If you managed to check out my earlier post about Ayumi Hamasaki’s manga, well this is a similar vein. Due to circumstances I managed to get my hands on a copy of “Apocrypha The Legend of Babymetal” and read it through. Boy, do I have some thoughts on the whole subject.
My first read through, which was admittedly quick and I thought coupling the first reading with the recently released “Elevator Girl” would be a good idea… It was not. My own fault really, because after first reading it I really only had one thought…
Edge-lord, western fanbase catering bullshit.
Which, is a shows my changing mentalities towards Babymetal and the fanbase they’ve attracted over the years as a casual fan. As a fan of the band and graphic novels I thought this would be up my alley. It was not. I was not a fan of the art style, direction of the narrative, absolutely nothing stuck out to me and it just seemed incredibly messy at best.
So I took a deep breath, paused my Spotify and decided I would need to read this graphic novel a second time, slowly, no distractions to get a better grip of what it was about.
At my second reading, I’ve managed to better understand the story. Or rather, the lack there of. I appreciate the consideration of the artist and author to not bash us over the head with detail and leave some things for us to pick up naturally. However, I had to look up the plot synopsis online, which shows some concerns with the storytelling.
Let’s dive into the description on the back of the novel first: “”Discover the myth of the worldwide music sensation BABYMETAL.
Tasked withe defeating the forces of darkness and division, the metal spirits must travel through a variety of eras of time, assuming different forms and identities. What we are seeing is not the BABYMETAL of the present. It’s the original story based on BABYMETAL you’ve never heard before. The long-hidden metal spirit’s apocrypha of the METAL RESISTANCE will emerge”.
Which, does sound pretty neat if you aren’t into deep analysis of BABYMETAL lives. This is a nice, easy way to transition into the ‘lore’ of the group without too many conspiracy theories. With my second read through, I came to appreciate while the artistic direction even if the art isn’t my personal taste. The composition and flow of the graphic novel is really well done. There’s a lot of techniques that bring your eye to flow from speech bubble to bubble incredibly naturally, as well as take in the overall image of the story. It really is solid with it’s artistic delivery.
Unfortunately, the art couldn’t solve the problems with the actual story. There are times when you need to re-read a story once or twice in order to get all the fine details or to just relive that the story did that. A graphic novel about Babymetal is, sorry super fans, shouldn’t be that type of story. It has a coherent goal once I re-read the second time, but sudden and abrupt time skips, re-naming of character without establishing personalities or motivations beyond ‘this is a stand in of Moa/Suu/Yui-metal and they’re gonna time travel for the fox god!’, just does not cut it.
This is a story where some prequel to establish what Babymetal is/was/continues to be would have been a good idea. Even a sequel to go back to parts of the story and fully flesh out and explain the situation would have been welcomed in my eyes as a fan, and reader.
My theory is that Kobametal (Babymetal’s main manager) gave the artist/writer creative freedom and they wrote and overwhelming, several hundred page story. Management went ‘Yeah… we don’t have the budget for this, can you scrap everything down to about a hundred odd pages and call it a day?’ and they did. There’s just enough of a plot and set up to understand the motions of this graphic novel. However, all the fight scenes and revelations fall flat on their faces since there’s nothing to get you invested in where the story goes.
It still felt like this graphic novel was pandering to Babymetal white knighters who will defend anything and everything Babymetal and their management does. Which is fine, there should be something out there for every type of fan. I get the feeling that Kobametal just pulled some strings to drag out the ‘lore’ of Babymetal more then it’s worth. That and, instead of fans sinking their money into yet another T-shirt or towel that they got a graphic novel this time.
After reading through it twice, and even a third time to just make sure I wasn’t crazy, I was left with a completely different set of questions. My main question was, who was this story even written for? Who was the target audience of this project?
Super fans will already know the lore from concert DVD’s, fan forums and the girl’s themselves. Those same fans, probably bought this in the nice looking special edition for collection sake, but I can’t see them getting any new insight from the series. It’s a change up from previous merchandise, but not actually contributing to the fandom theories.
However, casual fans or just graphic novel fans who pick this up clearly aren’t the target audience either. There’s not enough context to hook a new reader/viewer into being seriously invested in this side project.
My opinion is that this project is suppose to be approached as a separate entity in the Babymetal sphere but not really related. Which, at the end of the day leaves this graphic novel floating in it’s own dimension, like the story itself I suppose.
For the serious Babymetal fans, pick it up to add to the collection. You need no introduction to this lore. For casual fans, you can pass on this. Stick to the music and music videos, this graphic novel won’t really add or detract from your experience. For the graphic novel fans, a solid pass unless you’re a fan of the artist.