Project Jikoku Chapter One Review

Reading through the first chapter of Project Jikoku, the first webcomic from Lawrence Simpson (featuring art by Dawn Tabor), was a mixed experience. It has some quickly engaging and likeable characters, makes some good social commentary points about humanity and has both an interesting art style and well written and paced dialogue. But it is ultimately held back by its resistance to hint at the “real story”, or introduce its main character in more than voiceovers and its reliance on expository text walls to establish the world. It has potential, but it’s potential that has yet to be fully realised.

The first chapter is told primarily through a large flashback scene, with narration from the main character (who doesn’t appear in this chapter) moving the plot along. The second page switching to black and white, as well as the flashback narration text in the first couple of pages, initially confused me and left me unsure which character was narrating, but by the end of the chapter that is resolved. The first couple of pages also start as if they’ve been written a little simplistically, but this quickly improves.

The first chapter focuses on an alien race, who look suspiciously like humans but with minor differences, like small horns growing out of their head. They have come to earth in search of assistance in their fight against a race of space pirates who destroy civilisations of wealth and importance, pilaging anything they can. The story makes some interesting choices I didn’t see coming in its opening chapter. Be it some social commentary points on humanity’s fear of the unknown, the fact that the actions of a government don’t always reflect the desires of its people and the intolerance of people different to ourselves, even when they are trying to help. It looks at humanity from the outside and portrays the human race in a way many stories don’t, which is refreshing.

The first chapter focuses on the father of the narrator (who will presumably be the series’ main character for the rest of the series). Visually he reminds me a lot of Billy Strings from Tab Kimpton’s comic The Khaotic Emporium. In terms of personality he seems to be a level headed, calm under pressure and decisive captain, someone who could easily command a crew and knows how to get his job done. Despite how he acts when being a captain, he later shows off a side of him very eager to be the impressive, ‘does it all by himself’ hero. He can’t help showing off and flirting to try impress a woman, and that really helped humanise the character, fleshing him out into someone that was easily likeable. He has a lot of potential and I’m hoping we get to see more of him in the coming chapters.

The art style is in many ways standard Shonen Manga fare. It’s got the huge eyes, angular hair, facial shapes and block colouring style you’d expect from a Manga title, but it does handle its layout and read direction like western comic books. It’s crisp, clear and the character designs are all memorable and easily identifiable. It’s a relatively simple style, but one that Dawn has done in a very polished and well presented way.

One problem that this first chapter encounters is a few instances of heavy-handed expeditionary dialogue. Rather than finding a more natural way to set the scene or introduce us to the world, most of the backstory to the flashback are told in a couple of walls of text. It’s just kind of there, and it does the job, but it was not as imersive as it could have been if handled in a more natural way.

Another issue, the first chapter seems to be awkwardly straddling humour and tension. It’s not a big problem, but it seems to jump a little oddly from serious to light hearted and back. In my opinion it felt like the author wasn’t sure which direction he wanted to make the focus and which would be the secondary, so he tried to juggle two primary moods. It’s not a big problem, and one that was only there in a couple of specific instances, but it’s something that will hopefully smooth out.

All in all, the comic has an interesting premise and is handled well in general, just with a few bugs to iron out. It’s easily worth looking at with these criticisms in mind, but I’ll be waiting for the second chapter, which kicks off in December, to see how the main story begins to play out.

You can read Project Jikoku here. What do you think? Do any of the ideas brought up interest you? If you’ve read the comic feel free to leave your own review in the comments and let us know any of your other thoughts in the comments below.

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