Mangachapters: Kung Fu Klutz & Karate Cool

By Leroy Douresseaux
April 27, 2007 - 11:58


Mr. Charlie #114 takes a look at the latest title in TOKYOPOP’s “mangachapters” format:

TOKYOPOP’s publishing format, the mangachapter, is a hybrid of the illustrated juvenile novel (such as The Chronicles of Narnia or Lemony Snicket) and Manga.  This is essentially a prose novelette with both spot and full-page illustrations, but at certain moments in the story, the narrative morphs from prose into comics (or Manga).  These moments of comix (sequential art) outburst can be as short as one page or as long as six pages.  What the reader gets is an illustrated novel with some comic book sequences dropped in here and there.

The third title in this format is Kung Fu Klutz & Karate Cool, created by the prolific writer and musician D.J. Milky (one of the people behind the Princess Ai manga).  Mark Seidenberg, a veteran writer and producer in the TV animation industry provides the text and comic script with comic book art and illustrations drawn by Erich Owen, the artist on the OEL manga, Mail Order Ninja (TOKYOPOP).

Marvin Klutzer is probably the clumsiest kid at William Clarke Elementary School.  His only friend is fellow geek Ulysses Rodriguez, but Marvin has plenty of adversaries.  The main problem comes in the form of Henry “Hank” Howell, a husky bully a year older than Marvin.  Marvin has an active fantasy life, and in his mind he can take on Hank, but in reality, his tormentor wins every time.

When Marvin and Ulysses happen upon the grand opening of Master Wong’s Academy of Karate, Marvin realizes that learning karate may be the answer to put an end to Hank’s bullying.  Marvin, however, has trouble following Master Wong’s doctrine of learning through patience.  He wants to be good now, and believes that he is good… now.  His active imagination even creates a new persona – Vin Dragon, a young martial arts hotshot who is “karate cool.”  However, after his next confrontation with Hank, Marvin earns another derisive moniker, “Kung Fu Klutz.”  Will Marvin finally take Master Wong’s advice and learn to use patience?

Mangachapters is a peculiar format, but so far the titles are entertaining, and I think young readers may like this multi-format, format.  Kung Fu Klutz & Karate Cool is a gentle tale about wish fulfillment and delaying gratification for boys.  The authors encourage standing up to bullies and using self-defense rather than simple violent actions to resolve conflicts with aggressors.  The narrative also promotes imagination and confidence in children, and I think that’s just fine.

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