Review - Akaneiro #1

Little Red Riding Hood had a basket of food and was off to see her grandmother. Little did she know of the perils of traveling through the forest alone or that she would be set upon by a bloodthirsty wolf. Had she brought an axe however, well, then maybe the trip would've been a lot easier. Akaneiro #1 from Dark Horse Comics is an adaption of sorts of Little Red Riding Hood, proving that even an axe may not be enough.

The new series is written by Justin Aclin, with art by Vasilis Lolos, colors by Michael Atiyeh and lettering by Michael Heisler.

Yomi Island is a beautiful place and the home of the Ainu people. They're dealing with something of an infestation in Yokai, animals possessed by demons intent on entering the world on Yomi Island and swarming its population. The Red Hunters of Akane hunt and kill the Yokai, but saying they're friends with the Ainu is a stretch. That's where Kani comes in. As a half-Ainu girl (on her late mother's side), she offers to broker a peace between the Ainu and the Akane by joining the Red Hunters and going on a quest to kill Yokai.

It should be noted that the story is based on the game Akaneiro: Demon Hunters from Spicy Horse Games. Having said that, Aclin does a great job living in that world so to speak, yet still infusing it with life. Kani is both fearless and fearful at times; completely confident enough to charge into battle, but still a little uncertain when it comes to her place in society and the Ainu clan. She greatly respects her father--a roaming Ronin--and misses her mother, yet still can't seem to find acceptance in her current environment.

Her offer to join the Red Hunters was a powerful one, both for her and the preservation of Yomi Island. Most of the first issue is spent introducing the reader to Kani and the island's situation, which, unfortunately isn't exactly that riveting. When Kani hits the road though, things really start to pick up and it looks like the Yokai may have a few tricks up their sleeve. Kani's encounters with them will be anything but boring and the direction the series is headed looks good.

Lolos' art is very unique in a good way. It's a little difficult to describe honestly, as it looks to be somewhat anime inspired in some panels and cel-shaded to a degree in others. Faces appear to be painted and showcase emotion pretty well and characters get top-billing over setting. The Yokai show some really creative presentation though, as they more or less reflect their animal counterparts in their demon forms. There's one towards the end that's especially clever and proves Kani may be in a bit over her head.

The story features a feudal Japan setting, Shinto religious influences and a girl with an axe. The Yokai are truly demonic and want nothing more than to destroy all on Yomi Island and the end of the issue presents quite an intriguing opportunity for them to do so. Kani's quest appears to be getting more dangerous than even she realized and her partnership with the Red Hunters should be interesting.

Akaneiro #1 is in stores May 22 with interiors below.