Tokyo Ghost, Volume 1: The Atomic Garden
Tokyo Ghost,Volume 1
“I am a weapon of massive consumption.” A line from Lily Allen's song “The Fear” speaks perfectly to the tone of Tokyo Ghost. In a world of media oversaturation and emotional escapism, we have nowhere to go but down—or at least that's how artist Sean Murphy and author Rick Remender see it. Their Tokyo Ghost is a love letter to Japanese manga and anime wrapped in a punk rock ethos. The writer and artist share the same affinity for Akira that they do for the Dead Kennedys’ Bedtime for Democracy, and it shows in their collaboration on Tokyo Ghost. The book follows Led Dent and Debbie Decay as they maneuver their way through a future Los Angeles. Saturated with excess, the world has found itself so engrossed with film and television that all of it can now be delivered directly to your mind while you're "jacked in.” This is now the norm in LA, where no one works for a living. Instead, they chase fulfillment through emotion-inducing drugs and beamed-in programming. Even Led himself, who is a bounty hunter of sorts, is so jacked in that he barely registers his longtime girlfriend Debbie anymore. Debbie—the only “pure” resident left in Los Angeles (she even refers to herself as “straight edge” at one point)—refuses to submit to the culture that has overtaken the city. The couple have a run-in with malcontent Davey Trauma (a character who seems to be a nod to AFI singer Davey Havok). After the altercation, Debbie and Led are allowed to leave for Japan where an electromagnetic pulse has eliminated technology and the people are forced to live a simpler lifestyle. Debbie views this as a second chance at a normal life, while Led struggles with a new kind of sobriety. From here the book switches gears, taking less from cyberpunk-style anime like Akira and Ghost in the Shell and drawing more inspiration from historical action series like Path of the Assassin and Samurai Executioner. Ditching some of the sci-fi trappings, the book relies on the simple feudal Japanese aesthetic and ethos to move the characters and the story forward. All of these things lead to an intense finale to the first volume that leaves many questions unanswered and an opportunity for a bigger story to develop. Remender crafts the characters superbly, adding backstory and a great deal of emotional realism to Led and Debbie's relationship. On top of that, Sean Murphy does an amazing job crafting the style and vision of this addiction-driven culture. Everything is rendered vividly, balanced with a larger-than-life scope. Big panels and beautiful page layouts show off the depth of Los Angeles. At the same time, Murphy manages to show the beauty of this new Japan, focusing on gorgeous forests and waterfalls with a serene stillness to them. This great mixture of art and story make the book near impossible to put down. Tokyo Ghost comes in hard and fast and leaves you waiting for the next fix.