Ashidaka: The Iron Hero begins in media res, with two young men hunting beetle-shaped droids. Over the course of ten brisk pages, we learn their identities—Geji and Ashidaka—and their unusual powers: they were born with extra limbs. Viewed with suspicion by ordinary folk, “multi-arms” like Geji and Ashidaka have been exiled from human society to a wasteland of scrap metal and junkyards, forcing them to eke out a living as professional scavengers. Adding to their woes is a religious movement that views multi-arms as the spawn of an enormous, powerful demon who was vanquished 1,000 years ago.
The first chapter offers a few tantalizing glimpses into Geji and Ashidaka’s past, as well as a brief explanation of how their arms work, but never resorts to the dreaded info dump; if anything, The Iron Hero might have benefited from a little more exposition in its first pages to clarify why the wasteland is filled with roaming droids, and what purpose the droids serve. The story also suffers from too many brief, disjointed fight scenes; the panels are cluttered with sound effects, explosions, and speed lines that sometimes cover up important visual information about how Geji and Ashidaka overpower their enemies. By the end of its sixty pages, however, chapter one begins to gel, culminating in an unnerving scene in which Geji and Ashidaka realize that the Demon of 100 Arms has returned to Earth to wipe out humanity:
While it’s too early to tell if this series has its own personality, artist Ryo Sumiyoshi has already demonstrated a good command of pacing and world-building, as evidenced by the sensational cliffhanger at the end of chapter one. I’m looking forward to seeing how the characters and story develop in subsequent installments, the next of which is due in February.
For more information on Kodansha’s simupub initiative, click here. Chapter one of Ashidaka is available through Amazon, Bookwalker, and Crunchyroll.
ASHIDAKA: IRON HERO, CHAPTER 1 • STORY AND ART BY RYO SUMIYOSHI • KODANSHA COMICS • 60 pp.