So there I was, strolling about in a comic shop with my friend just wasting my time knowing that I was eventually going to pick up the next Walking Dead. I’ll do that sometimes, walk into a store knowing that no matter what I look at I’m going to buy SOMETHING. As I looked at shelf after shelf I noticed a strange book. It was near the bottom of the rack, hardcover, with brilliant glossy pages, and it was begging for my touch.
Okko is series of Franco-Belgian comics published by Delcourt and done in mini-series or “Cycles” drawn and written by Hub and while I’ve never heard of Hub I can easily say that I am now a fan.
Okko takes place in the far off lands of the Island nation dubbed the Empire of Pajan (lets pretend its not Japan). Pajan is country torn apart by war by several families claiming legitimate rule over the lands in an era called the Time of Asagiri (mists for all you round-eye). Okko follows a wandering samurai and his group of demon hunters who travel the country taking on various jobs to sustain their living. Okko’s entourage consists of Noburo, a giant of a man who wears a demon mask and wields a spear and a mischievous monk named Noshin.
The “Cycles” are said to be self contained stories in Okko and party’s travels and this particular Cycle is the story of an adolescent boy named Tikko who commissions Okko to save his sister Little Carp after she has been kidnapped, but because he has no money, Tikko must swear sexy man-boy-love* loyalty to Okko (*I made that man boy love stuff up). Okko and party eventually discover that Little Carp’s capture is the work of demons and they must journey out to save her.
What I liked
Hub has created a rich and diverse land that has been well thought out and keeps in nature of the fantastical world of demons and demon hunters. I never once felt lost in this expansive world that Hub has created for Okko.
This comic also has boobies, enough said.
What I loved
The illustrations in Okko are mesmerizing. Every panel is beautifully detailed and nothing feels wasted. Hub is an amazing artist. From the cover-art which has a Japanese Castle on a chunk of earth floating over the ocean to the scars and wrinkles of the wise Okko you will not be disappointed when it comes to how gorgeous this comic looks.
What I didn’t like
While Hub obviously has a plan, ideas, and purpose to this world, we never see it. When I said I never once felt lost in the Empire of Pajan this is not always a good thing. When a monk can summon water spirits to aid him and strange armored battle-puppets roam the many battlefields of Pajan, I feel like Hub sells the world short in showing only a glimpse into what he has created. Now, take this complaint with a grain of salt because it’s coming from a guy who buys World of Warcraft Novels to satisfy his lore-nerding needs.
What I hated
Personally, I could not stand this next point and I hope you all follow me on this one.
I don’t know if this is intentional on the localization side but the comic is littered with Japanese words that are left untranslated. For example, the monk often requests the aid of a Kami. Kami is the Japanese word for God or a god and while this doesn’t seem like a big deal, reading lines like “Thank the Kami’s!” or “I’m about to summon a Kami here” feels really tacky. There are many instances of these words and I don’t understand why they were left in. It wouldn’t make a difference to the reader whether they read Kami or God but every time I have to see “Kami’s” a nerve twitches in my eye.
Overall Okko is a beautifully illustrated story that represents the world in stunning detail, it’s a shame that we only see a sliver of what this world has to offer. The story is easy to follow almost to a fault and because of this never fully immerses you. This Hardcover graphic novel with it’s glossy pages feels almost like it was meant to be left on a coffee table book for a guest to admire, but once you crack it open you’ll never want to leave it out for just anyone to grab.
Okko: The Cycle of Water feels exactly what it is, a first in a series of graphic novels which will surely reward those who decide to continue into the other two volumes. [Okko at Archaia Comics]