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Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President. Vols. 2-7. By Kaiji Kawaguchi. Translated by Carl Gustav Horn. San Francisco, CA: Viz Comics, 2000.

Vol. 2: Scandal. ISBN 1-56931-459-4.
Vol. 3: The Vice-President. ISBN 1-56931-460-8.
Vol. 4: New Hampshire. ISBN 1-56931-461-6.
Vol. 5: On the Battlefield. ISBN 1-56931-463-2.
Vol. 6: The King of New York. ISBN 1-56931-477-2.
Vol. 7: Pandora's Box. ISBN 1-56931-478-0.

Political fiction

Adults, teens, older kids

Kenneth Yamaoka's quest to be the first Asian-American president gathers steam as he and his people strategize about gaining percentage points in the Democratic primaries. Takashi Jo, the Japanese reporter sent to cover the campaign, has to balance his observations of the charismatic senator from New York with his knowledge that Kenneth is his father. Takashi is also finding himself attracted to Kenneth's half-Caucasian daughter, Rachel.

The Yamaoka campaign strategizes, revealing secrets here and crashing parties there, forcing the Democratic front-runner, Albert Noah, into a defensive position and gaining the services of a crack political consultant who has previously only worked with Republicans. They brave a horrendous snowstorm to drive New Hampshire voters to the polls, and Kenneth negotiates carefully with Mayor Blackburn of New York City, a very powerful man who puts on a terrific humble act, to get his endorsement yet prevent him from running for president himself.

Meanwhile, Takashi digs into his father's past, learning what drives the man. He interviews Kenneth's friends and family as well as his political friends--and at an expensive dinner, he learns just how ruthless and unfriendly the smiling man can really be, as Kenneth rips Takashi's initial story about him to shreds. And all the time, Takashi wonders what purpose his father has for him, whether he's part of some covert strategy to propel him into the White house.

Having now read seven of these volumes, I can't say that I'm as enthusiastic about the series as I was when I read volume 1. The strength of the story is the unfolding portrayal of Kenneth Yamaoka, who is quite an interesting guy. Indeed, the best characters are the politicos and their operatives. The rest of the characters are pretty bland. And I'm getting tired of Takashi's incessant wondering about what Kenneth has in mind for him, as well as his oft-repeated anger at being manipulated or at Kenneth's behavior.

The bland characters don't bug me nearly as much as the little (and not so little) factual gaffes in the story. The second book in particular has a HUGE gaffe. Takashi looks up Kenneth's service record and finds that he was in Okinawa from March 3 to March 12, 1972, and Takashi's birthdate is January 23, 1973. Takashi considers this part of the circumstantial evidence supporting Yamaoka's claim that he's Takashi's father. Um--if that's the case, then he would have had to have been a month and a half late to be Yamaoka's son... do the math... here, I did it for you.... This gaffe, be it typo or bad counting, completely undermines one of the fundamentals of the book, since it proves that Takashi is NOT Yamaoka's son. (And if this is going to be used to prove that Takashi is indeed not Yamaoka's son, then it's hard to believe that Takashi didn't do the math himself.)

This kind of sloppiness in the details exists elsewhere in the series as well. For example, there are many mistakes in the depiction of Colorado. The mountains are always shown as being outrageously high. Mayor Blackburn's wife, who flies into Denver International Airport with him, comments that "the mountains are right outside the [airplane] window"--bullshit! They're visible but obviously a zillion miles away from DIA, and they're completely invisible if there's any weather, which there is (it snows continually while they're in Colorado, which, by the way, it rarely does in Denver). Rachel, who has been in Alamosa, drives a hundred miles an hour to get to Denver in two hours--on snowy highways at night? Yeah, RIGHT. And downtown Denver does NOT have a giant TV screen to conveniently show a crucial piece of news to Blackburn as he drives by. The thing is, Kawaguchi got a few things right, like Sakura Square, the interior of DIA, Denver's sister city in Japan, and WWII-era Gov. Carr, who spoke out in defense of Japanese-American rights. Did Kawaguchi get permanently disconnected from the Internet while in the middle of his research on Colorado, or did he just get sloppy?

Sometimes the political maneuvering is extremely interesting, as in the "chess game" between Kenneth and Albert. Other times it's a bit hard to swallow--ironically, because of all the straight speaking that Kenneth does, and the fact that he never makes mistakes. He has a vague air of the superhuman about him that makes him more of an icon than a well-rounded character.

While Kawaguchi's backgrounds are quite nice and realistic--his New York scenes are particularly good--his faces are not. The way he does eyes makes the characters look somewhat crosseyed. His characters have a limited range of expression and spend a lot of time looking noble, stupid/surprised, calculating, angry, or resigned. This tendency wasn't so noticeable in the first book, since Takashi spent much of that book in various stages of shock, but it's quite noticeable in the later volumes.


Into the snowstorm he nobly strides

It's a wonderful town!

Copyright 2000, Kaiji Kawaguchi/Shogakukan

Eagle is a mixed bag for me. The premise is great, the character of Kenneth Yamaoka intriguing, the dialogue usually good, and the plot growing in suspense as each issue is released. But the technical gaffes and the clunky faces, plus the constant mental whining of Takashi Jo, are beginning to wear on me. Overall, the positives of this series have been outweighing the negatives, so I recommend it to people who enjoy political fiction. Although the story is no stronger than PG, I wouldn't recommend it for younger readers because the situtation would probably be of little interest to them.

Buy the books directly from Viz Comics!

Copyright 2001, D. Aviva Rothschild


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