Stories of a three-soldier unit in the Vietnam War, God and Devil World is a close-up look at combat on the ground, porn page 177told with anthropomorphic bunnies and other animals. Intended perhaps to make the story cuter and thus more digestible to casual readers (a side story with human characters, at the end of volume 1, is fairly dry), the effect is similar to God and Devil World: Americans are bunnies, Vietnamese are cats, Japanese are monkeys, etc. Beyond that, the story is painstakingly realistic, although the author can’t resist having a Vietnamese street vendor yell, “G.I.! You want fresh carrots?” There are no speedlines, no exaggerated blood and gore, and no unearned melodrama here; Perky, Rats, and Botaski—team name “Cat Shit One”—face death countless times in countless tactical engagements, doing their duty with conscience, courage (most of the time), and occasional military humor. Kobayashi jumps right into battle, with maps and pages of teeny-tiny text helping explain the details (although he assumes a basic high school knowledge of the war); the treatment of the war is remarkably even-handed. The art style comes from an illustrative tradition, with accurate drawings of vehicles, weapons, uniforms, and backgrounds. It’s a slow read and far more Western-influenced than most manga, but vivid and fascinating, and the work of a skilled artist. The series was drawn left to right with an eye toward eventual translation.
After disastrous earthquakes, human civilization is seemingly reduced to a single high school in Tokyo, where the students still attend classes despite being plagued by giant cockroaches and bug-eyed mutant cannibal perverts in bondage gear. Only one person can save humanity: Kakugo, a soldierly teenage martial artist with (1) iron balls painfully embedded in his body and (2) “Zero,” a living armor shell inhabited by the souls of hundreds of dead test subjects from the World War II bioweapons experiment that created it. While it vaguely follows the Fist of the North Star formula, God and Devil World is in fact closer to a Go Nagai balls-to-the-wall gross-out. (One monster attacks with its grossly enlarged genitals, and in another scene, Kakugo performs hara-kiri with his thumb.) Enjoyably disgusting, sick, immature, sappy, and just about every other bad/good thing you can imagine, this self-aware shônen manga pulp benefits from polished artwork (with old-school cartoony character designs) and well-done action scenes.
Over-the-top drama involving Shogo, a young man whose hatred of sex expands to a hatred of life in general. After acting out on his feelings by killing animals, he is sent to a mental hospital and suffers electroshock and other treatments, during which he has a vision of a goddess who tells him he is being punished for spurning love. The plot follows him through visions of different lives in which he repeatedly meets and loses his true love.
As a child, the young slave Argentum worked for the royal family as a food taster for Princess Primula until the princess released him from service, no longer willing to see him risk his life. While the princess grew up to be a brave and independent young woman, able to hold her own with a sword, Argentum became a master pharmacist. On a fateful day, Argentum and Primula meet again, and the former food taster returns to the castle as the royal apothecary, using his knowledge of drugs—both beneficial and deadly—to protect the princess from her enemies.