Shifter review by Christian Reader
Shifter
by Kunrong Yap, Brian Holguin, Skip Brittenham, Brian Haberlin
Age Range - Mature Young Adult
Genre - Manga/Graphic Novel

Student Review

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Age at time of review - 22
Reviewer's Location - Yucaipa, CA, United States
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Noah Freeman works as a civil servant for the government, monitoring the weather and environment through various ways. He does his rounds and then reports any anomalies back to his superiors. He works hard every day to provide a good life for his fiancée, Helen. Helen is a behavioral profiler, focused on helping the government figure out if politicians are lying or not; Noah’s picked up a few tips and tricks from her in the time he’s known her and puts them to good use when feeling out new people that he runs into. 

Everything’s going pretty well – Noah and Helen are planning their wedding and both are working hard to be able to provide for one another. Noah’s life is pretty great. On one of his holidays from work, he decides to go on a hike. After helping two newbies who get lost in the woods, disaster strikes – Noah plummets over a waterfall and becomes trapped in an underground cave system. How he finds his way out will change not only his life, but the course of human history.

Opinion: 

The art style is beautiful. The detailed backgrounds are lovely, and the animals seem so real that one would think they could leap to life from the pages of this graphic novel. The color scheme of the overall novel seems dark and morbid, though a few scenes of interspersed warm autumnal colors help to liven up the overall cold feeling that the color scheme of this novel tends to give off. Both the art style and the color palettes used in this novel help to create a gritty atmosphere that helps the overall feel of this novel come to life for the reader to enjoy.

The only negative thing I really have to say about this novel is that at times, the artwork seemed off-putting. The animals are gorgeous, the backgrounds absolutely stunning, and the amount of details painstakingly added to each scene is truly appreciated on my part as a reader…but the way the humans are drawn is, at times, unnerving. If you are familiar with the concept of the Uncanny Valley, then I need say nothing more. However, if you are unfamiliar with this concept, allow me to briefly explain: the Uncanny Valley is an effect generally focused on in the realm of aesthetics. This effect states that if an object that is human-like appears like a human but not exactly so, then a sense of revulsion can occur in the individual viewing said humanoid object. Put simply, if a thing that seems to be human has something not quite human about it, the person who is looking at the thing can often become uneasy and may no longer consider the thing to be human due to the appearance being somewhat skewed. The other aspects of this novel are done perfectly – from the animals to the environments, they are all beautiful. However, the humans of this novel, even those who are 100% fully human and not Shifters, are still very off-putting to me, as it is difficult to believe they truly are what they are said to be because of their odd appearances.

The dialogue is wonderfully done. Never giving too much away at any given point in time, every line told by any character in this story, whether they be part of the main cast or just an extra in the background, helps to push the story forward and helps drive the mystery-focused plot. I love how the dialogue is shown in an inventive way. Generally in comics, manga, and graphic novels, dialogue is normally done via text bubbles or speech boxes, though occasionally also done via thought areas (either bubbles or boxes, depending on the author of said novel and the stylistic choices of said novel). In this graphic novel, the dialogue is written as a part of the scene. There are no bubbles, boxes, or areas set aside for dialogue – the words seem to meld into the scenery or stand in stark contrast to our characters. Different fonts help to dictate who is speaking, and in the cases when different fonts aren’t used, there’s usually a few small lines pointing back to whomever is speaking. Thoughts are put into boxes and are sometimes also put in different font. This technique helps the reader truly get immersed in the story, and while it took me a few pages to get used to, I ultimately applaud this original choice.

Overall, I enjoyed this story very much. The plot is excellent and fast-paced, the writing style is believable, and the characterization is fairly well-done. The only downfall to this book – and the only reason it didn’t garner five stars from me – is the Uncanny Valley effect that the humans have upon me, the reader. In the long run, this book is a fascinating read and one I will gladly add to my personal library.

Rating:
4
Content Rating:

Content rating - mature content

Explain your content rating: 

Some brief female nudity; a very small amount of implied pornographic content; frequent upper-level curse words (worse than the lower-level ‘damn’ and ‘hell’ phrases); some violence, gore, and blood; and a few sexist remarks and actions taken against women – all of these can be found within the pages of this book. Parents/parental guardians, teachers, and/or librarians should definitely look this book over before giving it to a student, particularly if the student is more sensitive to any of the previously-mentioned material. This is not a book for children due to the materials within.

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