy. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that at all, but I found myself occasionally wishing that Lodoss Island‘s humor had a bit more bite to it. It’s fun to see cute little Lodoss characters getting into all sorts of silly situations, such as getting into pun wars or falling out of castle windows, but I really would have liked to see a few really good send-ups of the original’s style or content now and then. It’s not like Lodoss War didn’t have its share of elements ripe for mockery.
Most of Lodoss Island‘s strengths and faults come from its gag-strip format. It’s got a lot going for it: it’s a light, silly fantasy comic strip that delivers decent laughs from time to time. It lampoons the original Lodoss story with fondness and joy. It’s obviously intended for fans of the original Lodoss War series, but it’s not so cryptic that Lodoss newbies won’t understand it at all. On the other hand, by their very nature, gag strips tend to be very hit-or-miss. Lodoss Island is decently funny, clever, humorous, and silly, but it never reaches the level of “hilarious.” While the comic does have some flashes of inspiration, too many of the strips go for an easy gag just to have a punchline in every strip. Personally, I’d rather have a few strips that lead up to a really funny joke now and again. The steady stream of little gags may keep Lodoss Island modestly funny, but I also think it keeps the strip from ever being really funny. Maybe I’m being a little critical here, but I really would hope for more creative gags in a comic that lives and dies by its punchlines.
Another problem with gag-strip manga is that they invariably showcase a few Japanese puns that make sense in the original language, but don’t quite work when translated into English. When this happens, companies usually try to substitute a close English equivalent of the joke. In this case, however, CPM decided to give these jokes an overly literal translation, while including explanations of the original jokes below the strips. I guess that scores CPM some points in the authenticity department, but the end result is that quite a few of the strips don’t make sense until you read the explanations, and of course, the quickest way to kill a joke is to have it explained to you — even if the explanation comes courtesy of Deedlit’s shrunken, disembodied head.
Even though I had a reasonably good time with Welcome to Lodoss Island, I’m compelled to give it a lukewarm rating, because after reading through the volume once, I really don’t feel any desire to read it again. With the exceptions of those who totally adore the Lodoss universe and/or cute super-deformed gag strips, I simply don’t see anyone getting much mileage out of this comic. It’s also fairly expensive, being $16 for a volume that’s about half as long as most other graphic novels. Not to say that Lodoss Island is bad or completely unworthy of consideration; it’s a lovingly crafted, mostly funny tribute to the original Record of Lodoss War storyline and characters. If that sort of thing appeals to you and you can swallow the price, then go ahead and check it out. Personally, I’m a bit skittish on spending that much money on something I’d most likely only read once.
Added: Friday, November 12, 2004
Related Link: CPM Manga