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The Final Evolution: Alive 1    by Tadashi Kawashima & Adachitoka order for
Final Evolution
by Tadashi Kawashima
Order:  USA  Can
Del Rey, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Ricki Marking-Camuto

Tadashi Kawashima's horror manga Alive: The Final Evolution is a dark but unique tale of a suicide virus that is sweeping the world. Adachitoka's art captures the mood of the story well.

High school student Kano Taisuke is always saving his friend Hirose from bullies, much to the dismay of his friend Megu and his sister, the school nurse. One day, however, Kano rushes to save his friend on the rooftop, only to find all the bullies around Hirose obliterated into a spattering of blood. Hirose maintains that he did not do it, but is arrested anyway. Kano is determined to find out what happened, but Hirose refuses to talk to him. At the same time, a suicide virus is rampant not only in Japan but all over the world. Everywhere, people of all ages, races, and religions are willfully and gladly killing themselves. After a week of terror, things subside somewhat, but a strange man grabs Kano and calls him comrade, claiming that they and others are the so-called suicide virus. By the end of the first novel, Kano learns that Hirose is a comrade too.

I love horror stories, but sometimes horror manga takes a turn and is just plain weird. Alive manages to stay just this side of that weirdness. Except for the man who grabs Kano being rather scary looking, Adachitoka does not include visual images that will disturb readers. Even the bloodbath scenes involve only blood; no gore, guts, or body parts as typically found in other horror mangas populated by violent deaths. The story itself is more of a psychological thriller which keeps the reader engaged even during the scenes where the plot moves slowly.

The only thing that seemed out of place was the Light Visual Manga 4-panel strips at the end. Many lighter-fare manga-ka do include these in tankobons, but these were funnier than most, which made them seem really out of place to read after such an intense tale of blood and death. Alive: The Final Evolution ends with plenty of unanswered questions to keep fans looking forward to the next installment. However, Alive is not for the reader who enjoys manga for a light, escapist read; only fans of dark psychological thrillers will want to pick up this horrific tale.

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