by Mike Favila, Editor
Like most Americans, my first exposure to All You Need Kill was through the excellent action film, Edge of Tomorrow, directed by Doug Liman, and starring Tom Cruise. It didn’t look that amazing from the previews, but when I saw the movie itself, I was a believer. I’d also received the releases from Viz about All You Need Kill, so I thought it would be insightful to read a little closer to the source material. As you can see from our Death Note review, Obata is a favorite around here. While the manga itself is an adaption of the light novel from Hiroshi Sakurazaka (released on Haikosoru), it’s supposed to be a lot more faithful to the original text.
For those unfamiliar with the basic premise, All You Need Kill is set in the near future, where aliens (called Mimics) are invading Earth. The reader is introduced to soldier Keiji Kiriyama, who wakes up in shock. His nightmare is a familiar one to many who fight in battle. Keiji was convinced that he had died in his first exposure to combat, but clearly wakes up in the bunker, with his fellow fighters. We then follow him through his day as he trains, suits up for battle, and is transported to the front. After a few minutes of contact with the mimics. After agonizing pain, he wakes up in his bunk. Nothing has progressed. The pain in dying is a little more vivid in the manga, as he wakes up each time, fully expecting to be cut in half or dead. You can literally see the pain in Keiji’s eyes each time it happens.
To American audiences, All You Need Kill will be reminiscent of an action packed version of Groundhog Day, the classic Bill Murray comedy. Actually, this is is closer to the video game format, where the player is revived from the same spot, with more knowledge than before. Rita Vrastaski in the All You Need Kill manga is a little softer than Emily Blunt’s portrayal in Edge of Tomorrow. She’s got gentler eyes, which give a stronger contrast to how powerful she is on the battlefield. Keiji spends a good deal longer learning the parameters of what he can and can’t do. In the movie, it seemed obvious to Tom Cruise’s character that he could improve and get better, while our rookie Keiji has to absorb that concept first.
I was really interested to finally read more about Rita’s loop, where she realizes the patterns behind the alien attacks. Arthur Hendricks, who was only tangentially noted in the movie is given life in the second half of the book. It’s obvious that he is the inspiration for her manner on and off the battlefield. In All You Need Kill , the story is equally about her. She doesn’t exist just as a companion or plot device for Keiji, but carries the weight and burden of the loop equally. The quiet moments in the manga also helped me feel closer to her character, and the toll it took on her to see so much death. Though the story has little tinges of Groundhog Day, it still manages to present it’s own new world and is an interesting new paradigm. In spite of All You Need Kill starting life as a light novel (Japan’s equivalent to YA fiction), I never feel as if this story talks down to me, or tries to oversimplify the narrative.
As for the art itself, Obata’s panels engaging and expressive. I don’t have to struggle to determine the flow of the action, and his intentions. They are intense without being over the top. Credit is probably also due to Ryosuke Takeuchi, who created the initial storyboards for All You Need Kill. I have yet to read the original story by Hiroshi Sakurazaka, but I’m definitely going to track it down after having read this adaptation. There aren’t any extras to be found on All You Need Kill, but that’s not really a problem. I would have liked to see something from the source storyboards, but you can probably find that online somewhere.
Overall, I recommend picking up a copy of the All You Need Kill adaption. It’s a brisk read, and is worthy of multiple visits. I wanted more at the end, but I was happy that the author didn’t give a neat, saccharine ending.