REVIEW: ‘Kirby Manga Mania,’ Volume 1 is a Confusing Mess

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Kirby Manga Mania

After running for 25 volumes in Japan, the Kirby manga series by mangaka Hirokazu Hiwaka has been localized in English for the first time in Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1. Translated by Amanda Haley, adapted for English by Jennifer LeBlanc, with touch-up art and lettering by Jeannie Lee, Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1 is published by VIZ Media.

A compilation of stories from the entire 25-volume run, Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1 includes a brand new chapter and bonus Kirby comics Hiwaka created solely for this volume. While this “best of” style gives readers a wide variety of stories, this is also the downfall of Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1. The stories in each chapter don’t feel self-contained enough to work out of context from the original storyline.

In Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1, Hiwaka assumes readers already have a working knowledge of Kirby lore.  While Kirby is a hugely popular and well-known character, appearing in many Nintendo games, it’s a risky assumption. There’s no explanation for who Kirby is or why he has such a tumultuous relationship with King Dedede. And this is unfortunate because this rivalry is the driving force for all of the stories. Even with a working knowledge of Kirby lore, I frequently found myself confused and frustrated while reading.

Had the characters been especially compelling, this could have been at least fun to read. But, unfortunately, they weren’t. Both Kirby and King Dedede feel one-dimensional, and their dialogue is dull and repetitive. Kirby is mischievous, and a bit naive; King Dedede is egotistical and prideful. And that’s it. There’s no variety and certainly no character development. Because of this, each story feels almost the same. Kirby involves himself in Dedede’s business, chaos ensues, Kirby comes out on top. Neither character learns anything. Nothing changes from the start to the end of the story. No one has grown.

Hikawa doesn’t make Kirby or King Dedede likable.  Sometimes that’s okay. Characters intentionally written as unlikable can be compelling. But in Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1, it doesn’t come across that way. Instead, it feels like Hikawa intended for at least Kirby to be likable, but it didn’t work. Had Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1 been not a collection of random stories but rather the first volume of the original manga, perhaps issues with the plot and character development would’ve been less noticeable. But as a compilation of stories, it’s difficult to ignore these issues as they actively hinder the reading experience. Hikawa’s art is overwhelming and often distracting. When there’s too much detail, it’s difficult to make out anything that’s occurring. And it also makes it hard to visually follow the story within each panel and across the page.

On the positive side, Hikawa’s linework and shading are strong. There’s a variety of shades and tones despite being colored entirely in black and grayscale. And objects/characters are distinguishable from each other. Most of Hikawa’s lettering is fine. The speech bubbles are typically out of the way of the action, not cutting off characters. Despite this, Hikawa doesn’t fit the lettering into the speech bubbles well, and there’s a lot of white space.  Rather than letting the reader use visual cues to figure out what’s going on, Hikawa has an overreliance on sound effects. Not only do they feel less effective when there are multiple in each panel, but it makes the scene feel too busy. In addition, sometimes the sound effects themselves are difficult to read, not working with the scene. 

It feels like Hikawa had many good ideas but couldn’t pick which ones to cut and instead included everything. And unfortunately, this was to the detriment of the story. While it originally sounded like a cute, fun idea, Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1 is ultimately a confusing, messy letdown.

Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1 is available now wherever books are sold or through our Bookshop.org affiliate link.

 

Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1
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TL;DR

It feels like Hikawa had many good ideas but couldn’t pick which ones to cut and instead included everything. And unfortunately, this was to the detriment of the story. While it originally sounded like a cute, fun idea, Kirby Manga Mania Volume 1 is ultimately a confusing, messy letdown.