Kodansha Comics should be applauded for bringing an old-school (read: originally published in the 70’s) manga to our shores. Ditto for the fact that it’s coming from mangaka Leiji Matsumoto, who is probably better known for the anime spun off of his works out here than the manga they’re based on. The art is also generally pretty appealing with its varied sci-fi landscapes and quirky character designs. That’s where my praise for this title ends as the actual storytelling being done here is pretty terrible. Most of the stories here concern an orphan boy named Hiroshi Umino and his efforts to travel the sea of stars. He does this by building his own ships, which only seem to last him long enough to get to the next planet, where he scrapes by doing odd jobs until he can build his next ship. It’s during one of these stints that he meets the legendary pirate Emeraldas who happens to take an interest in the boy and goes about helping him through the galaxy in her own stoic way.
If you’re wondering why most of the stories in this volume are about Hiroshi rather than its title character then congratulations! You’ve recognized the biggest problem with “Queen Emeraldas.” Even though Emeraldas has presence, a cool scar, and is less hesitant to gun down fools who get in her way than a pre-”Special Edition” Han Solo, this isn’t really her story. I might have been able to get past that if Hiroshi was a compelling protagonist in his own right, but that is so not the case here. He’s kind of a whiner who has almost everything in the story handed to him by Emeraldas or guys who identify with his spirit. There’s also plenty of talk about what it means to be a man journeying through space, so if you’re allergic to that kind of stuff then consider yourself warned. As for the stories themselves, they’re straightforward affairs that offer no real surprises.
I should note that this volume is a hardcover edition with glossy paper stock collecting over 400 pages of manga for $25. I’ll admit to that being a pretty decent value for your money. However, the experience of reading it was such that after ordering this from Amazon at a nearly 60% discount I still felt ripped off afterwards.