Bloody Monday, Vol. 1

By Ryou Ryumon and Kouji Megumi. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Weekly Shonen Magazine. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

Take a typical John le Carré novel, only have it star a bunch of Japanese high school students, and you might come close to what’s going on in Bloody Monday. This sort of story demands a certain suspension of disbelief (indeed, this particular story might need an entire suspension bridge for your disbelief), but once you get past that and accept the premise, there’s a lot of fun stuff to be found here.

The basic premise has our hero Takagi, who is an ordinary high school student – except he has absolute world-class hacking abilities, and his father appears to be a super-spy. But other than that? He goes to class, he worries about his sister, who apparently is hospitalized often, and he spends his spare time decrypting mysterious files that are vital to national security. His friends (who, at the start of this, are mostly unaware of his talents) are a typical shonen bunch: handsome laid-back best friend, tsundere childhood female friend, shy girl who probably has a crush on him, and geeky guy.

Unfortunately, his worlds are about to intersect. There’s a virus going around that makes folks cough up blood, collapse and die, and it would seem to be engineered by a nasty enemy agent (that’s her on the cover in her lingerie)… who now shows up at Takagi’s school as the new teacher, and gives off a lovely aura of ‘I am not an enemy spy honest’ for the rest of the book. What’s more, his father has disappeared after calling to tell him “Bloody Monday” (how cryptic… if it weren’t the title), and he’s getting special deliveries of boxed agents sent to defend him from mysterious foes.

Much of this volume is simply setting up the premise of the series, so things move pretty slowly at first. Takagi and his friend Otoya are the only ones who we really get to know, though we also get a nice impression of Takagi’s father before he is forced to leave the manga for reasons of plot. Takagi seems a bit too perfect, so I actually liked them undercutting this by having him reveal everything he knows to his friends… and the new teacher who mysteriously arrived there recently. Hey, she’s an authority figure! And stacked! I imagine as the series goes on this lack of precaution will become less common.

I was reminded of last year’s aborted Del Rey series Code: Breaker a bit with the style of this manga, which is very much in the thriller style. It may seem startling that it runs in Shonen Magazine, given the children coughing up blood and dying, as well as the enemy agent in her underwear, but honestly the magazine has always been like that – it’s the most fanservicey of the three, and also sometimes hardest to pin down in terms of genre.

In the meantime, we have a series that I suspect we won’t really know how good it is until three or four volumes in. Not that there’s anything really wrong with this first volume, but it’s much like reading Chapter 1 of a le Carré novel, then having to wait two months to read Volume 2. This may be a series to collect in batches.

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