Here at Homicidols, the only thing we love as much as idols is throwing people into an experience they’ve never had before and get their raw impressions. In this case, our reviewer dived into the freezing waters by himself and we just came by with towels and a warm drink to pick him up. Friday Fun resident contributor Salem Black has graciously accepted to write up a review of the Babymetal comic (Oh? My earpiece is saying it’s a graphic novel). Please enjoy his foray into an unfamiliar medium.
Ok, so I been asked to review the Apocrypha: The Legend of Babymetal comic, I mean graphic novel, by virtue of having ordered a copy. I must admit from the outset that I’m no reader of manga or graphic novels, so I thought I would review this coming from the perspective of a Babymetal fan who will basically buy any merch sold in the West, aside from those t-shirts they sell to coincide with the release of everything and anything, like the official t-shirt of this novel, which I didn’t buy and why I had to read it in the nude (lie).
It’s thanks to Babymetal I discovered this very website and all the wonderful groups it’s brought to my attention since. Just think, if I never spotted a 2016 article about Babymetal performing at some festival in the UK on the BBC website, I would have missed out on so much fantastic music and never got the chance to experience the spectacle of watching Babymetal in front of 50,000 fans at the Tokyo Dome and the strange anticlimactic mood that filled the dome after they failed to make their big announcement at the end of the show. Speaking of an anticlimax, lets see what this comic, I mean graphic novel, is all about!
Storytime! The Fox God has been designated to look over mankind and keep the balance between good and evil by some higher power or something. Knowing what a weird lot we are and the likelihood of having to put up with upper class Englishmen wanting to chase him across the countryside for sport, the Fox God decides to not reveal himself to man in his true form, but instead transform into a pretty lady with his god powers kept locked up in an amulet called the Agimat. This amulet allowed Fox God to go to all the mortal’s best parties and have a great old time! Seriously, that’s what he used to get up to in the past.
Anyway, as you can expect, the wicked Vulture God turned up (boooo!) and kicked up a bit of a stink and Foxy Lady had to use the Agimat! to stop him. During the fight, it broke into three pieces, lost in the folds of time. This is the base of our story.
Fox God — who I refer to as ‘him’ only out of ease, as gender is never addressed, but actually looking into the legend of the Kitsune in Japan, often it is depicted as being a female seductress — Fox God needs the help of three young girls. One has the power of ice, another the power of fire (or the sun?) and, finally, the last has a powerful voice that can blow you away (I wonder what member of the group she could be!). Different incarnations of the three girls fight throughout time to make sure old Vulture God fails to get hold of those parts, otherwise death, death, DEATH! Death to everyone! Proberly.
If this seems a fairly hackneyed plot, it’s because it is. I mean, three girls with unique elemental powers having journeys through time chasing some macguffin!? It doesn’t help that the dialogue is so strange at times, full of ambiguities and has to co-exist with the general murkiness of the artwork. The artwork certainly gives it a modern Western gothic look, as opposed to a manga, but it just looks ugly in parts. Some of the beast are just too much of a mess to tell apart from one another or even tell apart from some bit of shrubbery, coming to think of it. Think the monsters from Bloodborne, but scruffier.
The seriousness of the work gets smacked on the nose like a naughty puppy by its unintentional humour. For example, a 15th Century Japanese girl saying “It’s gross” as her response to seeing a monster buggers up any immersion. Some of this could be due to translation issues, but the blame can only go so far. The chapter set in 1972, in which a computer virus turns into a monster barking out binary code whom the three girls, who are computer operators in this incarnation, have to fight to the death was just farcical and totally out of place. For some reason, the girls had Commodore Pet’s, which didn’t come out until 1977.
One thing that always appealed to me about Babymetal was the whole mysterious backstory and talk of this enigmatic Fox God. So I was glad to hear this comic (sorry, graphic novel) covered the origins of the whole Fox God lore. Ultimately, I may have found a true origin story more interesting. Say, a dramatic telling of having three young girls pulled out of Sakura Gakuin rehearsals one day and being told about the new sub unit they was going to form and then someone having to explain to them what heavy metal is.
If you are looking for the origins of Su, Moa & Yui (sob) you won’t find it inside this comic, I mean graphic novel. What you do get is often a difficult to decipher narrative. In fact, the publishers even provided a 2D barcode to redirect you to a web page with the original Japanese text, at the same time kinda admitting that ‘things get lost in translation, so if ya fluent in Japanese, see if this makes more sense to ya.’
Anyway, I don’t want to be too negative toward this. The story is somewhat entertaining and an interesting glimpse into why the Metal Resistance got created. I was hoping to find out a little more about the Fox God, and I guess you do get the back story … be it with muddled art and words. It often clumsily impedes its own seriousness with the fact it takes itself too seriously. I was most disappointed that I didn’t find out more about ‘our’ Babymetal and their role in the Metal Resistance. Actually, I often thought of the whole Fox God thing as a metaphor of Kobametal himself; put into his role by a higher power in the guise of a talent agency, he chooses idols as his intermediaries to mankind. After all, three cute girls stand a better chance to keep the balance of power and sell special edition t-shirts in their thousands.
Final score: 0.4 out of THE ONE.