Santa Inoue, Created by . Tokyopop $9.95 (191p) ISBN 978-1-59532-186-2

A sensation in Japan when it was originally published in the late 1990s, Inoue's much anticipated manga about hip-hop–influenced Japanese gangbangers provides a fascinating look at the impact of black urban style on Japanese youth culture. While the book's plot is a bit shopworn (two high school buddies go their separate ways and end up in rival gangs), Inoue's wonderful drawings of Tokyo, thoughtful characterizations and obvious love of hip-hop style and hip-hop music lift this book well above the ordinary. In the story, Tokyo's districts are ruled by different gangs. Two members of the Sura gang (from Musashinokuni) are brutally murdered when they venture into Bukuro, territory run by a psychotic gang leader named Mero, who's the estranged buddy of Kai, a prominent member of the Sura gang. Kai suspects Mero is the killer and, along with two comical Sura gang buddies, makes a trip into Bukuro seeking vengeance. They find a beautiful hooker who was the last person to see the two dead men—but she disappears into a sex club after whispering "Help me" to Kai, setting the stage for violent events to come. The dialogue is excellent and Inoue's characters speak with the lively rhythm and profane humor of black urban street patois. His b&w drawings depart from standard manga style, offering an expressive naturalism while retaining manga's distinctive ability to depict dynamic action sequences. There's also a very funny addendum on the making of the manga. (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
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