The second volume of Tomodachi X Monster has arrived recently. Volume 1 was a disappointment, but the premise is good enough so things could change. Let’s take a look.
Tomodachi X Monster Vol. 2 (Seven Seas Entertainment)
Written and drawn by: Yoshihiko Inui
Adaptation by: Janet Houck
After the dark and twisted events from last volume, Narimiya Wataru is trying to keep his head down and avoid being seen with his “friend,” lest another crazy kid come and try to kill him. However, he’s soon confronted by a very familiar face with a chip on their shoulder and then also the mysterious Arai Erika, who has a warning for him. Things can only go even more downhill from here as Wataru is pulled further into this bleak world.
The first volume of Yoshihiko Inui’s Tomodachi X Monster wasn’t particularly good, with a weak cast of characters, a forgettable story, and a lead character that felt lacking. I am happy to report, thankfully, that the second volume is an improvement over the first. The main character came off a bit better, we got a bit of characterization for the new supporting cast, and some of the ideas in the story are interesting and have some potential. The volume is still not very good, but it’s a step better than what we got before.
In terms of story, a few things happened, but they felt rather light and the story didn’t really progress all that much. A new supporting cast was introduced, a random villain attacked, and there was a big cliffhanger, but not much else. We didn’t really learn much about the villains outside of their size and getting a glimpse at their leader (who we’ve never seen before even though it seems like the series thinks we did), we still really don’t know anything about the Friends, or even where they come from. We still don’t know much about Wataru himself honestly other than that he’s a normal kid caught up a bad situation. I wouldn’t normally harp on this, since manga series usually take their time to develop and progress their stories, but this series is only three volumes long. The story really needed to pick up the pace, because now it’s going to have to rush or exposition dump the remaining plot points on us in the last volume.
There was marked improvement in the characters, however. While Wataru is still not as interesting as the people he’s around, he came out looking better here. He felt braver, smarter, and more courageous in this volume. He came up with good ideas on how to beat Fujimura Taku, the mini villain in the volume, figuring out the kid’s Friend’s power and disabling it. Heck, he even stood up for Fujimura when Morino wanted to kill him, not wanting anyone to become a murderer or become as bad as the villains. I still feel like we need more development with him or any sort of background though, since there’s not much else to the kid, but he felt better here. This volume introduces Emily, Shinozaki Airi’s twin sister, and we get to learn her motivation and backstory. It’s a bit clichéd, but it does develop her and her deceased sister, why this situation hits close to home for them, and adds some new levels to that first fight in the first volume. It’s good stuff and I hope she survives the series, since she really needs a break.
The only other characters of importance were Morino Riko and Fujimura, who is kind of like the other crazy kids we’ve seen before in the series. Everyone else didn’t do much. The major villains were absent for most of the volume besides Erika (I don’t think her warning would have made much of a difference considering what happens, so she still felt rather pointless) and we don’t get any backstory for any of them. We’re introduced to some police detectives who are investigating the homicides and while I’m curious on how they’ll affect the story, they don’t do much.
As for Morino, she’s Emily’s friend and also has her own Friend monster. She’s calm and reserved, but also thinks about her own self-preservation and how dangerous things are for her. She was there when the big tragedy occurred regarding the twins, so she knows the stakes. However, for some strange reason, she eventually turns on everyone and joins Carnival for protection reasons in the last chapter. It seems really out of the blue since there wasn’t much lead in to that, even if she did kill Fujimura, and it doesn’t have the punch to it that it should. I feel this twist could have been good and would have worked if the series went on longer, having developed her character far more so we can see how she developed to that point.
The artwork is still one of the strongest points of this manga. The characters are drawn fairly well and their physiques don’t ever seem off at any point. Outside of one strange layout and storytelling choice (start in the past, skip to the next day, then after five panels skip back to the past, and then back to the present after three panels), the layouts were well put together and the panels flowed from one to another rather well. The monster design is still creative looking and really different from one another, like with Morino’s monster being a big mushroom with a badass mustache. The action also looked a lot better this time around–it was a lot less static with much more fluid looking movement shown in the pages, making it look more exciting. While there’s really only one fight scene in the entire volume, which happens over several chapters, it looks really good and the blows felt like they connected more. Given the ending of this book, I’m excited to see if the action looks even better in the final volume.
Tomodachi X Monster Vol. 2 is an improvement over the first volume, but not a big one. The main character got some good development, we got more of a supporting cast, a few interesting ideas appeared, and the art was as good as ever. However, the story didn’t really progress and the villains are just kind of bland or one dimensional. Hopefully the last volume can bring this series to a satisfying close, even if these past two volumes weren’t very good.