Megatokyo Vol. 2

By Fred Gallagher
Co-created by Rodney Caston
184 pages, black and white
Published by Dark Horse

All right, I have to admit it—while I certainly knew of its existence, I’d never read Megatokyo before now. A tremendously popular online comic, Fred Gallagher writes and draws new pages and posts them on the Megatokyo website. However, with 530 installments on the site as of the writing of this review and no sign of slowing down, I think it’s safe to say that it can look more than a bit daunting to a new reader. With Dark Horse now publishing Megatokyo print collections, though, a new entry point now exists.

Piro (manga and anime fan extraordinaire) and Largo (crazed computer gamer and net-addict) had a simple plan. Unable to attend the E3 Computer Game Expo (professionals and press are the only ones permitted to attend), they fly to Tokyo to raise their spirits. Unfortunately, after going on a crazed buying spree, they’re unable to pay for a flight home. (That’ll teach them to not buy round-trip tickets.) Now they’re just trying to survive in a city halfway around the world from home… but with a PlayStation 2 experimental robot, a woman who may or may not be the overlord of zombie minions, voiceover work for a new anime project, and the glimmerings of love, Piro and Largo’s new life in Tokyo is going to be anything but easy.

As Gallagher’s introduction explains, despite this being Volume 2, the book contains Chapters 1 and 2 of Megatokyo. The comic had originally begun life as a four-panel strip, which comprises “Chapter 0”. (Originally collected by Studio Ironcat and going out of print almost immediately, Dark Horse has a new edition of the “Chapter 0” strips scheduled for the end of March.) So while you’re given a rundown of what’s happened before by Gallagher, you’re jumping right into the middle of things with this volume. And you know… I had absolutely no problem following what was going on. It says a lot about Gallagher’s writing that you’re able to follow the narrative so easily. Maybe it helps that Gallagher does a nice job of mixing humor and drama in Megatokyo; you can go from Piro being in an awkward moment with Yuki to Largo’s teaching Japanese students how to speak “l33t” in the blink of an eye. It’s this constant rotation through storylines that really kept me interested in Megatokyo; the different plots are all interesting, but by never dwelling on just one for too long a period of time lets them all stay in motion, and keeps the various situations fresh.

Gallagher’s penciled art may drive some purists crazy, but I think it looks great. Uninked, his pencils have an added level of energy that I think the inks might bury. It’s a very spontaneous look (even though the reality is that each page is meticulously drawn) and it suits the young and carefree tone of the book. The character designs reflect that as well; why is Erika wearing such a strange outfit to work? What exactly sort of mascot is Piro supposed to be at work with bunnies strapped to the side of his head? None of it is ever really explained, but it doesn’t need to be; it makes them look distinct and you just sort of go with the flow. Last but not least, I was impressed at how nice Gallagher’s pencils look when shrunken down to the 5×7″ format. Comparing the originals online to the print edition, you don’t lose a thing; in fact, there’s an added level of tightness to some of the panels in this smaller size.

Megatokyo Volume 2 is a great introduction to Gallagher’s immensely popular web comic; by the time I was done reading the book, I knew exactly why it appeals to so many readers. If that’s not enough, Gallagher has packed the book with lots of extra little touches that make reading it an even more fulfilling experience. I’m talking about more than just subtitles for the l33t dialogue, here. Gallagher’s carefully taken fill-ins and the occasional one-shot and moved them to the end, surrounded with development sketches, a prose short story that had seen print elsewhere, an index on where every single page first ran, and more. Gallagher and Dark Horse made sure that Megatokyo will appeal not only to new readers, but people who are already reading the strip online for free. Now that’s great marketing. Me, I’m off to read the 200-odd strips that take place after Volume 2. Says it all, really.

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