KeroKero ACE (2009)
3 volumes, 18 chapters total
Written by Hiroshi Matsuyama
Illustrated by Megane Kikuya
Summary: A loose adaptation of the .hack//LINK PSP game. This series follows Tokio who gets physically pulled into The World R:X, the most recent edition of The World. Time is warping in the game and all of the main character’s from the different past stories are being changed for the worse. So Tokio must travel through the different iterations of the game to meet up with Kite, Tsukasa and Haseo in order to defeat the bad guys.
Review: .hack//LINK as a game isn’t the greatest game in the .hack//franchise, so I wasn’t expecting much from this manga going in. Also this series is only 18 chapters and the game it’s adapting is pretty dang long. So that was two strikes against it from the get-go. But I’m a hardcore .hack//fan so I had to read this, for better or worse.
And unfortunately, what I found inside just couldn’t live up to snuff. Overall, it’s a huge disappointment. Let’s talk about why.
First off, let’s say some good things. So this whole review isn’t a downer. The art is pretty great. It’s not so dazzling that you’d write home about it, and against the backdrop of hundreds of other manga that exist around it the art here would normally be classified as “average.” However, for this story and for my enjoyment I felt the art for Twilight Knights was pretty great to look at. The characters were all aesthetically pleasing, and the girls were all just sexy as hell.
Although, on the topic of “sexy as hell” I’m really 50/50 on whether or not I enjoyed the constant barrage of ecchification of Saika every time she was on the page. She gets a God awful amount of panty shots, a bath scene, and dozen of other things every time she is on the page. Now, as someone who finds Saika attractive as a character my body is telling me “yes,” however as someone who recognizes that this amount of ecchi is very out of place for the story it’s trying to tell – and that it only happens to one character – leaves my mind telling me “no.”
To the creator’s credit however, there is an entire joke “extra chapter” dedicated to not only making fun of all the panty shots that have been in the series thus far, but they wrap an entire narrative around Saika’s Panties being this all-powerful AI that is behind all of the destruction currently besieging The World. It’s a wonderful thing, a truly wonderful thing.
I also find the characters, most of them, endearing and easy to root for. Tokio is a stereotypical shounen hero in every sense other than he stays at “level 1” the whole time thanks to him physically being in the game. But as a character I like his perseverance. And I find it very interesting that they chose to give this kid and obsession with video games when his Mother flat out refuses to let him play video games. It’s not touched on much, but it’s a wonderful moment that kind of tells you all you need to know about Tokio and what drives him to be the best at any game he sets his sites on. As well as why he strives to beat them all in as little time as possible.
Unfortunately, the story IS stereotypical in every sense of the word. Certain plotlines are extremely rushed – such as Tsukasa’s – and others take up not only two whole volumes worth of story content, but are still ongoing when this series comes to its abrupt, cliffhanger ending. That’s Haseo’s storyline, by the way. After 18 chapters and 3 volumes this manga was canceled and ends abruptly on a cliffhanger. It just has no ending, and unfortunately that does work against it when the whole of the series just doesn’t add up to something anyone would want to read twice.
And if I wasn’t a .hack//fan, I probably would’ve dropped this series early on if truth be told. Sure the characters are great, but the narrative is so weak and filled with pacing issues. Tsukasa’s storyline literally goes on for 3-4 chapters. Haseo’s storyline takes up two whole volumes and is still going when you come to your stop. There’s no excuse for that. You can always tell when something is going to happen that it’s not even funny, and when something surprising finally does happen of course it’s the final page of the final chapter.
This is also a loose adaptation of the game so by the time we get to the end it’s basically telling its own story. So don’t go to the game looking for answers to what happens next. You won’t find them.
It’s really frustrating because I really did feel let down by Twilight Knights. Obviously they had some place they were going with the story, and it was just canceled. Plain and simple. I can’t fault them for that, but because of the cancellation I have to look at what we did end up getting and go “Okay, so does this stand up on its own for what it is? Do we need more or can we appreciate the bit that we did get?”
No, there’s not enough padding here. For you average fan picking this up on a whim, if you’ve read enough manga you’re not going to get anything knew out of this. You’re going to put it down because of how generic of a story narrative it executes. You may even find the ecchi moments gratuitous and unnecessary – and they are – you may find yourself confused because it took Tokio like 4 chapters to save Tsukasa but heaven forbid we get the same amount of screen time for Haseo so the we can just move this story along.
If this is your first time picking up .hack//anything, just let me caution you that Twilight Knights is not indicative of the entirety of the franchise. There’s better manga, novels, anime and video games that you can sink yourself into and get a much more interesting experience. And on the subject of .hack//LINK the game, I say to you the same thing.
There’s stuff I enjoyed from it, but there’s was sadly more that I just didn’t. At least this manga isn’t considered canon in the grand scheme of the .hack//universe. And for that, I am thankful.
Final Score: 2 Pairs of All-Powerful, Sentient Panties out of 5
Derrick is a born and raised otaku with a love for comics, anime, manga and movies. The full list is pretty long, but that’s just the basics. Stories set in space are his bread and butter.
You can find more of his writing at IndieComix.net