As part of this COVID-19 world, I’ve been trying to get through some of the manga titles on my reading list. One of the ones I’ve been working on is Kia Asamiya’s urban fantasy Cyberpunk opus, Silent Mobius.
(Note: For the purposes of this review I am reading the Viz Media release – the Udon release is incomplete, and the Manga Planet release hasn’t come out yet).
Set in 2026, the manga follows the women of AMP – the Advanced Mystification Police. They fight monstrous beings called the Lucifer Hawk, demons from another dimension (called Nemesis) who want to merge the two worlds.
Our semi-audience perspective character for this is Kasumi Liqueur, whose mother was a powerful medium, and who wields the sentient magic sword Grospoliner. She joins Kiddy Phenil (a cyborg from Australia), Nami Yamigumo (a Shinto priest), Yuki Saito (a psychic precog), Lebia Maverick (a “Visionaire” or Netrunner/Decker). AMP was founded by Rally Cheyanne, who over the course of these volumes we learn is half-Lucifer Hawk, and the team is also lead by a Taoist named Mana Isozaki.
Additionally, though it’s not established until late into this run of volumes, Kasumi is also strongly implied to also be part Lucifer Hawk.
Silent Mobius definitely shows when it came out – in the late ‘80s through the ‘90s. Vehicles are straight out of the Syd Mead Concept Design playbook. Computers are like workstations on steroids – heavily bulked up. The Lucifer Hawks have that Cronenberg – body horror mass of tenticles and flesh – feel.
The characterization of the manga is also interesting. My first exposure to the series was the anime (both the films and the TV series) and my initial takes was that it was a fun, though kind of dour and serious series, with Kasumi frequently rejecting the call at every turn. In the manga, from the first chapter she’s much more willing to fight. We don’t see that earlier reluctance until a flashback chapter later in this stretch, where it’s specifically being used in contrast with where Kasumi is now.
Still, the story has some elements that have aged very poorly. In particular, while Amp being all women has some solid Knight Sabers/Girl Power energy – there’s issues with why the team was put together that way. Specifically, Rally explicitly says that she only picked women because only women can create life through giving birth. In the present day that’s really gender essentialist (and also kind of transphobic). It’s entirely possible that this was a slipup in the localization, and the original translation is less rough, but it’s still not a great look.
I’m enjoying the series thus far and am still intending to finish it, though I wish it was a little less cringy.
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