If Yoshitoshi ABe's name means nothing to you, then let me throw these two titles your way - Serial Experiments Lain and Haibane Renmei. ABe's work as the character designer for Lain and the original creator of Haibane Renmei has established this artist as a big name within his field, yet despite these major league successes much of his work remains in the realms of self-published "doujinshi".
It's the world of doujinshi to which ABe returns for his latest short piece of work, complete with the rather unique decision to publish this manga via Amazon's Kindle service, making it available both to Amazon's eBook reader itself as well as the PC and iPhone/iPod Touch.
This single chapter offering is an incredibly simple affair, as it sees a fourteen year old's dull New Year's Day enlivened by the appearance of a girl claiming to be an alien of some description. Naturally, said alien bounces from fascination at such human technological wonders as a kotatsu while also trying to test the limits of human intelligence - Behaviour which only serves to reinforce the boy's assumption that he's simply dealing with a "weirdo" than a bona fide alien. However, eventually this alien's true nature is proven, just in time for the return of the boy's sister who seems to have more practical thoughts in mind than the fact that an extra-terrestrial is standing in their living room.
Perhaps in keeping with this manga's doujinshi routes, this initial chapter of I am an Alien is a very simple affair, with the kind of plot that you'll probably feel that you've seen before, and with character designs that largely aren't anything to write home about. Having said that, this kind of scenario is always rich with potential if used well (indeed, this first chapter reminds this reviewer of Kannagi in terms of both content and characters), so assuming ABe decides to continue with this particular series then it might delve into some more interesting comedic pathways further down the line.
While the illustrations for I am an Alien are just as simple as the plot concept, the overall quality of these illustrations are actually pretty good, with a lively feel that matches up to the dialogue and plot quite snugly. From a technical perspective, it would have been nice to see some higher resolution images used for this particular eBook (especially if you want to read this manga on the PC with the higher resolutions it supports), but as it is both text and illustrations are clear and clean here.
Truth be told, unless you're a hardcore Yoshitoshi ABe fan then there isn't really anything to recommend this particular work, particularly at a cost of US $4 for a relatively sparse chapter of content (albeit in both English and Japanese versions) - While it isn't bad, it certainly won't have your jaw dropping in terms of either plot or character design. Still, as a concept to test the waters for what we can only hope is a flood of manga to the eBook ecosystem over the coming years, I can't help but cheer ABe on for blazing this particular trail and proving that it can be done with relative ease.