by Timothy Georgi

Before I start this, I have to make a confession. This poor article has been something that I've been trying to make happen for over 2 years now. The original intent was to do a review of the first Megatokyo paperback that was released by Studio Ironcat. Yes, a lot has happened with Megatokyo since that book originally came out in December of 2002. Megatokyo artist Fred Gallagher has taken something that was more or less an exercise in silliness and turned it into one of the hottest comic series in the last 10 years. The wise decision to take Megatokyo and let the fine folks at Dark Horse Comics produce the series was a great thing for Megatokyo fans the world over. As I finally have the opportunity to finish what I had originally started back in 2003, Volume 3 of the printed version of Megatokyo has just been released and I must say that it looks marvelous. But, I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. I'll talk about how much I love MT later on. Let's go to early 2003 with Lil' ol' Me and the review already in progress:

It's a fanboy's dream come true. But really, it all comes down to a trip gone bad.

Piro and Largo are in Los Angeles for the annual geek and gamers' fest, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3. Blinded by the prospect of game previews, hardware unveilings and the hot girls in the guise of gaming characters, Piro and Largo are completely unaware that you must either be a member of the press or work in the industry to get in. Shocked beyond belief, they're quickly turned away. Despite several attempts to find a way inside, they get shut down at every turn.

In despair, Largo gets himself extraordinarily drunk and, while totally plastered, Piro suggests to him that they go to Japan. Of course, Largo being overly intoxicated isn't in a position to argue. Largo wakes up hours later on the plane en route to Tokyo. That's just the beginning of, well, Piro's troubles.

Our intrepid duo has quite the dilemma when they arrive in Tokyo. Within mere hours of arriving in Japan, Piro and Largo have hit the stores and have maxed out their credit cards. (Granted, to the anime and gamer geek, this isn't a bad thing... until later on when "reality" sinks in.) Stranded with no way to get home, Piro calls up his friend Tsubasa and he agrees to let the wandering Gaijin crash at his place for a few days until they can get the cash to fly home. As is inevitable with situations like this, a few days becomes weeks and it's all fun chaos from there.

Ok, back to the present. That was the setup for the "overview" from the first print volume of MT. Back when that first volume came out, I had been following the comic off and on since the release of strip 4 or 5. Some friends online had passed the URL for it over to me online day on IRC. When I had gotten word of the print release, I scoured the greater Salt Lake City area for a copy.

Now, just being able to say that you've been "published" is an amazing thing. I know very well Fred's feelings there. (For the curious, I had some work on the comic book series Elfquest published in Europe... yeah, not quite as cool as something like the Megatokyo release, but in this world, you take what you can get.) The first Ironcat volume was a major achievement and a lot of fun to read. Of course, that first volume, which contains Chapter 0, originally started out as a bunch of "one-shot" type episodes which flowed into the storyline which we have in the comic today.

With the prospect of taking the original MT strips and putting them together for a print volume, there was a size and space dilemma with the early comics. The original 4-panel setup left a bit of space at the bottom of the pages. This led to Fred giving us a page-by-page commentary on each page's contents. It's always interesting to see what the artist has to say about their work. This is one of the best reasons to pick up the first volume. Fred gives the readers a bit of insight on the state of things that you won't get on the online version.

Comparing the original Ironcat version of Volume 1 and the newer Dark Horse edition there are a few main differences to the books. The Dark Horse edition is slightly larger, giving the pages a bit of breathing room around the edges of Fred's panels. The printing in the Dark Horse edition is much cleaner as well. One of the nice additions to the Dark Horse edition that wasn't in the Ironcat one is an exclusive look at Piro's Sketchbook: The Early Years. There the reader is treated to a look into some of the original concepting for main characters like Piro, Largo, Ping and Kimiko, as well as a lot of different sketches by Fred. For fans of the series, it's definitely something that warrants picking up the printed version.

Volume 1 also sets up a lot of things for the readers, mainly we're introduced to the major characters of the series. Here's a little pictorial of who's who in the Megatokyo Universe:

Megatokyo Who's Who: Volume 1
The ultimate dating sim fan and shoujo fanatic, Piro is a quiet individual who's not too sure about his place in much of anything. He likes Kimiko, but isn't sure he's worthy of her or even how to tell her. Best friend of Largo, Piro is usually the one that must keep him from trouble, or the one to clean it up afterward.
L33t is the name of Largo's game. Hard-core gamer and zombie hunter, Largo seems to live in an alternate reality where evil can lurk around any corner. He has an affinity for b33r (that's beer to "normal" folk) and l33t h4x0rzing. When he's not causing chaos around him, he can usually be found playing video games.
Nanasawa Kimiko
Kimiko is an aspiring seiyuu (voice actress) moonlighting as a waitress at the local Anna Miller's restaurant. She's roommates with Erika and, like Piro, tends to think she's worthy of little in the world. And yes, she likes Piro, but isn't sure how to approach him.
Hayasaka Erika
Erika is a mysterious, very independent young woman that works at the Megagamers store. Years before, Erika had been a big seiyuu for a variety of anime series, but had disappeared from the business for yet unknown reasons. She's Kimiko's roommate and has a tendency to tell it as it is, being blunt in her take on things.
Ping is the Sony SEVS-44936 PlayStation 2 robotic accessory for use with dating sim games using the Emotional Doll System (EDS). She was left by Piro's friend Tsubasa when he left to find his true love in America. Ping, though just an android, has a deep affection for Piro and wanting to hurt Largo. (Heh, who of the girls in MT doesn't want to hurt Largo...)
Seraphim is Piro's conscience and is an operative of the Conscience Enforcement Authority or CEA. Seraphim is a "angel" complete with wings and has the dubious task of trying to keep Piro on the straight and narrow. Seraphim also has a weakness for cute things, like kittens.
Poor Boo. Boo is a hamster that has been sent from a temp agency by the CEA to take the position as Largo's conscience. Boo does his best to keep Largo out of trouble, but his lack of training makes things much harder, especially considering that he's dealing with Largo. Boo can kick some major ass when he needs to though.
Yuki is a 15-year old middle school student that has a run-in with Piro at Megagamers. Piro leaves his bookbag by mistake and Yuki keeps it while trying to find out how to return it. She looks at some of Piro's artwork inside and asks him to teach her how to draw. Yuki keeps coming for her lessons, but something always happens to keep Piro away... someday maybe she'll actually get a lesson.
The mysterious ninja Junpei first appears to challenge Largo in a Mortal Kombat match to see if passportless Largo can enter Japan. Somehow Largo wins and later Junpei appears to help Largo battle the hordes of "zombies" roaming Tokyo. Of course, being a ninja, there's a bit more to him than that. Just what, only time will tell...
Don't let the picture fool you. Smiles aren't the norm for Tohya. She's a hard core gamer that, in the "Endgames" world that both Piro and Largo play in, has found a way to totally manipulate the game... With the exception of the characters played by Piro and Largo. Tohya is very calculating and tends to treat life online and off as a game... with everyone getting sucked in whether they want to play or not.
Dom is an employee at SEGA of America and is a "friend" of Largo's. Dom is contacted by Largo to have money sent over for their plane tickets home. Dom eventually ends up in Japan to find out what kind of chaos Largo is causing along with...
Ed is yet another "friend" of Largo's. Along with Dom, Ed is somehow compelled to help Largo out (something about a photograph? Dom? Ed? Anyone?) and is in fierce competition with Dom. Always totting around some kind of weapon, he and Dom go at each other at every turn. Ed also works for Dom's competitor, Sony.

And that's just the first volume.

Some may ask, "Why does Megatokyo work so well?" I think it all comes down to how well it appeals to the readers. Fred has been able to take some of the fundamental stereotypes in anime and gaming fandom and personify them through the fabulous characters in the Megatokyo universe. Most people that read MT can find something that they can identify with on some level. Despite the fact that some things in the MT world are rather implausible, there's a wide variety of realism in the characters and situations that grace the pages (or web browsers) of the reader. Combine the complexity of the characters with Fred's excellent artwork, and you have the formula for a phenomenon that has captivated fans all over the world.

For those of you out there that haven't ever picked up Megatokyo or read it online, you're really missing out. The wide appeal that Megatokyo has will make it an enjoyable story for anyone that looks into the books or the website. With all its parodies and in-jokes on everything from Excel Saga to the poor employees of Bioware, there's a little bit of everything for everyone. And for all of the hard-core MT fans out there, you really have to pick up Volume 1, if only for the excellent commentaries and the extras that you won't find online.

If you can't get enough and like your manga in book form, Volumes 2 and 3 are also available from retailers offline and online or directly from the official MT store, MegaGear.

Relax. They understand j00. Even if you may not understand them. :)

Megatokyo Vol. 1
Fred Gallagher
Distributed by
Dark Horse Comics
Release Info
Volume 1
Black & White
152 Pages

MSRP: $9.95