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Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President. Vol. 1: The Candidate. By Kaiji Kawaguchi. English adaptation by Carl Gustav Horn. San Francisco, CA: Viz Communications, 2000. 112p. (Pulp Graphic Novel). $6.95. ISBN 1-56931-458-6.

Political fiction

Adults, older teens; nothing objectionable

In America, the charismatic Democratic senator Kenneth Yamaoka is mounting a bid for the presidency--the first ever by an Asian-American. In Japan, young reporter Takashi Jo dazedly identifies his mother's dead body; she died accidentally from carbon monoxide poisoning. He thinks back to his life with her and how she slaved in her little restaurant to make a life for Takashi. He regrets that she died without telling him who his father was. All he had while growing up was a fuzzy photograph of a Japanese-featured man, a U.S. Marine. But when he goes to his mother's tiny house, he can't find the picture.

After he finishes taking care of his mother's affairs, Takashi is sent to Tokyo, where he discovers that he is to go to Washington to cover the Yamaoka campaign for the Maicho Shimbun. He's stunned, being a junior-level reporter who mostly writes filler stories for local editions. However, his boss explains that the campaign staff asked for him personally.

Still overwhelmed by everything that's happened to him lately, Takashi flies to Washington, where he is taken under the wing of Nonomura from the Washington Bureau of the Maicho Shimbun. Nonomura fills him in on details of the campaign. Meanwhile, Yamaoka is in the middle of a crisis: one of his staffers accidentally scheduled two important luncheons for the same day. With half an hour between meals, Yamaoka resolves to go to both. Amazingly, he not only downs two full meals but also manages to eat a cake presented to him by a young girl. Soon afterward, Takashi encounters Yamaoka in the men's room, throwing up. As if nothing had happened, Yamaoka invites Takashi to a reception on a boat that night. Takashi is highly impressed with the senator's cool.

Nonomura lends Takashi a tuxedo for the big boat bash. Initially turned away because he doesn't have a formal invitation, Takashi is cleared for entry by Yamaoka's daughter/press secretary, Rachel. Rachel points out all the power brokers on the boat and introduces Takashi to the campaign director, Arthur McCoy, who isn't thrilled by the reporter's presence. As Takashi is dancing with Rachel, he is called into a private room to talk to Yamaoka, who tells him that he can publish anything he wants after the campaign is over. Takashi shyly asks why he was chosen for the job, and [I'm sure you've seen this coming] Yamaoka reveals that he's Takashi's father. Needless to say, Takashi is deeply disturbed, and during Yamaoka's powerful speech to the reception attendees, all he can think about is this amazing revelation. Why did Yamaoka make this confession now? What are his motives?

This is a very interesting little book, and I'm eagerly looking forward to future volumes. It's nice to see a piece of manga that deals with politics and doesn't have bodies and guns spread across each page. That Kenneth Yamaoka is Takashi Jo's father is pretty evident right off the bat, but Kawaguchi neatly defuses the "ooh-ah" that we're supposed to feel by switching the mystery from "Who is Takashi's dad?" to "Why did Yamaoka reveal himself to Takashi?" (Of course, Rachel is revealed as Takashi's half-sister, either defusing a romance before it starts or dangling some forbidden love in the future. Either one should be worth reading about.) It will also be intriguing to see how this monthly series parallels the real election--let's face it, it's got to be more interesting than the real one! Takashi is a reasonably good character for a reaction machine; he's not really allowed much chance to be himself, with all the shocks and important encounters coming at him one-two-three, but he starts to show more than just stunned surprise after his father reveals himself.

The art is a tad crude in the face department at times but usually pretty good. Watching Yamaoka's staffers agonize as the man tucks pounds and pounds of food down his throat is quite amusing! The backgrounds are lovely and very realistic. The two-page spread when Yamaoka tells Takashi "I was the man with Tomiko" (his mother) is exceptionally nice--the stateroom on the boat, the big window with the curtains open, the glittering Potomac and the Washington Monument in the background.

An excellent example of serious storytelling in comics. Highly recommended for adult readers and collections. It might be a little quiet for teens.

Buy it from Viz Communications!

Copyright 2000, D. Aviva Rothschild


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