Dinosaur King, Vol. 1
written by Yohei Sakai
Max loves dinosaurs. He’s crazy about them, in fact! One day, when he and his best friend Rex are trying to help out Dr. Taylor on an excavation—but only getting in the way—Max finds a strange stone tablet. The tablet transports him back to the time of the dinosaurs, where he discovers that he can communicate with dinosaurs. But the evil genius Dr. Z and his Alpha Gang are using microchips to enslave the dinosaurs and Max is determined to stop his nefarious plans!
Sakai’s manga is based on the collectible card game, which also has videogame and anime versions. The manga is fun, though, and doesn’t seem like a forced rehash of game elements, even if it isn’t completely original in its storytelling. Max is part of the fun. He’s the typical plucky hero found in many manga for boys, always uttering his trademark line, “I gotta try!” His obsession with dinosaurs is a new facet for that type of character, though, and will speak to boy readers who are or were recently dinosaur-crazy. Max is backed up by Rex, who is the laidback, intelligent character. The plot follows a typical shonen path: hero is introduced and shown to be a bit of a goofball, villain appears with evil plan, hero vows to stop villain and inspires those around him to the cause of good. But the target audience for this work probably won’t care that the plot isn’t the most original. They’ll be too busy appreciating the blend of action, dinosaurs, humor, and collectible card game.
The artwork doesn’t stand out from the shonen pack. Max is spiky-haired and chubby-cheeked. Rex is the cool, handsome type. Dr. Z and the other villains are a stereotypical mix of “evil because nobody understands me” and the dinosaurs are either cute or tough, though they can be both if need be. But, again, readers probably won’t care. The story is fast-paced and engaging and the art helps speed things along. Sakai has a good eye for when to insert humor, an important skill for this type of manga. There is some comedic violence, including one powerful shot to the family jewels on a bad guy, but that’s the extent of the content issues. Mostly this is another exciting, zippy manga action story, with the unique addition of dinosaurs. Perfect for boy readers ages seven to ten.