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All You Need Is Kill: A Brief, Endless Time Loop
Humanity at war, barely surviving. A large scale alien invasion. Badly implemented romantic subplots. These things are pretty common in entertainment be it a book, movie, or video game. Not exactly original ideas at this point, yet they can still be entertaining for the umpteenth time if it is handled well. I’d like to say that as a series, the manga adaptation of All You Need Is Kill handled these concepts perfectly. Unfortunately there were many a sour note that resulted in a flawed delivery. Don’t even get me started on the name, I’m not even sure how it fits into the story.
All You Need Is Kill is the story of two soldiers. One is a young American woman named Rita, and the other one is a young Japanese man named Keiji. Rita and Keiji are both fighting against alien creatures known as Mimics. The Mimics are virtually indestructible when it comes to conventional weapons, and they have the ability to turn back time. A very troublesome ability, yet it ends up working against them over the course of the story. Inadvertently, both Rita and Keiji are exposed to the particles that allow the mimics to do the time warp. As a result, the two soldiers are sent back in time every time they get killed in an endless time loop.
The concept of being stuck in an endless time loop is far from original, but All You Need Is Kill handles it very well. In fact, that is the biggest focus of the story. The inability to die for good, gives both characters realistic determination to keep on trying in hopes of finally putting an end to the never ending cycle. Unfortunately, the manga adaptation is a short series and the story just ends without any real conclusion other than to wrap up a terribly forced romantic subplot between Rita and Keiji along with stopping the time loop with a rather dark and mostly unexpected plot twist right at the end. If this is really the end of the series, I feel that there should have been at least a few pages that discussed how the war had finally come to an end or something.
Over the course of the story, the reader sees how the endless time loop affects Keiji. He starts off as green as grass, but as time passes it becomes visually clear that this inescapable hell is starting to have some serious effects on Keiji. The art style really kicks in here, showing this torment in Keiji’s eyes and general facial expressions. Yet, regardless of the nature of the romantic subplot, Keiji regains an element of humanity from the brief amount of time he spends with Rita since she is the only one whom understands what he is going through.
The only real note worthy characters in the entire series are Rita and Keiji, while everyone else serves as side characters that add flavor to an occasional scene here and there. In fact, interaction between Rita and Keiji throughout the entire manga is minimal at best. Yet all of a sudden they are in love with each other at the end. If there is anything that can hurt a story, it is forced romantic subplots. This was a potentially good couple, yet it wasn’t handled correctly and didn’t feel even remotely realistic.
Visually speaking, All You Need Is Kill has a great art style. It mixes both grayscale shading with traditional black and white, and it all works and doesn’t ever feel inconsistent. The armor designs for both Keiji and Rita are creative and well designed, yet I cannot say the same for the Mimics. I know that the Mimics are supposed to be big and dangerous aliens, but it is hard to take them seriously when they look like armored versions of those creatures from that terrible TV adaptation of Steven King’s The Langoliers. Also, it may be nowhere near as bloody as Terraformars, but All You Need Is Kill does depict some pretty intense violence and gruesome deaths over the course of the story. In short, reader discretion is advised.
In summary, All You Need Is Kill is a decent manga series to check it out. It is incredibly short and doesn’t spend a whole lot of time developing the story beyond killing organic space rocks, yet the overall story is still somehow entertaining from start to finish. If you are looking for a decent manga to read this holiday season or looking for something to get for a friend, family member, or loved one, then consider getting All You Need Is Kill.