Diggin’ through the bookcase: Detana!! Twinbee edition

Like Xanadu, Romancia, and the deliciously early 90’s epic adaptation of Ys I and II, this three part manga considers the cute Konami shmup it’s based on more of a general suggestion than a strict blueprint. Unlike Falcom’s early efforts though there’s never a feeling that Twinbee’s piggybacking off a hot IP to do its own thing (not that in Falcom’s case this approach turned out to be a bad thing) – somehow Mine Yoshizaki (Sgt Frog, Dragon Quest Monsters+) has managed to create a tale that’s both completely its own thing as well as faithful to the original. Besides, when the game boils down to ‘shoot some things, shoot a bigger thing, repeat until staff roll*’ wouldn’t make for a fantastic story, would it?

*Not forgetting ‘Credit feed like a baby because I’m never getting good at this’

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Confusingly this adventure stars characters called Beat, Chime, and Shout and not Light, Pastel, and Mint (although they are mentioned). Not that this should really matter to anyone as these adorable characters are identical in every other way that counts. On the problem-causing side of the character fence we have bad guys that generally fall on the ‘kinda naughty’ end of the evil spectrum – all complimentary callsigns, fancy ships, and a fair old bit of shouting before getting bopped by the Donburi Island crew. God Brain’s the mastermind behind all the evil shenanigans (which makes sense if you remember the rather icky final boss of the game), although as his name’s usually abbreviated to ‘GB’ in the manga I kept having to stop myself from thinking malevolent Nintendo hardware was trying to destroy the world.

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The art always feels in keeping with Twinbee’s famously cute and cuddly style but best of all anyone familiar with the game will find a lot of little references popping up to keep them entertained – some are subtle, like the Konami billboards lurking in the background of a busy city scene, but before long you’ll see the legendary Konami code worked into the plot, Twinbee actually shouting ‘Detana!! Twinbee!’, all your favourite power ups used to good effect and the ultimate attack is of course only possible when Twinbee and Winbee (strictly speaking Beat and Chime in the manga’s case due to poor old Twinbee getting beat up) hold hands. These details give the manga some serious Twinbee-cred, a feeling that the artist’s at least as much of a fan of the series as anyone reading through the books.

The only real fly in this cute-em-up love-in is that the third manga is noticeably stretched out – the grand finale itself thankfully doesn’t take all that long to polish off but you’ll find there’s suddenly a lot of design sketch pages jammed in where there were none before, cute little illustrations that mysteriously take up an entire page, and the last half of the book may technically still be Twinbee stories but they aren’t actually anything to do with the rest of the plot at all. These extra bits and bobs (officially an epilogue to the previous tale) aren’t bad by any stretch of the imagination – and I’d rather have these than artificially pad out the main plot for the sake of maintaining the publisher’s page count quota – but it does make the ending feeling a little anti-climactic, as your ultimate payoff for eagerly devouring through the previous two books is a meandering bit of (enjoyable) fluff.

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Manga based on games tends to be a bit hit and miss – some of them are great but so different they really could be anything (Xanadu), some try to expand on the source material but don’t really know what to do with it (Xenosaga), and some are just plain awful (Final Fantasy XII). Detana!! Twinbee skilfully avoids all these usual pitfalls and manages to be a manga that goes far beyond the boundaries set by the game while at the same time being absolutely faithful in some very clever and enjoyable ways. Twinbee fans of any level can only come away from this feeling happy – it’s as bright and cheerful as the game it’s based on while also giving fans everything they hoped for and plenty more besides.