Maoh Juvenile Remix is one of VIZ's latest manga releases and comes from their Shonen Sunday lineup. The book was originally a novel written by Kotaro Isaka, but it was later turned into this manga in 2007 by Megumi Osuga. In all honesty I didn't know what to expect when I cracked the manga open, but I was blown away by this first installment.
Set in the fictional city of Nekota, Maoh follows an 11th grader named Ando, who is something of an introvert. Sure he has friends and he's liked well enough in the school he currently attends, but he goes to great lengths to ensure that he stays out of trouble and doesn’t call attention to himself. He basically sticks his head in the sand and doesn't react to anything. This all stems from an event in his early childhood when he believed he could actually make other people say what he wanted them to say. He told his school chums and they ostracized him for it. Ever since then he pretty much keeps quiet and to himself.
One day while walking with a friend he's struck by a baseball flung his way by a bunch of punks. Rather than do anything about it, he just takes his lumps, and mentions something about calling the police afterwards. Just then an enigmatic figure steps forward to confront the gang.
In Nekota, one of the most unique and prolific characters you'll come across is Inukai, who is a student with a sense of justice, or so he seems. Inukai has a strange air about him and he runs an organization known as Grasshopper. They are notorious for snuffing out crime and bringing criminals to justice, but it's not necessarily jail they go to. The wrongdoers either disappear from town, or wind up joining the group with a fervent admiration of Inukai. It's strange to be sure, and after another incident Ando decides to steer as clear from Grasshopper as possible.
Adding to the complexity and mystery of the plot Ando and his buddy happen to be on the subway a short time later. They witness a girl get groped by an older man, who chastises her when she asks him to stop. He makes it seem entirely like she was falsely accusing him, though Ando and his friend are the only ones who saw it actually happen. One thing leads to another, and the stress is enough to make Ando wig out, in a manner of speaking. He clasps his hand over his mouth, and the thoughts inside his head come out of the girl's mouth. He is naturally flabbergasted by this, but continues to try it, and it works. Perhaps he wasn't so crazy when he was younger?
As the volume continues, Ando gets another opportunity to flex his ventriloquist muscles, and it solidifies the fact that he has a unique and bizarre ability. Meanwhile, Inukai is moving forward with his efforts to clean Nekota up, but Ando becomes increasingly aware of the strange circumstances that involve Grasshopper. This installment gets even more mysterious as it trots to its conclusion, and ultimately readers will be left wanting the next volume as soon as possible.
From start to finish, Maoh: Juvenile Remix is a strangely beautiful title that is both fascinating and haunting at the same time. Ando is a unique character with a cool ability,and the world seems to be built to support his powers. Will there be an eventual face off between Ando and Inukai? What is Grasshoppers' ultimate goal anyway? I'm not certain if the next volume will resolve these questions, but it can't get here soon enough. Consider this manga highly recommended.