Monday, October 26, 2009

Fire Investigator Nanase, vol. 1

The story: As an investigator for the fire department, Nanase is still looking for redemption after her parents died in a fire many years ago. She has a passion for saving lives and figuring out arson; she's also the only person to have ever seen the elusive Firebug, an arsonist, after saving him from a fire three years ago. While Firebug owes her for saving his life, he's also got another agenda and, for some reason, is helping Nanase solve a recent spate of arson cases. Why is Firebug helping Nanase and what is he hoping to gain in return?

Reaction: Considering that Japan is a heavily masculine country, not to mention the fire fighting profession's inherent "manliness," I found Nanase to be a character unique in her independence and strength. Much like Apothecarius Argentum, there's a heavy dose of procedural crime scene science, in a CSI kind of way. The common theme of Firebug was initially interesting, but eventually became a gag of sorts, with Firebug and his Mission Impossible-like masks becoming predictable by volume's end.

Deep thoughts: As I've mentioned before, Japan is a very masculine countries in several respects; from valuing traditional male traits to rigid social roles, the country's women have a hard time being recognized even in the modern day. Because of this, Japanese women have few long-term career options, making Nanase's success all the more intriguing. While Japan is considered highly masculine, the United States ranks somewhere in the middle, while northern European countries, like Sweden and Denmark, are considered highly feminine.

Artwork: The art here reminds me of Rumiko Takahashi's work -- marked by cartoonish character design with a shonen sensibility. Given the Firebug's penchant for identity-hiding masks, Tomoshige Ichikawa is successful in making a common thread in Firebug's guises apparent. Unfortunately, there's a good deal of fan service early on; in one scene, Nanase removes her emollient-doused clothes, to be left clad in only her underwear and fainting right into the Firebug's arms. Lastly, there is a burnt body or two, making it a gruesome read for some.

The verdict: Meh. While this wasn't a particularly bad story, it just didn't do it for me. While there's the reference to Firebug's plans for Nanase, I was a little creeped out by his devotion to her. However, I will say that those who are fans of CSI, Bones and similar programs will most likely enjoy this book. Fire Investigator Nanase is available in the U.S. from CMX.

Review copy provided by CMX.

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