Mega Tokyo is a popular online comic by Fred Gallagher that tells the story of two Americans who fly to Japan on a whim and get stranded. Piro, a quiet, angsty artist who's into dating simulation games, and Largo, a hard core gamer, hacker and beer drinker, stumble through all kinds of zany adventures with the ultimate goal of saving up enough money to get back home.
The fourth print volume of Mega Tokyo contains chapters five and six, which focus more on the two main female characters than on Piro and Largo. Erika, a former anime voice actress, becomes the target of plots by rival companies to tap into the powerful potential of her status as an idol while hordes of drooling fanboys swarm the game store where she and Piro work.
Meanwhile, Erika's roommate Kimiko, who is also a voice actress, finds herself on the fast track to idol status and wondering if she can handle her blossoming fame.
I've been following Mega Tokyo for a number of years now, and what hooked me at first were the silly gags -- a giant gun call the Sony Killstick; Rent-a-Zilla; the idea that Tokyo gets destroyed so often that there's a division of the police force specially trained to deal with zombies, giant robot attacks and, of course, hordes of drooling fanboys. Gags like this are short lived, however, but once I had read through the whole continuity, I stuck around because of the characters. They're all interesting, all flawed and all very real. It's been great fun to watch them evolve as the story unfolds. I have to admit, though, that Piro's angst sometimes gets on my nerves, but that seems to be the point. There are hints that he'll change, and seeing how it will come about is a nice payoff for keeping up with the story.
Gallagher's art style is a traditional manga style, with emphasis on big eyes and small mouths, but faces tend to be rounder and softer. With his background as an architect, Gallagher's artistic strength lies in the backgrounds and buildings. It doesn't detract at all from the human story, and it allows the city itself to become a bit of a character.
Also included in this print volume are stand alone comics, Dead Piro Day art posts and guest strips. It's great to have all these grouped together at the end of the book rather than in the midst of the story as they were originally posted. This makes the story itself flow much smoother and doesn't deny the reader the silliness that is Shirt Guy Dom.
At the very end of the book is a short tale called Circuity that's loosely based on the anime series Haibane Renmei. When it originally appeared on the Mega Tokyo site, Circuity was shorter and much more reliant on Haibane Renmei. Gallagher rewrote and expanded Circuity for the print volume. I was so impressed with it the first time around that I couldn't wait to read the revision. I read it before I even got the book out of the bookstore. It was everything I had hoped it would be. It's a sad story, very different from Mega Tokyo itself, and the densely drawn backgrounds give it a lovely, melancholy atmosphere. The story may still be confusing to those unfamiliar with Haibane Renmei, but there's no denying the powerful emotions which drive the characters. I highly recommend you read Circuity even if you have no interest in Mega Tokyo. If you don't get it, watch Haibane Renmei and read it again. It's really worth the time.
All of Mega Tokyo is available online for those who haven't been following, and the first three print volumes can be found in the manga section of any major bookstore or comic shop. Updates are posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Usually. Check it out. You won't be disappointed.