In Japan, some Nintendo properties have manga adaptations that take liberties with the source material. As a result, you might see unexpected characterizations in, say, some Animal Crossing manga. Viz Media picked up Hirokazu Hikawa’s Kirby of the Stars and localized them for Kirby Manga Mania. And it’s fun, enlightening, and exactly the sort of silly comic you’d expect to run in CoroCoro Comic, a magazine geared at grade-school kids. However, it might also be a bit jarring, because it plays with the expectations Kirby games set for the character.
First, a big thing you have to prepare yourself for is that Kirby does speak. And, given that the character is supposed to be childlike, he’s mischievous, precocious, and unintentionally a bit selfish. For example, the first first chapter is “Kirby, the Loopy Picnic Crasher!” King Dedede and his subjects prepared a hanami picnic. They didn’t invite Kirby, because the year before he ruined the picnic by eating everything. As you might expect, Kirby finds out and antics ensue.
But the volume’s short stories do a good job of emphasizing that Kirby does mean well. He’s overenthusiastic and over-the-top, but not intentionally malicious. But that also means he can unintentionally cause devastating incidents. “Typhoon Kirby Makes Landfall in Dream Land” is a good example. A typhoon is about to hit. King Dedede and other residents are worried about the castle, where people are sheltering. Kirby also gets caught up, worries about his own home, and “helps.” It ends up being… a lot.
The flipside is that while Kirby may seem a little less gentle and innocent, Kirby Manga Mania helps humanize and take the edge off of King Dedede. He’s definitely still childlike and selfish as well. So much so that “King Dedede, Magically Turned into a Toy!” sees him turned into a toy, rather than a Beauty and the Beast style beast, as a result of his rude behavior. But you also have to feel for him when Kirby’s antics result in things being disrupted or ruined for him and his minions when they aren’t being malicious.
It’s also a situation where you have to accept that familiar faces won’t look how you might expect. Even here, where Hikawa is the mangaka throughout, this is clearly a situation where Viz Media picked which chapters and stories might appear from the original Japanese comics. The plus side is that they’re all relatively good stand-alone pieces. Though you might not recognize some characters. For example, the first story mentions Kirby’s accomplice Chirby. But for the most part, a familiarity with Kirby games in general will get you far and most characters bear at least a passing resemblance.
The people who appreciate Kirby Manga Mania the most are going to be kids. The stories here are incredibly goofy, which someone young or young at heart would enjoy. It does mean that it might not always feel like the Kirby and King Dedede you know. But there’s a charm to it and having an English localization is a boon for fans of the puffball.
Kirby Manga Mania will be available on June 8, 2021.