If you’re just joining us, Briefs by Blake is a special series that spotlights a handful of manga that only ran for a short while (chapter lengths in the teens to twenties).
Here’s a question: What if groundhog day, except sci-fi war-against-alien action? Well, that’s a question answered by the 2014 film “Edge of Tomorrow,” starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt. You may know it by a different name, “Live Die Repeat,” because for some reason they changed the name for the home release? According to the Wikipedia article, “Live Die Repeat” was the tagline on the original poster, and was apparently so prominent on said posters that speculation has it that the home release name was changed probably because people thought that was the title and not the tagline. Personally, I like the original name, which is what it bore when I saw it in theaters and loved it.
But who cares? This is a manga review blog, not a movie blog (though, don’t tempt me with a good time). Well, I bring up the movie because it is, in fact, based on a manga: The one I’ll be reviewing today. If you didn’t already know, and skipped the headline of this post, then let me tell you that the movie Live Die Repeat, née Edge of Tomorrow, was based on a manga called “All You Need Is Kill,” created by a team of writer Ryōsuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata. This manga is, in turn, based on a light novel of the same name by Hiroshi Sakurazaka with illustrations by Yoshitoshi ABe.
That’s a lot of adaptation, but what it boils down to is this: A story about the earth being under siege by an invading alien force. The aliens are extremely fast, strong, dangerous, and durable, and are pretty easily winning every fight, and the war overall. Our protagonist, Keiji, is a new soldier in the Japanese army who is killed in his first battle, only to wake up that very morning and relive his day again. He realizes he is caught in a time-loop and begins using said loop to teach himself how to become an indestructible soldier to win the war. Pretty soon, he meets an American soldier, Rita, who is a living legend for her battlefield prowess. He realizes she is also stuck in a time loop, and the two become a power duo intent on finally winning the war for humanity.
I was so excited to read this, because I have really fond memories of the movie. My memories are made all that much better by my general approval of whatever Emily Blunt is up to, and by the fact that basically nobody but me has apparently seen this movie. Because it’s a fun movie and nobody has seen it, my opinion of and passion for it have grown to match the enthusiasm needed to sell someone on a movie they missed. Also, since I have devoted my life to anime and manga (for better or worse), I was particularly thrilled to see such a cool adaptation of a media I love. (In fact, now that I think of it, I might put this as my favorite manga/anime adaptation movie, at least in a world without Detective Pikachu.)
The manga in question is excellent. Something I’ve noticed is that when a manga is illustrated by someone other than the person writing it, you have a tendency to get much more highly detailed work. I think it’s due to the fact that splitting the duties alleviates a lot of the time crunch felt by most manga creators. As it stands, All You Need Is Kill is a great example of this in practice, with lovely, highly detailed artwork. This works particularly in its favor as the soldiers fight in power armor, basically small, person-sized mech suits. The extra attention the art is able to pay to this really works in its favor.
Unfortunately, I do think that some of that detail can become a bit much, and some of the action scenes were a tad muddled for me. Fortunately, that does little to dampen my overall enjoyment of the series. I, for one, am a bit of a sucker for a story with fun time travel in it, and time loops are no exception to that rule. Applying time-loop conventions to a sci-fi alien war in manga format is an excellent and inspired choice, and works beautifully here. For what it’s worth, it also works quite well in the film, which is a relatively faithful adaptation, though one that takes opportunities to make jokes and be a bit more lighthearted. The manga, by contrast, doubles down on the seriousness and intensity of the situation. It also includes a noticeable, though not overwhelming, amount of shocking violence and gore.
As it is, the story of Keiji figuring out what’s going on, figuring out what to do with it, and figuring out what went wrong when his plans don’t pan out is a story I find deeply enjoyable and engrossing. Chapters of the manga fly by, and the entire series only clocks in at seventeen total chapters, making it an easy afternoon read for some faster readers out there.
If I had to pick something to critique other than the occasionally-too-busy artwork, I would say that the time-loop convention is pretty much the whole story. While I find that to be fun and interesting, it does come a bit at the expense of the world around Keiji and Rita. Very few characters besides the two of them get any significant play, and fewer still get any major characterization. This can make the scope of the story feel a bit narrow at times, and the pace quite breakneck. However, if you, like me, find the story just deeply engrossing, you will likely not notice this, or not care if you do.
What I’m trying to say, in too-complicated of a manner and in far too many words, is that this is a really fun story. The manga is an easy and quick read, hooking you early and keeping you turning pages til you’re done. And, indeed, the movie is a very fun, though tonally distinct, version of the story as well, one more than worth a fun watch if you have the opportunity (it’s not on streaming in the US, but can be rented or bought online). No matter which way you decide to check it out, the bottom line is that I think this story is more than fun enough to be worth checking out.
Blake is one half of Blake & Spencer Get Jumped – a member of The Geekly Grind podcast network! Make sure to tune in and get their thoughts on classic anime series, new manga titles and more!