Review by Ian Keogh
It seems incredible that the wider public hadn’t heard of Resident Evil before 1996, and to some extent equally incredible that the franchise has been around for that long. It’s spread far and wide from its original video game incarnation into almost every media, and The Marhawa Desire is the first translation of the manga comics derivative, promoted as a prelude to Resident Evil 6, which is tenuous.
The distinctive subtitle is down to the elite Marhawa Academy location, possibly the last place a biohazard infection would be isolated, and its a source of potential embarrassment. That’s not a concern of failing student Ricky Tozawa, who accompanies his virology lecturer and Uncle Doug Wright from Singapore to Japan. A quick inspection reveals the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance is going to have to be called out, but before they arrive there’s another incident…
Naoki Serizawa’s art is fantastic. There’s no other word. It’s drenched in detail, he has an exuberant way with the cast whether they’re just sitting around or in action, there’s a relish of the horrific aspects, and his design work is astounding. It may not strike the right note of realism (in a zombie graphic novel, before we become too precious), but his design for the Marhawa Academy premises combines the towers of the Sagrada Cathedral elevated over St Peter’s Dome from the Vatican. Ambitious, but perhaps slightly over the top? The religious iconography is appropriate for a catholic private school, and while not as decorative, Serizawa focuses equal attention on the machinery in the school basement.
Transferring a first person shoot ‘em up to comics isn’t the simplest of tasks. Too much plot and you’re not being true to the source, too little and there’s no way the entertainment’s going to be extended over the necessary five volumes. Serizawa achieves the right balance here. There’s a conflict between Wright’s assessment that there must be a source on campus and head teacher Sister Gracia’s priority of ensuring no stigma attaches the to the school. By the midway point it’s revealed about how seriously she takes that, along with her ancestry, but there’s the feeling that we’re not being told everything. What better way to take us to 02?