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Ray Volume One
posted November 4, 2004


Creator: Akihito Yoshitomi
Publishing Info: ADV Manga, $9.99, 208 pages, 2004
Order Numbers: 1413902049 (ISBN)

Ray Volume 1 offers up one of those odd, cobbled-together premises that the better manga lines seem to offer in endless variation. The character Ray was originally created as a laboratory half-person from whom organs would be harvested. After her eyes were taken, she was rescued and given a pair of super X-ray eyeballs. She uses these eyes in her role as an underground super-surgeon to better diagnose patients and to operate more effectively. Ray's adventures are split between trying to figure out who originally created her and why, and the various out-there medical situations in which she finds herself embroiled.

The only rogue surgeon in manga with whom I'm familiar is Osamu Tezuka's Blackjack, a character to whom Yoshitomi plays direct tribute in the person of Ray's mysterious rescuer "BJ." One of the fun things about reading translated manga with an outlaw doctor -- okay, I've read two, but still -- is that the strangeness of the scenario offers a happy removal from Western archetypes, a distance that can give such comics a noticeable kick. Someone riding around and performing surgeries is magnificently not right, and one guesses the social constructs and fears that make this a heroic and perhaps logical character type in Japan may be less prevalent in countries such as the U.S. When Ray whips out her scalpel and gets ready to cut someone open in a hotel room, it's difficult not to simply wish for her to stop.

The first volume in the Ray series is well executed pulp. Action is clearly depicted, art styles rarely shift for emphasis, and Yoshitomi and/or whatever artists used have a nice way of moving the point of view in an around a scene to build up an emotional subtext. Our view goes several feet in the air when a wider perspective on a situation is called for; close-ups on a face act as italics and underlining might in print. Very little cheesecake throughout allows for the few sexually charged moments to retain more of their crackle. This is a perfectly competent entertainment.

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