Rai Volume 1: Welcome to New Japan by Matt Kindt and Clayton Crain is the first trade paperback instalment in a cyberpunk, dystopian, science-fiction comic series, originally published in October 2014 by Valiant.
It’s the year 4001 A.D and the island of Japan is now in geosynchronous orbit around the Earth, which is a wasteland. The nation is ruled by an artificial intelligence named Father. When the first murder in over 1,000 years is committed, Father sends out his solitary hero, known as Rai, to solve the crime and serve punishment.
⚔️ It has a heavy cyberpunk atmosphere with future noir elements to the plot and overall setting that separates it from other titles from the genre.
⚔️ The main character’s motives are quite reminiscent to Sephiroth’s (Final Fantasy VII) motives, particularly in a psychological way; depending on how it’s developed, it can lead to amazing character growth in future instalments.
⚔️ The introduction to the world and basic placement of key points for plot development are jarring and disorienting when coupled with the messy action sequences and blotchy dialogue; begins to smooth out halfway through the volume.
⚔️ Follows conventional tropes: unreliable and deceptive leader/deity, a betrayed hero who struggles with an identity crisis, a desire for vengeance.
⚔️ Terrible execution of these common tropes makes the narrative unimaginatively predictable.
⚔️ The artwork is an occasional, jumbled mess with overstuffed panels and an abundance of details to take in; it is visually overwhelming.
⚔️ The illustrations have palettes infused with greys, muted blues, and blacks with intermittent splashes of vivid colours that are really remarkable, regardless of the sporadic muddled panels.
⚔️ The first volume was pretty mediocre in its presentation, but the series does have the potential to become something much better, with concrete improvements to narrative structure and artistic consistency.
⚔️ 3 livewires outta 5!