Akira Toriyama is best known for the manga/anime series Dragon Ball Z, but he has done a good deal more. One of his most entertaining is COWA!, the tale of a half-vampire/half-werekoala named Paifu and his friends as they seek a cure for Monster Flu – a disease that affects ghosts, were-beings, vampires and all other monsters, but not humans.
The world of COWA! is one where humans and monsters generally co-exist in peace – human children go to school during the day, while their monster counterparts go to the same schools at night. Paifu and his best friend, a ghost named Jose Rodriguez, are typical kids who like to play pranks, skip school and enjoy their lives/unlives. When a strange illness strikes their friends and relatives, the two set out to find the cure. They enlist the aid of a curmudgeonly former sumo named Mr. Maruyama – but known as The Volcano – and another kid, Arpon, who considers himself Paifu’s arch-enemy, tags along [to swipe the credit if they’re successful].
Toriyama’s storytelling is clever enough, and his art guileless enough, that COWA!, although aimed at younger readers, is terrific fun for everyone. The characters are beautifully developed; the plotting is more than sufficient to hold one’s attention; the twists aren’t telegraphed, and the ending is satisfying enough that I, for one, would love to see more of the characters.
The first chapter [sixteen pages] of the book are in color – and beautifully done – which allows the reader to imagine the “real” look of the black & white remainder of the story. It’s kind of amazing to see the range of color to be found in Toriyama’s nights.
COWA! is thoroughly delightful.
Final Grade: A