Sporadic Sequential
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Daigo, The Firefighter Without Fear

Don't you love it when a recommendation works out? Last month I was wondering what other manga series I should be checking out, and Katherine Dacey recommended Firefighter! Daigo of Fire Company M. I was aware of the series, as it was the focus of the last ever (guest) Overlooked Manga Festival, but I'd forgotten about it, so Kate's recommendation spurred me to check out the first volume from the library. One book and I was hooked. It's a fun story about a brash young firefighter named Daigo fresh out of the academy who's finally achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter. Only he's been assigned to a station that hardly ever sees any fires, and all the other workers seem like slackers. Daigo butts heads with his co-workers, chastising them for not being more enthusiastic about their jobs. But when the fire alarm does go off, everyone at the station undergoes a transformation before Daigo's eyes, becoming utterly serious and focused. And when the time comes for Daigo to enter a burning building, he freezes up, suddenly panicking and having flashbacks to that traumatic event from his childhood when he was a young boy trapped in a raging fire. Will Daigo be able to overcome his fears or will he be paralyzed by them? Will his own personal experiences with fire — which in the past had always motivated him to become a firefighter — now prove to be a liability?

As you can probably tell, I'm very interested in seeing where this series is going. I'm fascinated by series where the main character has to overcome personal fears to achieve his goal, perhaps because they're so rare. Right now Vagabond is the only other series I can think of where the protagonist has to overcome debilitating fears so strong they cause the hero to break out in cascading waves of cold sweats. Usually the hero of a shonen manga is so confident that he runs the risk of becoming unbearably cocky.

I was also won over by the art style, which has a kind of loose, casual grace to it. And this time I had no problem figuring out which superhero artist the style reminded me of. In fact, I swear Klaus Janson adopted a Japanese pseudonym and illustrated this book:

"There are seven working defenses from this position.
Three of them disarm with minimal contact. Three of them kill.
The other -- makes this really cool KABOOT sound!"

The only drawback with this manga is that it looks like Viz is letting it fall out of print. I had difficulty finding any bookseller that had all twenty volumes of the series in stock. (Viz doesn't have any of the volumes on its site.) I was finally lucky enough to find a complete run on eBay and snatched it up, but it may be hard for others to find every volume, and I hate to recommend a series that would be difficult to track down. I'd check and see if your local library has any of the early volumes to sample and then if it is something you're interested in buying, I'll sell you my set once I'm done with it your best bet may be the site DiscountAnimeDVD. They currently offer a bundle of the first ten books for $70 and they have almost all of the later volumes in stock (except vol. 13) for 25% off. Plus, they offer free shipping on orders over $99 and they're also running a 35% off sale on a bunch of other manga, included great series like Emma, Love Roma, and Genshiken. (I've never ordered from them, so I have no idea how good their service is, but their BizRate ratings seem fairly positive.)

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