by Timothy Georgi
The topic for this issue's @manga! offering is something from an unlikely place for PLEX International Design. Typically known for the planning, design, development and production of character toys for popular series like Power Rangers, Digimon and Gundam, PLEX takes themselves into new waters with the creation of something different, a manga series. In their first go-round, we're treated to a fun, fast-paced romp from heaven to hell and everything in between from the mind of Tetsuya Aoki in Angel's Wing.
It's a legend from ancient times. Feathers from an angel's wings have the power to grant wishes and every Christmas Eve, an angel descends from heaven and grants the wishes of the lucky individuals it encounters. For centuries, the angel Mashiro has been traveling the world granting the wishes, but it's come time for her to retire as the messenger from heaven to the world. But before she's hangs up her hat, she's chosen to train and pass on the responsibility of wish granting to a young, enthusiastic angel named Mary.
Mashiro has trained Mary as much as she's able to in heaven and tells Mary that it's time for her to go down to Earth and continue her preparations to take over. Before she goes, Mashiro gives Mary one of her feathers, telling her to use it if she wants and that it holds special powers. Mary is determined to do the job on her own so she decides to hold on to the feather.
As Mary heads down, she hears a young boy named Ken wishing for help with his dying mother. Before she's able to get to Ken, Mary is ambushed by a devil from hell named Shion who attacks Mary and steals her wings, knowing that the wings hold great power. Ken approaches as Shion takes off with the wings and decides to help Mary get her wings back. During the pursuit, Ken's mother passes on leaving him to fend for himself until he can track down someone to take care of him. Shion is eventually stopped and must now join Mary in an effort to help find Ken's missing father. And that's just the beginning of the insanity and fun.
Looking at the concept for Angel's Wing and then comparing it to the usual fare of what PLEX has produced in the past is a great departure from what they are known for. Going from mecha and action characters to the cute, exciting shoujo world found in Angel's Wings isn't what you'd be expecting. Aoki takes the simple concepts of the battle between heaven and hell and turn it into a journey that invokes a sense of pure and simple fun.
The artwork in the series is very enchanting. The use of "normal" character designs and super deformed art lend itself well to the comedic nature of the story. Another great positive point is the use of color in the series. Going contrary to the typical black and white art formula in a manga series creates a rich visual presentation that helps keep your attention moving forward with the story. The vibrant colors help combat the one nitpick I've found with the series. There are times when the dialog can happen so fast that it's a bit difficult to keep track of some of the conversations, but the visuals keep things going even in the times of confusion. The story for Angel's Wing is very simple, but engaging enough to be something that a wide variety of fans will enjoy.
Each volume also has a small "informative" section at the end to show the reader some behind-the-scenes of some of the happenings at PLEX. In the first volume, they present the comedic "How To Draw" section where they chronicle the pre-planning and original concepts for what became Angel's Wing. There you'll be able to see some of the original character designs and how the story changed form the original. In the second volume, PLEX takes us to a few conventions and shows off some of the giveaways that they had at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2002. Cute artwork in the SDCC section too. Very nice stuff.
In addition to the manga series, PLEX is also in the process of producing an anime series based on the manga. The animation is some of the best I've seen in recent years and has the same vibrant feeling of the coloring of the manga series. It will be something to keep an eye out for if you're a hard-core shoujo fan or if you just want to have a fun time with some anime. There's currently no scheduled release date, so look for that coming in the near future. For those that can't wait, the first two volumes of the manga are available now from Fanboy Entertainment. Check it out!