The dream, btw, was AWESOME. I closed a Garganta with a snap of my fingers… plus, in my dreams, I was the affable Aizen from his early captaincy, so the theme of the dream was “power in disguise,” which is a fantastic feeling. It was one of those dreams where you feel sort of sad because, suddenly, you wake up and you’re back to being a regular, non-superpowered person. (Such a bummer.)
The dream was probably the best thing I got out of this four volume series, however.
The only reason to read Zombiepowder. is if you’re a hardcore Bleach fan and you want to say you did… and/or you’re the sort of person who that likes to make memes like this one:
Which is, quite honestly, a fine use of your time. You saved me the trouble, after all.
The schtick of Zombiepowder. is that there are thirteen rings of the undead and our hero–who is actually NOT Gamma Akutabi, but a kid named Elwood– gets caught up in the race to collect them all “Avenger: Infinity War” style, complete with bad guys who want the rings for nefarious and megalomaniacal reasons.
Kubo-sensei himself writes in his author note at the beginning, “Hello, Kubo here. This is my first graphic novel. Mainly, it’s all battles. It’s completely OK to just read through it without thinking about anything.”
And, he’s not wrong, because if you think about it too much you spend a lot of time thinking “WOW, that was VIOLENT AF, and now you’re making a joke???!! WTF, Kubo!” As you know, gentle reader, I have trouble with humor to begin with, so I spent a lot of this manga going, “Is that funny? I guess…. Maybe I’m missing a hilarious Japanese language pun or something.”
But, there’s a lot of tonal shift between horror and humor. A LOT. I mean in the first chapter Elwood’s very likable, ill sister is killed in front of his eyes for no reason other than to, I presume, motivate him to want to make Zombie Powder in ORDER TO RESURRECT HER FROM THE DEAD BECAUSE THAT ALWAYS WORKS OUT LIKE YOU HOPE, HOLY SH*T, WHAT A BAD IDEA. (It’s probably good this got cancelled because is it a happy ending if you resurrect your sister who has been dead and buried for months?)
So, yeah, you kind of have to suspend your disbelief and enjoy watching Kubo learning how to perfect his fighting art style:
There’s a lot to mine for those hoping for psychological clues about what Kubo likes in stories and in general. I have to say, I’m continually surprised by his racial diversity. Some of the people of color are clearly exaggerated for “humor” (see my problem with humor here? There’s nothing especially funny about that to me, and maybe it’s not racist but some kind of Eastern trope, I dunno, that’s not actually my point), because then there’s this random stoic brave doctor who is likable and complete and heroic.
I think it’s kind of rare to see PoCs who seem both authentic (not just a tone slapped over an otherwise innocuous character) and genuine.
Maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe I just liked this guy. He was like someone’s kick-a$$ grandpa (with a medical degree).
Then, there’s Kubo’s relationship to queer sexuality, which is another sort of “??” because he also loves to play alternate sexuality (or in the case of Giselle in Bleach, trans folks,) for laughs. Yet… there’s representation? I mean, in 1999 how often did you see this AT ALL?
I’m also pretty convinced that Kubo-sensei’s editor had to remind him to include women at all, because the female character doesn’t make an appearance until volume 2, and then she’s kind of drawn like Kiego with giant melons strapped to his chest.
So, as usual, I don’t now how to feel about the problematic parts of Kubo’s work. I mean, when our heroine shows up, she’s a fighter who takes hits like the men in the story, fight/flirts with the main adult, and has a complicated backstory. Yet her boobs look like strap-on beach balls.
I don’t even know.
So, should you read it? I’m going to say NO. There’s a reason this was cancelled. I have given you the highlights–oh, except to mention that there are three unrelated short stories at the end of volumes 2, 3, and 4. The first is “Ultra Unholy Hearted Machine,” which I loved, which was about a mercenary and his robot sidekick uncovering a government plot to try to make super soldiers that goes wrong on a whole bunch of twisty levels. That ones is in volume 2.
The second (in volume 3) I liked a lot less, though it does show that Kubo does know how to end things, called “Rune Master Urara.” This involved tattoos (clearly another favorite motif of Kubo’s) and fairy creatures that pop out to fight for the ‘rune master.’
The last one is “Bad Shield United,” which is another sort of government organization that gets twisty because it has the hunted doing the hunting. Admittedly, I was pretty done by the time I got to this one, so I skimmed it.
In my opinion, the short stories are probably generally more worth it than Zombiepowder. But, if you’re going so far as to hunt down the shorts, you might as well admit that you’re a Kubo fan and read the whole thing. Then, you can say you did.
With any luck, you can have cool dreams about this guy: