Art and Story by Sankichi Hinodeya Published by Viz Media
It was only a matter of time before Splatoon, Nintendo’s most original and stylish video game IP this decade, would be adapted to other mediums. Many were hoping for a slick anime production, but Splatoon’s splashy style lends itself well in manga form, even with the absence of color that makes Splatoon stand out from other third person shooters.
With its surprising abundance of in-game lore, writer and artist Sankichi Hinodeya had a lot of material to work with. However, rather than adapting the single player story mode or fleshing out the existing denizens occupying Inkopolis, the hub of the Splatoon universe, Hinodeya opted to create his own sets of inklings. While fans who were hoping to see more of beloved characters like the Squid Sisters or the eccentric shop keepers, the original characters are entertaining enough to carry Volume 1’s simple plot: Team Blue is a ragtag, underdog squad of four inklings who attempt to climb the ranks in Turf Wars, a mode in which the team that covers the most area with their ink color wins the match.
Team Blue is led by Goggles, a likable buffoon who serves as the protagonist and the literal butt of the manga’s jokes. There’s not much character depth with one note characters that fit a specific role (overly serious, obnoxiously cheerful), but as a whole, the team provides a silly charm. Other notable characters include Rider, a serious minded, loner S-Rank player who serves as Goggle’s opposite and the elite S4 inklings who are considered the best.The story is the standard underdog team that overcomes more talented teams with absurd luck and team work. Hinodeya does take some creative liberties with how Team Blue achieves victory despite their lack of skill. For instance, Goggles ventures into an building inaccessible in the actual game itself to make a curry gag, befuddling his opponents. These moments combined with some tongue in cheek, risque humor makes the adaptation less faithful to source material, but overall don’t detract from the frenetic Splatoon experience.
As mentioned, the lack of color in the manga takes away some of the style that makes the Splatoon games stand out. Hinodeya does succeed in capturing the fluidity of combat in Splatoon with dramatic cuts, close ups, and expressive facial reactions. He also doesn’t skimp on the details with authentic depictions of the various weapons, special attacks, and clothing items. Speed lines, dynamic ink shading, and embellished effects help convey the sense of perpetual movement that defines a typical Splatoon match.
Splatoon Volume 1 is a light, enjoyable take on the Splatoon universe. Fans will definitely appreciate the attention to detail while newcomers won’t be completely lost as Hinodeya does a great job explaining the rules, weapons, and other facets of Turf Wars. There’s also a decent amount of advice and strategies provided that work in the game as well. It’ll be interesting to see if the characters and story evolve beyond the simple structure established in this volume.