Review: YO-KAI WATCH #1

Written by Eric M. Esquivel
Art by Tina Franscisco, Mae Hao, & Christa Miesner
Published by IDW Publishing
Release Date: May 17, 2017

Before the Yo-Kai Watch!

Whisper gives us a brief introduction to the strange world of the Yo-Kai and their ancient past. Jibanyan’s ancestor, Shogunyan, is devoted to protecting humans from malicious Yo-Kai like Snartle. After our feline warrior comes out on top, Snartle makes a promise to reap vengeance in the future.

If you’ve ever seen the American dub of Yo-Kai Watch, this comic is pretty on point. However, on that same Yo-Kai Coin, the delivery can feel a bit forward in the comic. I imagine that the projected reader for this series are people and kids who watch the show, but in the same way that wacky antics of supernatural beings translated from a Japanese to American context works on screen, it doesn’t quite work on the page.

Yo-Kai Watch #1 is executed more for younger rather than adult audiences. While it is definitely something in the all-ages range, the dialogue and narration style fit better for older children. For me, Whisper read as a maybe too constant presence, but for kids who are fans of the show, I think him walking readers through the story is a good touch.

Eric M. Esquivel gets the humor and the odd clash of personalities. Shogunyan and Snartle’s interactions with each other are a perfect fit for the Yo-Kai franchise. With Whisper as the narrator, though, the story can feel long at parts. Keeping up with sudden changes is par for the course to be honest, but it doesn’t quite translate for the western comic medium.

I like Tina Franscisco’s take on this universe, and the visuals are where the transition into an American medium mostly works. There are times where body movements and expressions don’t match up with the circumstances, however, so the art doesn’t always mesh but it does well enough to adapt this universe for a new audience.

Mae Hao’s colors employ the youthful essence of Yo-Kai Watch and I appreciate their addition to the comic. Everything feels bright, fun, and full of energy, which is exactly what this comic needed. Franscisco and Hao show their best work in flashback scenes, mixing the oddities of Yo-Kai with a light sepia to distinguish them from the rest of the issue.

Yo-Kai Watch #1 gets a lot right about the series and how it’s presented in this part of the world. There may have been more of the absurd elements from the show than needed, though it still embodies the childlike spirit of a story about, well, spirits.

If you have someone in your life who loves the anime, this is great for them and I think it will definitely be engaging for those who deeply love the characters. As a general reading it can feel schticky, but it is an interesting adaptation of this brand of media.

The Verdict: 7.0/10


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