When you bring up Resident Evil 6 with longtime fans of the franchise, there tends to be some… negative opinions on it. Many consider it to be one of the worst games of the franchise (that’s not a spin-off). Even those who didn’t hate it are rather meh about it. I personally thought it was alright myself, but nothing to write home about (it was trying to do too much of everything).
Now I bring up Resident Evil 6 because there was actually a prequel manga to the game released in Japan… and now it’s getting released in America here over two years later. Is it good?
Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire Vol. 1 (Viz Media)
Written and Drawn By: Naoki Serizawa
Concept By: Capcom
Translated By: Joe Yamazaki
Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire takes place several months to a year (it’s not particularly clear) before Resident Evil 6 at the most prestigious and elite school in Asia: Marhawa Academy. The head of the school, Mother Garcia, calls in an old friend named Doug Wright (who brings along his nephew, Ricky) there to handle a big problem: A student has become infected and turned into a zombie. Garcia needs Doug to find out what caused the infection and to contain it before it spreads and destroys the school. Doug wants to call in extra help, but Garcia wants to keep things under wraps since word of the infection could destroy the school’s reputation.
The story in Volume One of Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire is basically all setup at this point. It introduces the story, the heroes, the villains, setting, and gets a few mysteries brewing. The first volume does a decent job of introducing all of these elements but where it really excels is in the area of building tension. Every chapter throws in a new twist or complication and builds upon the threats that already exist. Things just keep getting worse and the manga really keeps you on the edge of your seat wondering what’ll happen next and if anyone will be able to survive.
Chaining up zombies and not killing them is always a good idea.
What does not help so much is that Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire Vol. 1 has some subpar transitions between scenes and poor plotting. One minute, a character could be talking to another outside of a building and in the very next panel on the same page, the person will be suddenly inside and thinking to himself about a completely different topic. Or a scene that features a wide shot of Mother Garcia talking to herself and then immediately in the next panel there’s a zombie right behind her. It’s so completely out of the blue and makes absolutely no sense concerning how that zombie got there and no one noticed it. These two detriments, while not completely frequent, do hurt the story whenever they arise.
The three main characters we spend most of our time with are Doug Wright, Ricky Tozawa, and Mother Garcia. Doug is a practical and intelligent individual, very capable at his job and knowing immediately when things have gone too far. I applaud the fact that the moment he finds out that there is a zombie virus going on he immediately wants to call in backup and keeps insisting on it (the only reason he doesn’t get backup is because his hands are tied due to Garcia’ influence on the school and her manpower). Ricky is more immature and less skilled than his uncle, but he does show some glimpses of the same fortitude and intelligence; for instance, he’s able to figure out what Garcia is up to when a building goes up in flames). He’s also quite noble and willing to the put himself in danger to help others, making him a rather likeable individual.
As for Mother Garcia, she acts as our main human antagonist, at least until we learn who the mysterious hooded woman is, and is a bit clichéd. We’ve seen this type of character before — the one who is willing to sacrifice many people as possible to keep their precious business operation from closing down or losing money/reputation. Despite all the danger that exists, she remains very defiant and refuses to listen to reason. The flipside to this is that her motivation is a bit different than usual for why she wants to keep everything a secret and it ties nicely into the brief backstory we get. Garcia is a woman who has been neglected or ignored her entire life by her family and her peers. When her father dies and leaves her the school, she suddenly has everyone worshipping the ground she walks on and doing whatever she wants them to do. For someone who has been ignored for so long, you can see why she wouldn’t want to lose all of that power . Maybe it’s not the deepest backstory you’ve seen for this sort of character, but it does help explain her motivations better and give her some degree of depth.
There are a couple of other characters in the story, but they don’t get to do much at this time around. There’s students Bindi Bergara and Alisa Lin, who are introduced in the first chapter. Bindi is just sort of there in the background most of the time (though we do learn she isn’t completely blinded by Mother Garcia’s power and that she values her friends more) and Alisa is just a plot device to give extra motivation to Ricky when she dies and also introduces another curious subplot.
There’s also Chris Redfield and Piers Nivans, who are from Resident Evil 6, but they don’t get to say or do much other than wonder where Doug is (he’s an old buddy of Chris’ from a previous mission). Hopefully we get some more development and work with these characters in the next volume.
The writing for the most part isn’t too bad. The pacing is very quick and chapters can fly by rather quickly. The dialogue and narration aren’t bad overall, delivering exposition in a decent manner. Horror-wise, the book isn’t as scary as it could be. There’s nothing particularly terrifying happening outside of the building tension (which is handled well).
The biggest question is probably whether or not you can enjoy or even read this as a non-Resident Evil fan. Do you have to know much of the lore or backstory for this world? I can say that it is rather accessible for non-fans of the material, since the manga does a good enough job of filling you in on all the important details you need to know; however, the manga probably won’t appeal to many people other than fans of the series (it certainly nails the insane, survival horror nature and feel that main games have) or zombie comics since it’s not bringing enough uniqueness to the table with this type of story to make it worth a read. So in other words, non-horror fans won’t find much to be interested in here.
The artwork is somewhere between good and iffy. Serizawa shines is in his ability to make the characters and monsters from the game look exactly like they are supposed to. The layouts are pretty solid, the action and violence is rather intense, and Serizawa is capable of putting good amounts of detail in his scenery and characters as well. Where the comic is iffy lies with the characters — they tend to have faces that are too similar to each other and in a few different areas the facial expressions can be very limited and/or not convey the appropriate emotion at all. There are also some very odd, unnatural poses that the characters get into (mostly during the action bits).
The biggest issue with the artwork is the fanservice (AKA trying make things look sexy gratuitously, showing some skin, etc.). Now, the Resident Evil games have featured fanservice before (mostly with characters’ alternate costumes) and it’s not like I wasn’t expecting some in Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire. Notwithstanding, the fanservice is placed awfully in here and really feels out of place. I mean, when you have double page spreads of an action scene where a woman is falling down and shooting monsters, but the page is angled in way so that most prominent thing is her crotch and camel toe… there is a problem. Hell, the fanservice can even open up a plot hole and ruin a potentially good surprise, like in the final scene of the first chapter where a student has turned into a zombie. It’s something that seems fine at first, but when you think about it, makes no sense.
Is It Good?
Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire Vol. 1 is basically alright. There is some potential to be found here in the manga and it’s not a bad side story to add to the Resident Evil universe. However, it suffers from some problems and it’s not bringing anything really new to this type of story. As such, I recommend it only to fan of the series and the zombie genre. To others, this will probably not be for you.
Resident Evil: The Marhawa Desire Vol. 1 is set to be released from Viz Media on November 18th. Resident Evil 6, which this story serves as a prequel to, has already been released for a while now and can be found on various platforms. If you are in the mood for more Resident Evil comics, there are several collections that have the American comic adaptations in them that are still available from Wildstorm and are easy to find on Amazon.