Anybody in the mood for another retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, or video game tie in? Yeah, me neither. So why the hell did I like Akanerio #1 so much?
Here’s the official description from Dark Horse Comics:
From the brilliant imagination of video game auteur American McGee comes a dazzling re envisioning of Red Riding Hood set in the wondrous world of Japanese folklore! Justin Aclin and Vasilis Lolos take Kani a young woman torn between two cultures on an epic adventure battling devious yokai for the fate of her world!
I was already crafting a negative review of Akaneiro #1 in my head before I even turned to page 1, simply based on the description. It just had the feel of a market-tested narrative trying to tickle all constituents at once. The Red Riding Hood angle seemed devised to pull the Willingham and “Once Upon a Time” fans; the Japanese folklore twist seemed to cater to the Lone Wolf and Shi Long Pang crew; and the only thing the video game element seemed to attract was my fear that this would read like a 32 page commercial. But guess what. It was good. And I want to know what happens next.
Kudos to writer Justin Aclin for putting story front-and-center. In Akanerio #1 we meet Kani, a small-time village girl who embarks on a mission to become a notorious Red Hunter so that she can save two groups from an emerging threat. In doing so, she positions herself as a bridge between two cultures. While there’s many directions a writer could take Red Riding Hood fable, Alcin seems intent on exploring it as a coming-of-age story. And a good one.
Vasilis Lolos’ art is a treat. Facial expressions work just as hard as the dialogue and Lolos has a knack for big rich lines and engaging details. Strangely, there are a few moments when Lolos seems to shift towards a more traditional Manga style, especially with faces, and especially with Kani — a tic that pulls you out of the story for a moment. But overall the art is beautiful.
There’s still many miles to go before we see if Dark Horse can fully deliver on the promise of this launch, but as long as they keep story first and the tie-in second, I think they’ll be okay.