Big Hero Six: The Series, vol. 1

Fans of the 2014 Disney film Big Hero 6, loosely based on the eponymous Marvel superhero team, will enjoy this manga adaptation of the spinoff Disney XD series Big Hero 6: The Series. The first volume includes three chapters, each of which has the same title as its corresponding episode of the series. In Chapter 1: Issue 188, Hiro’s thermodynamics professor pairs him up with an unfriendly girl named Karmi, whose place as the youngest student at the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology was supplanted by 14-year-old Hiro. In a Big Hero 6 showdown against mother-daughter supervillain team High Voltage, Hiro saves Karmi’s life, leading Karmi to develop a huge crush on Big Hero 6 member Hiro—whom she doesn’t realize is the same person as her classmate. Big Hero 6 member and comic aficionado Fred tells the group about the infamous comic Captain Fancy Issue #188 and suggests they may glean useful information from the elusive comic. That is, if they can convince Fred’s archnemesis, 10-year-old comic collector Richardson Mole, to let them read it.

In Chapter 2: Failure Mode, Hiro is tasked with creating a miniature building that can withstand an earthquake with a Richter magnitude of 9.0. He procrastinates, and the building he ends up turning in instantly falls apart. When he finds out that all of his follow-up ideas for the building have already been tried, he becomes disheartened. Healthcare companion robot Baymax shows Hiro video footage of his late brother Tadashi considering giving up after his 58th attempt to create Baymax; obviously he persevered, since he successfully completed Baymax. Meanwhile, local villain Globby attempts to steal art from the local museum, and Big Hero 6 member Honey Lemon teaches Baymax about art. This subplot is very charming, with the logical robotic Baymax struggling to understand emotional concepts; it is reminiscent of and will appeal to fans of Data’s characterization in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Case in point, Baymax’s mechanical explanation for his desire to learn about art: “I am coded to expand my therapeutic capabilities. Perhaps I should increase my understanding of art.”

In Chapter 3: Baymax Returns Part 1, we see how Hiro recreated Baymax after the events of the Big Hero 6 film. Yama, a criminal whom Hiro defeated in bot fights in the film, steals Baymax’s exoskeleton and attempts to blackmail Hiro into stealing a mysterious sculpture from his professor’s office. This chapter occurs chronologically before either of the other chapters, so the choice to place it at the end of the first volume of this manga is strange. Since it’s a two-parter, it seems the decision was made solely so this volume would have a cliffhanger. But the cliffhanger’s tension is undermined by the knowledge that Hiro must succeed in retrieving Baymax, since Baymax appears in the other chapters unharmed.

The art differs between the film and series, and since this manga is based on the series, one would guess the art would mirror its 2D hand-drawn animation style. But by drawing the characters in kodomo anime-style art, Hong Gyun An evokes the rounded 3D animation of the original film. The illustrations are rendered in full color, though the colors are more muted than those of the film or the series. Unlike typical manga, this book is read from left to right. Consider purchasing this series where the Big Hero 6 franchise is popular, or where kodomo adventure manga like Pokemon Adventures circulates well.

Big Hero Six: The Series, vol. 1
By Hong Gyun An
Yen Press JY, 2021
ISBN: 9780316474641
Publisher Age Rating: 8 and up
Related media: Movie to Comic, TV to Comic

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Representation: Japanese-American

The Weirn Books: Be Wary of the Silent Woods

Svetlana Chmakova revisits the Night Realm of her original English-language manga Nightschool in a new middle grade graphic novel series. In the Night Realm, the small town of Laitham changes when night falls. The local school building physically shifts into a night school appropriate for educating young werewolves, vampires, and weirns, a type of witch with a spirit guardian known as an astral. Ailis and Na’ya are weirns who are known in their school as the “loser cousins” by a cadre of popular kids, led by quintessential middle school bully Patricia Chow, who dresses impeccably, never seems to have a single hair out of place, and literally sparkles. Patricia used to be friends with the cousins, but now she prefers to mock Ailis for her astral’s tendency to shed, and Na’ya for summoning heavy rains to postpone the school’s beloved astral race. Ailis and Na’ya do have a crew of allies, though, including their magic shop-owning grandma, with whom Ailis lives; Russ, the cute teen werewolf who works at the magic shop; Jasper, their weirn classmate and neighbor; and Na’ya’s little brother D’esh.

A mysterious night creature that looks like a larger astral starts appearing to the girls en route to night school. Then, Ailis, Na’ya, and Jasper stumble upon a mystery surrounding the creepy old mansion in the silent woods. Grandma tells them the mansion used to be a weirn school, which she attended many years ago with her twin brother, Jacen. The headmistress and all of the students disappeared — all except Grandma, who suspected something was awry and stayed home that day. One night in present day, the night creature kidnaps Patricia and is ordered by a shadowy figure to prepare the lab. The following day, Patricia is back at school, but she is uncharacteristically friendly and polite, if a bit robotic. Ailis and Na’ya deduce that she is possessed and decide to stay away from her. Unfortunately, she convinces D’esh to play with her and brings him to the mansion. Ailis, Na’ya, Jasper, and Russ are forced to venture into the mansion to confront the somehow-still-alive headmistress and save D’esh — and they suppose they may as well save Patricia, too.

The art style is more similar to that of Chmakova’s recent Berrybrook Middle School series than of Nightschool, which was originally published from 2008-2010. This suggests that the Weirn Books series is intended to bring a touch of fantasy to her newer fans, rather than appeal to older fans of Nightschool. While Chmakova is clearly influenced by manga, she has crafted her own style that seamlessly combines chibi, modern cartoon art, and a hint of realism for exceptionally well-constructed, varied facial structures. Characters are delightfully diverse, as is always the case in Chmakova’s recent work. The aesthetic standout in this graphic novel is the coloring. Backgrounds are a gorgeous combination of pinks, purples, and blues, which reflect the nighttime setting. Flashbacks are depicted in a soft monochromatic purple tint.

In her author’s note, Chmakova admits that her favorite aspect of working on books that take place in the night realm is drawing astrals. Readers, too, are sure to fall in love with astrals. Fans of the His Dark Materials series will love their similarities to dæmons. Much like dæmons, astrals have personalities of their own. Jasper’s astral, for instance, is mischievous and destructive, a fact that Jasper constantly bemoans. Astrals in general, and particularly the night creature who appears to be a large astral, look like No-Face from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Young anime and manga fans, middle schoolers who love Berrybrook, and spooky fantasy fans will all love this book. It belongs in every library serving upper elementary and middle school-age kids.

The Weirn Books: Be Wary of the Silent Woods 1
By Svetlana Chmakova
ISBN: 9781975311223
JY, 2020
Publisher Age Rating:
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Character Traits: African-American
Related to…: Book to Comic