"Splatoon" is a very popular third-person, team-based shooter from Nintendo. Praised for being both a unique take on the concept and for being one of the then-few new original IPs for the company, Splatoon has seen two games across two consoles in just two years. The big question here is how does it transfer over as a manga? Well, let's dive into the first volume of "Splatoon" by Sankichi Hinodeya, sent to us courtesy of VIZ Media, and find out!
My first thought upon hearing that a manga would be created was: "How will they fill several volumes with the minimal story the games offer?" Well, it turns out the answer is that they simply didn't. Yeah, I'm not exaggerating or being facetious here, the manga's plot plays out a lot like the game itself in that it's more of a setting for the action to take place and not something worth exploring outside of that. Much like starting up a game of Splatoon, the manga starts in a sort of in media res with no real explanation as to WHY any of the events are going on. What's this tournament for? Who are these characters and what's up with this world? Are these "turf wars" a backing for some real war or turmoil in this world? If you want strong answers to these questions then you're going to have to find them somewhere outside of this manga. While some of these are answered in an ambiguous way most of them are just ignored and then the "plot" moves forward onto something else; usually another "turf war" battle. What we get in terms of story here are several mostly stand-alone battles that play out much as they would in the game, but with more direct character interaction and not as much back-and-forth in the "gameplay". Plot devices only really come in the form of character development for our central characters and, to a lesser extent, their rivals.
Let's take a look at those characters a bit shall we? Let me start this section by saying that this is where the manga truly shines. What it lacks in story and a strong over-arching plot, it makes up in fun character development and overall heart. Those looking for deep attachment to the characters might want to look elsewhere, but while not "deep" in the traditional sense, they are FUN and we get to see a lot more of their personalities and individual quirks here than we get in the games. Let's examine our main characters in Team Blue a bit. Headphones, Specs, and Bobble Hat are all fun, but it's Goggles who really steals the show here. His constant showing-up-naked shtick gets old really fast, but I still found his character the only one that really kept me reading through some of the more repetitious bits. Also while none of the banter had me laughing out loud, I did crack a smile over some of the interactions between Team Blue. Rival-wise we are introduced to Rider, Army, and Aloha in this volume and while not as fleshed out as Team Blue, they are given enough screen-time to learn about their own character quirks. A small complaint is that while we are given decent introductions to all the characters here there seems to be a heavy reliance on expecting the reader to already be somewhat familiar with them and the world of Splatoon in general.
Story isn’t everything though and, while it may put off some, it can't be said that this manga is unfaithful to the series. We see the main characters use signature tactics and weapons that can be found in the game and there are other quirks (like the item and accessory shopping) that stay within the game's confines while also making sure it's not just running and gunning all the time. Much like the game it's based on though, things can get really repetitive unless you're the one in the middle of the action. The manga does a good job at moving at a quick pace, but nothing here is really going to convince anyone that Splatoon is a game they should run out and pick up when they're done. On the other hand, a fan might find it amusing to see tactics and turf wars play out in a setting outside of a Wii U or Switch.
Let's close this review by looking a bit at the art. The art here is serviceable and fits the style well, but being a licensed product it’s not really very ambitious. Not much can be said about it beyond that though. The Inklings character designs are cute and unique in and of themselves and look great here, but Sankichi Hinodeya doesn't really take any risks with the designs here, and why shouldn't that be the case? This is a crossover manga and, for what it is, it hits that mark well. My only real gripe with this manga's art is that perhaps a color insert one-sheet title or SOMETHING might have added to the overall presentation since the story revolves so much around color. It's also worth mentioning that this series reads right-to-left which is the standard Japanese manga format. I mention this specifically since it is aimed at a younger audience who might or might not be familiar with this format depending on their level of experience with faithfully translated manga.
That's pretty much it. There isn't a whole lot to say about this beyond what I mentioned above. It doesn't overstep what you'd expect from a Splatoon tie-in, and it doesn't really add anything new to the formula, but as far as these kind of things go, it could have been a lot worse. It's rather low price point makes it easy for fans to buy into it and I believe that this series is a small one so there is little to worry about if you fear investing oneself into a huge, ongoing series. If you're a fan of Splatoon you probably had this long-preordered. If for some reason you didn't, then go out and pick yourself up a copy now, I think you'll like it! If this is your first time hearing of Splatoon though, this probably doesn't serve as a good launchpad into it. You'd probably be best skipping this one and playing the game otherwise. Either way, this is a series that we at A-to-J were happy to see and we're curious if the plot eventually takes on a more exciting curve as the series progresses!
For More Information On The Splatoon Manga:
Overall Rating: C+
+Great art and designs.
+Fleshes out character quirks and personalities.
+Lots of nods and references towards the games.
+Easy to pick up and read.
-Not much here for the new or non-fan.
-Story lacks much depth or substance.
-Surprising lack of color in a series that is mostly based around it.
Note: This item was provided to us by the publisher for the purpose of this review. This fact does not affect the outcome of the review in any way.