86-coverConsume is a continent at war. The Ninteldo empire has nearly crushed the smaller nation of Segua and other countries are scrabbling for territory. But the tide may soon be turning: a Seguan boy named Gear could change the fate of the war with his super-speed and mighty determination.

World War Blue is a story about the video game console wars. Every nation represents a game company and each major character represents a hit game. Ninteldo is ruled by Marcus, whose familiar mustache, dinosaur steed, and brother Gluiji lend a strong resemblance to Nintendo’s famous Mario. Besides being unnaturally fast, Gear has spiky blue hair and his nickname is “The Blue Sonic,” just in case anyone hadn’t already connected him to Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog.

Not all of the references are so obvious: other game companies include Data East as the kingdom of Decoran, Hudson Soft as the Republic of Habeed, and more. Each boasts at least one hero who represents a game made by that company. For readers who haven’t picked up on the subtext, the series periodically includes a section in which cartoon characters discuss the real-life history of video games and the companies that make them. Of course, these sections drop heavy hints about the companies and games that are represented in the plot.

The series falls into the shonen genre, full of battle and heroics, but it’s also full of highly sexualized portrayals of women. Opal, the female character who gets the most page time, is a powerful warrior who wears a skimpy tube top, a loincloth, and laughably, one armored shoulder plate. While it’s true that male lead Gear is shirtless for the entire series, he is never shown in sexy poses, groped, or threatened with rape—all things that regularly happen to Opal. Gear’s outfit is not impractical for a speedster, and many real-life men wear long shorts to go running. Opal’s outfit would be impractical in any situation, but especially in combat; indeed, she takes at least one serious wound to her fully-exposed back.

Tejirov, a lecherous mage, represents the game Tetris—prepare for comments about having a piece that’s just the right fit for a hole. He frequently talks about self-pleasuring, and while sometimes this turns out to refer to something non-sexual, other times he really is talking about masturbation. As Tejirov trains Gear and Opal, he teaches Opal a magical technique that he knows will drain her energy. When she collapses, he explains that using this technique could leave her helpless, and demonstrates by gleefully groping her. The next time Opal sees him, she is clearly uncomfortable, but Tejirov’s behavior is played for laughs with no hint of consequences. We are meant to see him as a good guy, even though we eventually discover that Opal’s original fighting trainer—portrayed as abusive and gross—groped her during their training sessions. When Tejirov does the exact same thing, he’s just “that wacky lecherous mage!”

Additionally, the army’s female leader, Ramses, suddenly appears naked during intense emotional moments (no naughty bits visible). This is likely a metaphorical representation of her mental state as the other characters don’t react, but it still seems out of place. One volume also features a side story in which a girl with supernatural strength is enslaved and threatened with rape before being rescued by a man; she then begs to be allowed to serve as her rescuer’s “horse.” The only prominent woman who is not constantly sexualized is Nel. Described by the series’ creators as a “little sister character,” even she gets to experience Tejirov’s disgusting comments.

The artwork has a spare, sketched-in look and the action sequences feature a lot of motion lines with big, scribbly-looking explosions. Characters vary from the typical attractive anime types to weird, monstrous creatures that represent strangely-animated characters from early games. For example, our heroes face off against D. Fisher, a sharp-toothed, bulky man with a vaguely scaly appearance modeled after the fish-like protagonist of the arcade game Darius. D. Fisher is described as being three times as wide as a normal person, a reference to the extra-wide screen used by Darius, which requires a special setup of three adjacent screens to play. For additional context, character bios and maps appear in each volume.

This nine-volume series has been made into an anime, which may increase its appeal for some readers. Otherwise, fans of video games—especially old and obscure games or consoles—will find a lot to interest them. Shonen fans may find the story slightly weak, as plot logic is sometimes stretched to make connections to video games, but they will probably like the can-do fighter Gear. There’s just the rampant objectification and casual treatment of sexual assault to keep in mind.

World War Blue, vols. 1-4
by Anastasia Shestakova
Art by Crimson
Vol. 1 ISBN: 9781937867966
Vol. 2 ISBN: 9781937867973
Vol. 3 ISBN: 9781937867980
Vol. 4 ISBN: 9781626920057
Seven Seas, 2013-2014
Publisher Age Rating: Teen

  • Nic

    | She/Her Youth Services Librarian, Wake County Public Libraries

    Reviewer

    The child of two artists, Nic grew up loving art, reading, and those oh-so-special books that combine the two. Nic got her MLS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her thesis was on the best shelving scheme for graphic novels in public libraries; the proposal won an Elfreda Chatman Research Award. She spends her free time reading, drawing, blogging, and writing fiction. She is a Youth Services Librarian at the Wake County Public Libraries in Raleigh, NC.

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