~by Yoshitoki Oima
~original story by Tow Ubukata
When I learned that Kodansha Comics was publishing the English edition of Yoshitoki Oima's manga adaptation of Tow Ubukata's award-winning Mardock Scramble, I was very interested. I read the original work earlier this year when it was published by Haikasoru. There were some things I loved about it and some things I most definitely didn't. But what occurred to me at the time I read it was that the story would make a fantastic basis for a visual adaptation, which is why I am happy to get the chance to read Oima's manga and see what could be done with it. The first volume of Oima's Mardock Scramble was originally published in 2010, seven years after the publication of Ubukata's series. The English edition of the manga was released by Kodansha in 2011. Oima's Mardock Scramble is currently at five volumes and is still ongoing. I'm interested to see how the nearly seven hundred pages of source material is incorporated into the series.
Rune Balot thought she wanted to die. But when Shell Septinos inexplicably takes her in off the streets, and just as inexplicably kills her, she discovers that might not be quite the case. Rescued by Dr. Easter and Oeufcoque, private investigators who are trying to pin a series of murders of young women to Shell, Balot finds her body and life restored using an illicit technology known as Mardock Scramble 09. Her life is still far from perfect, and Shell still wants her dead, but suddenly she is more powerful than she has ever been before. At least physically. Balot's natural talent, skill, and ability to adapt to the new technology and the new body that she has been given is nothing short of impressive.
For the most part I liked Oima's character designs although those for Shell and Dr. Easter were frustratingly similar. However, Oima did capture Easter's eccentricity quite well with his gestures and facial expressions. This made me happy because Dr. Easter is a personal favorite of mine from the novel. The city landscapes are marvelously detailed and can actually be a bit overwhelming at times. This does seem appropriate though since Balot also finds her environment to be overwhelming as she is getting used to her new powers. However some of the other panels are completely lacking any sort of background at all. It works well in some cases and makes the reader focus on the characters since there is nothing else, but the difference is jarring and breaks up the cohesiveness of the artwork as a whole. One thing that I did particularly like seeing was Oima's visual representation of Balot's powers and how she learns to use and focus them. I thought the portrayal of her ability to sense and connect with the object around her was handled very well.
As an adaptation, I think that Oima's Mardock Scramble is off to a good start. For some reason, I found the naming conventions (everything is an egg reference) to be much more distracting in the manga than it was in the novels. It's something that couldn't really be changed though without running the risk of angering established fans of Mardock Scramble, so new readers simply have to put up with it. Since I have read the novels and therefore have a pretty good background in what's going on in Mardock Scramble, it's a little difficult for me to give my impressions of the manga alone. However, I do think the manga has good potential as its own series. At this point, there are certainly more questions than answers--it is only the first volume after all--but Oima does a decent job introducing the most important story elements even if it feels like a lot of the details are glossed over. If someone hasn't read the original Mardock Scramble this might not be as noticeable, although some information seems to come out of nowhere and nothing's thoroughly explained. Still, I'm interested in seeing how Oima will continue to handle things and plan on reading more of the Mardock Scramble manga.