Hajime Yatate/Yutake Nanten
Manga-wise things have definitely improved since the very lacklustre volume 1, especially in the choice of styles. To the uninitiated, the TV show would change pace from episode to episode. Where one might be a screwball comedy, the next would be a serious and edgy drama. It's a shame then that the first manga volume tried the same trick, it fell flat. The action worked, but the comedy didn't. This time round things are hardcore action rather than brain-dead comedy, and its all the better for it.
The book actually plays outlike a TV episode rather than a manga, which adds a feeling of authenticity. And, unlike previous manga attempts, the meager offering of 2 stories feels much more fulfilling. But, what really makes it good is the inclusion of ship's geek Ed! Hilarious as hell (and deserving of her own show) Ed is a main character in one part. Despite my protestions at the comedy of this series, it always seems to work when centered around Ed.
Thankfully the artwork has also improved by miles since the first volume. The style is clean and crisp for the most part, but when things get funny it switches to a more 'Shin-Chan' style affair to capture the hero's expressions perfectly. The overall effect is a far more polished book, and it shines for all the extra effort.
However, things aren't all good. For one thing, it could do with expansion. Maybe a volume dedicated to developing the characters by way of a spotlight or two? The content has also picked up some pretty bad language, and even nudity makes an appearance - this may attract the older readers among you but it could mean the young 'uns aren't allowed to read it.
What I particularly liked about this volume and Volume 2 is that they are very much stand alone. You need no knowledge of Volume 1 or 2 to get the best out of this. But, sadly, it is highly dependant on the show. If you don't know the characters you'll have to read the text on the cover and the inside of the book...and what a chore that would be. As a manga volume on it's own things are classy. But, when you get down to it, buying the series on DVD will reap bigger, better rewards.