Lives Vol. 1 (Manga)
Publisher: Tokyopop
Release Date: February 2011
Price: $12.99
Creator: Masayuki Taguchi
Format: 192 pgs.; B&W; Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-14-27816-67-2
Age Rating: Mature
ICv2 Rating: 3 Stars out of 5

Without warning a meteor strikes the Kanto region of Japan and a handful of survivors wake up to find that they’ve been inexplicably hurtled into a savage, primordial world.  There they discover they can transform into horrible creatures and survival becomes a matter of eat or be eaten.

There are two groups, one made up of Kyoka, a singer, Shingo, a laid back martial artist and abused child Mabo; the other is composed of the Saotone siblings, eating machine Kyutaro and the cute Hazuki.  The initial chapters do a good job of filling out the characters so we’re able to sympathize with them as they’re forced to make increasingly desperate choices which still trying to hang out onto their humanity.

As you might expect from a manga from the creator of Battle Royale the first volume of Lives has copious amounts of his signature (exclusively) female nudity, grisly violence and jet black worldview.  But thanks to the fantasy setting of the series creator Masayki Taguchi is able to show off a previously unseen talent for drawing some really original and unsettling monsters.

If anything Lives might actually be even bleaker than Battle Royale as the survivors’ new situation comes with only single rule.  And the justification for it comes during a brief appearance by a godlike, winged (naturally) naked woman who encourages them to just give in and accept their baser natures.  It’s definitely strange and dark but should appeal to Masayki’s many fans.

--Steve Bennett: Writer and retail services consultant.