Last week, I talked about the term “OEL manga” and how I felt that it was a genre that deserved to have a little recognition among manga fans. I even showed off Scott Pilgrim as the “Best OEL Manga Evar!!!” Yet recently another OEL manga have been making its rounds among the online review community, and not in a good way.
When Brigid Alverson of MangaBlog.net received her review copy of Tantric Stripfighter Trina from Tokyopop, she tweeted, “It’s like everything women hate about superhero comics, only in manga form.” She passed along her copy to Erica Friedman of Okazu, who lashed out that the OEL title “was written for and will appeal primarily to barely post-pubescent males…” And Deb Aoki fumed that the “time, money and effort thrown at pure junk [like this,] could have been spent on promoting the really great books that TokyoPop does have.” So in keeping with the tradition of taking out the trash, Deb sent her copy over to me so that the world could also get my take on it.
Considering all the things mentioned in these reviews, I was preparing myself for a complete failure of a comic to review for this week. I was even planning to contrast the Scott Pilgrim piece by declaring the series to be the “Worst OEL Manga Evar!!!”
But it should be noted that all three of these past reviewers are women. And while it’s been quite a while since I hit puberty, some facts still remain true through the mind of a 24-year-old male:
- I believe that boobs are still pretty freaking awesome.
- I believe that fighting and nonsensical violence can also still be pretty freaking awesome.
So all of this lead to the surprising conclusion that I found myself actually enjoying Tantric Stripfighter Trina.
First of all, I have to start this review by saying that you should already know what you’re getting into by just reading the name of the comic and Tokyopop’s synopsis of it on the back cover:
Tantric Stripfighter Trina fights an evil space federation…by taking off one piece at a time!… Young Trina Devi’s homeworld Rama was destroyed by mercenaries under government orders. Now the last of her kind, Trina is skilled in Rama’s native art of stripfighting: a tantalizing fusion of Shaolin martial arts and tantric sensuality. With her cybernetic sidekick Chrome Abbey and her robot assistant Bonds, Trina quests to take down the men who destroyed her planet, including a sleazy slave trafficker, a martial arts master and a terrifying Inquisitor backed by the intergalactic government, the COG and CROWN.
But really, this story of revenge and justice takes a backseat to what the comic is really all about – the fan service. Trina’s main weapon is her top, which one would assume to be very thin do to the fact that you can clearly see her nipples through it every time it’s being worn. However, she removes it to do battle and uses the cloth as a powerful whip and lasso, which in the process exposes her bare breasts with star-shaped pasties on.
She also has this special ability, the “Palm of Ecstasy”, that peacefully subdues her enemies. A simple touch from Trina will leave her enemies laying on the floor, moaning out as “every pleasure center” in their body is stimulated. The only “victim” of this attack, the cyborg Abbey, is so turned on by it that her new found lesbian attraction to Trina leads the two of them to partner up and kick some evil ass side-by-side.
And all of that, my friends, may be ridiculous, but from the neanderthalic male id point-of-view, it’s also pretty freaking awesome. Trina is just plain dumb fun to those of us with a y-chromosome.
Now, just because the plot comes secondary to the fan service doesn’t mean that it’s not there at all, and that’s what really wins Trina for me. If you can’t tell by now, I do have a guilty pleasure for series that go heavy on the fan service and tend to read a lot of them. However, I have very rarely found a series with a plot coherent enough to feel like I’m reading something and not just ogling the T&A.
I wanted my money back for buying Media Blasters release of the horrible anime Mouse. The manga Bomber Girl was so bad that Amazon wouldn’t even let me resell it. I had to give it away to some poor sap at an anime con. I would even say that Ikki Tousen, a series that has gained a huge fanbase and many spin-offs and sequels, also falls into this “pointless crap” category.
But as much as other reviews would lead me to believe this would be another stinker to add to the pile, Stripfighter is just not that pointless. The plot is just barely coherent, but it’s there none-the-less. The setting mixes the sci-fi coolness of robots, spaceships, and futuristic weaponry with the gritty action of walking into the ol’ saloon of the Wild Wild West. True, Trigun did it a long time ago, and they did it much better. But this tone is still executed well enough to keep the male brain fairly stimulated in between the frequent bouts of overt sexuality and violence.
Boobies, lesbians, violence, and other male fetishes with a fairly coherent sci-fi / western plot to drive it.
It’s no Shakespeare, and the plot seems to skip around the details a bit to jump straight to the action.
As a pulpy tribute to testosterone, Stripfighter is not necessarily a great comic. However, it’s far better than the majority of series within its genre and well worth the time of those of us who are into that sort of thing.