By Masamune Shirow
Dark Horse, 280 pp
Rating: 16 +
From Masamune Shirow, creator of Appleseed and Ghost in the Shell, comes the tale of a world science and magic intertwine. Orion tells the story of one empire’s attempt at cleansing itself of all negative karma, thus creating a paradise, gone horrible wrong.
I’m a bit of a shameless Shirow fanboy and I’ve enjoyed just about everything I’ve gotten my hands on from him. With that in mind I was really excited about finally getting to fill in the last hole in my collection of Shirow’s manga. Sadly, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. One of Shirow’s key features is the time and effort he puts into world building and his attention to detail. The detail is most obvious in his artwork, but it’s also often visible in the manga through margin notes, appendices and such. The problem is that this can be both a blessing and a curse. For the worlds of Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed it helped give us a feel for what was going on, the way different countries related to each other, and so forth and so on. Here though, here his attention to detail and fondness for techno-babble overwhelms the story and plot. Instead of things feeling like they’re taking place on a full developed world, it just feels cluttered and confusing. Small tangents regarding dharma seals, harmonics and more take up large chunks of the dialogue, crushing any attempt at characterization beneath their multi-syllabic heel. Random bits involving pranic walls, cubular weapons and more are tantalizing and interesting at first, but quickly become tedious and head ache inducing. The story attempts to maintain a light hearted feel at times, with lots of comedy, chibi-formed, violent and otherwise peppering the tale. Sadly though, it’s all for naught as the characters seemingly run around and do things for no real reason beyond Shirow wanting things to happen.
Visually the book’s lovely, but that’s the be expected of a work by Shirow. It’s not his most visually stunning work, but it’s as dense and detailed as just about anything else he’s done. The action scenes aren’t his greatest, though there is a rather nice fight scene between Susanno and Hanuman, two summoned gods. The artwork here skews a bit more cartoony than his other books, probably due to the heavy dose of comedy that’s present in the story. As a result, the chibi-humor that sometimes turns up in Shirow’s work doesn’t feel as out of place here as it does elsewhere.
Orion is an interesting, dense read that clearly isn’t Shirow’s best work. It’s certainly enjoyable, but it just feels a bit hollow, with the characters lacking any real personality or depth. As a result it’s a curious and flawed read, and probably not the best introduction to Shirow’s work. While I’m glad I now own it, I’d have a hard time recommending this to anyone but already existing Shirow enthusiasts.
Orion is available now from Dark Horse Comics.