Adapting a traditional novel into a graphic novel will always be an exercise in narrative streamlining, making sure a story and its characters are sound, while sacrificing nuance and details. In some cases, seeing events played out in splashy, colorful art makes up for other losses, but that’s certainly not the case with Haikasoru’s English-language graphic novel adaptation of Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s 2004 novel All You Need Is Kill. (Soon to be seen on the big screen as Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow.) At less than 100 pages, it’s a watered-down and often confusing rendition of this war-torn, alien-filled, time-looping tale. Still, the concept is interesting in any medium, and it’s often a visual treat. So that’s like two-thirds of the battle, right?
By no means is this an outright failure, but the main problem here is how writer/translator Nick Mamatas chose to script and pace the novel’s events. There’s nothing wrong with changing up some of the details in military noob Keiji Kiriya’s quest to team up with war hero Rita “Full Metal Bitch” Vrataski in the fight against the Mimic alien species. Similarly, it’s fine that the Mimics and their attacks were short-changed. But it’s the way in which chunks of Keiji’s first-person narrative from the novel are now coming out of other characters’ mouths, which removes a lot of Graphic Novel Keiji’s personality. He’s just kind of a general dude going through the motions of time loops, with little to no emotional impact for the reader. And memorable scenes, like the competitive umeboshi eating, and Rita’s backstory, just feel weird and random when they pop up.
That may not be the case for those unfamiliar the All You Need Is Kill novel, though, and I can see it winning people over with artist Lee Ferguson’s stylized action sequences and occasional appearances of Mimic guts. Colorist Fajaa Buana’ palettes are also effectively stark and moody. Still, I’m not sure I could ever recommend someone reading this before, or instead of, the novel itself. Plus, there’s already a manga series out there by Ryousuke Takeuchi and Takeshi Obata that’s a lot more involved. But if you like brevity to go with your repetition-based action mysteries, I guess this graphic novel is hard to beat.
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