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Bokurano: Ours Volume 1

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Bokurano: Ours Vol. 1

Bokurano: Ours Vol. 1

BOKURANO © 2004 Mohiro KITOH / Shogakukan

The Bottom Line

On a summer visit to the seashore, 15 children encounter a strange man who promises to show them a fun new video game. Apparently never having been warned of Stranger Danger, they readily agree, sign a contract with the man, and are thrown into a series of epic giant robot battles that will change their lives forever... forever.

Mohiro Kitoh’s Bokurano: Ours underwhelms on nearly every level. Despite a unique mecha design and Kitoh’s trademark attractive and lanky character designs, the work is paint-by-numbers, a cynical and obvious affair that’s far less than the sum of its parts.

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Pros

  • Great mecha designs
  • Attractive character designs

Cons

  • You've read this before
  • And it was better the first time.

Description

Guide Review - Bokurano: Ours Volume 1

On a summer trip, a group of children come across a seaside cave, and a strange man with an incredible amount of computer equipment. When he offers them a chance to try out the latest video game, the näive kids jump at that chance. All 15 children will pilot a giant robot, and defend earth against the attack of other giant robots! It's every teenager's dream... until the first of them dies and they realize the game is more deadly than they suspected.

I don't believe that, as a reader or as a critic, a lack of originality is a fatal blow to a story's overall quality; there are lots of great manga that borrow heavily from the cannon of great works, although they'll put an interesting spin on the proceedings. Some are merely excellent examples of a genre work, differentiated not by innovation, but by craft. Unfortunately, Bokurano: Ours doesn't even have this to fall back on; the series is a cynical, lazy look at the giant robot genre.

Bokurano: Ours is a clumsy distillation of popular manga tropes: Equal parts Evangelion, harem comedy, and Death Note. As post-modern examinations of the giant robot genre go, it's got a really neat mecha design, but upping the number of pilots up to a Ken Akamatsu-esque 15 (each with their own single character trait: one is poor and works hard, one is talented but lazy) and layering on progressively more ridiculous 'rules,' Death Note-style, about the giant robot battles only serves up a series that is barely the sum of its parts.

It's so bald-facedly calculated, that as each major revelation is presented it feels like you're marking them off on a mental checklist. For example: The great reveal at the end of the first volume — the pilots each die after piloting the robot! — is presented with an X-Files-style air of mystery, but it was already clearly illustrated 40 pages earlier.

Worse, all of this makes the presentation seem... boring. Most of the giant robot battles happen in a featureless white room, with the pilot-kids floating in space. While this is broken up with an occasionally impressive shot of a robot crushing a part of a town, the net effect is that Kitoh's primary artistic concern is to hit his deadlines.

The glimpses into the lives of the pilots are meant to be somber and important, but the characters in the first volume are so one-note, completely lacking in complexity that their inevitable deaths feel perfunctory, cynical and mean-spirited.

The main problem with the work isn't that it's awful — it's competently drawn and the characters hit all the story beats that you assume they will — it's just incredibly disappointing in a line that features genuine innovation, and real emotion and gravitas. If SIG IKKI was a print magazine, I'd probably read Bokurano: Ours every month - I'd just shake my head and sigh after I completed it.

Christopher Butcher blogs daily at Comics212.net, manages The Beguiling in Toronto, and is the Director of The Toronto Comic Arts Festival.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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