Reviewed by: Paul Sebert
Story Title: N/A
Art & Story by: Maki Murakami
Translated by: Josh Cole
Lettered by: Chris Eliopoulos
Publishing Editor: Susan Itin
Publisher: ADV Manga
Chances are if you go to High School, or if you went high school in the 90s you might have met someone like Kaito Suzuki. Or perhaps if you were like me, you might have been one. Flighty and eccentrically enthusiastic the lad lives in his own little world. In fact as we’re first introduced to him he reacts to defeating the final boss of a Final Fantasy-esc game as an accomplishment worthy of winning an Olympic gold medal. With tears in his eyes he looks at the sun rise after his all night game binge commenting “The Morning Sun Sure Looks Different After You’ve Saved The World.”
Left to his own designs this gentle soul probably would send all of his days locked away in his room plowing through countless Square/Enix role-playings games. Alas like most boys his age he has to go to school, and for a seemingly gentle soul, this gamer has attracted a large number of enemies at school. Even his best friend, an otherwise good natured spectacle wearing girl named Kawashima seems to make a habit of walloping him.
One day after skipping cleaning detail at school, Kaito receives a demo-disk in the mail of a new game entitled… you guessed it “Gamerz Heaven.” The boy curiously pops the disk into his consol and well… faster that you can say “dot.hack//sign” things start going weird. Kaito finds himself stranded in a realm not unlike our own, but with the rules and physics of a video game. Kaito is now forced to guard a mysterious boy known as The Navigator (Later nick-named “Nata”) who’s very presence inspires rumblings of force-feedback in Kaito’s personal analog joystick. If you know what I mean, wink-winknudge, nudge. To Kaito’s horror he finds himself assailed by monsters that bare stunning likenesses to people he knows in the real world, and to make matters worse his actions inside of the game have dire real-world consequences.
Kaito has always dreamed of being an RPG hero, but is a game where pain is real, and game over, really does mean “game over” a gamer’s heaven, or hell?
Conceptually Gamerz Heaven bears a strong resemblance to such anime franchises as “Lain” and “dot.hack//sign” but lacks the convolution and the pretension of both series. Manga creator Maki Murakami’s artwork is clean, lively, and appropriately stylized in an animated fashion. Sly touches like Suzuki’s ever-changing T-shirts, and exaggerated facial expressions show a whimsical tone, reminiscent of Akira Toriyama’s earlier work.
There are a few logistics problems with all the real-to-video world jumping and the plot seems a bit side-tracked by a somewhat pointless affair at local arcade, however for the most part Murakami tales a rather entertaining little story mixing in action with elements of high fantasy, adolescent wish fulfillment, and even a few elements of Shonen-Ai. If you don’t know what Shonen-Ai is, well let me just put it this way: Judd Winick is a lot more likely to be a fan of this title than Orson Scott Card is.
That said despite a few flaws, Gamerz Heaven is an enjoyable ride with good art, likeable characters, and fast paced action. Maki Murakami’s previous manga, the boy band themed romantic comedy Gravitation eventually got turned into a cult-favorite anime television series. One can’t help but think that Gamerz Heaven is destined for bigger things as well. Perhaps it might even inspire a video game.