Investor Z Volume 1 Review
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: Zaizen Takashi aced his junior high school entrance exam into Dojuku, a 130 year old super advanced institute for higher education, making him the top student in his batch, A day after the entrance ceremony, Zaizen is approached by a senior who reveals to him the secret to how Dojuku offers and affords free education and facilities for its students. The school has a super secret club consisting of the top student from each of its six grades, who are given a capital of 300 billion yen which they must then invest and yield a profit of 8% annually to pay for all of the school’s expenditures. Thus begins Zaizen’s foray into a world full of thrills where every single move could earn or cost billions.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. Investor Z’s art is ugly and antiquated, with a lot of panels that looks downright hilarious and characters that almost come off as abnormal looking, in particular, the female characters and Zaizen himself. He seems to have a habit of going cross-eyed every now and then and his mother and sister look..rather interesting in a couple of panels when they first make their appearances. Character expressions can also come off very intense and heavy handed or even plain unsettling. In one panel, Zaizen looks like a dwarf as he stands next to his seated father. The general look and style of the art screams of the 90’s even though it was first released in 2013. If you either enjoy that retro look or aren’t too fussy about the quality and style of the art in the manga you read, this shouldn’t be a major flaw or even an issue to you. To everyone else, read on to find out why you might still want to give this series a chance.
What Investor Z lacks in art style, it supplements with a story that is both educational and entertaining about money and its ties to human society and development. The author does a great job of presenting the history of money and how it influenced humans and the very formation of ties between nations on a worldwide scale. It’s a unique topic that not many of us would have thought about in everyday life, least of all , expect to find in a manga, but Investor Z whips up an intelligent discourse all about it. Even if you read only the very first volume of the series, this is a series that will leave you feeling a lot more informed. The information value of the volume is so high that one could recommend it solely on that basis.
That said, there’s also a lot of minor issues that plague the volume which might still make it difficult for some readers to take this story seriously. For even though it has a very cerebral and serious topic at the heart of it, Investor Z can feel downright like a goofy comedy at times. From the aforementioned lacking art style and exaggerated reactions to random things, you might find yourself chuckling at moments that might not necessarily have been meant to be hilarious. The story can also get very heavy handed and dramatic about investing which might feel a bit much for those who want more realism and restraint. Also, for a show that deals with something real like the stock market and trading, there are hints of something ‘supernatural’ in the volume in the form of a mysterious and intimidating voice and black shadow like form/being that haunts Zaizen at random moments. The show is already very over the top with its premise of a school using its students to trade in the stock market and making them responsible for the entire finance of the school, so these additional flamboyant features could potentially be forgiven or even appreciated as being part of the story’s unique and over the top flair.
Also, in an attempt to ensure that the reader can follow along with the more complicated financial parts of the story, Investor Z can get downright basic in its information dispensing. It points out super obvious and common sense facts, making older readers feel like they’re being spoon fed information and being treated like idiots. Of course, the beneficial part of having such basic information is that it should prove educational and easy to follow for a younger reader who might not have learned of these things yet so let’s consider this a double edged feature. The story also seems to contradict itself at times, especially in regards to the ‘rules’ of investment, stating one moment that you cannot really study or learn about investing, claiming it is more instinctual than formulaic, yet later claiming that there are rules that must be followed strictly.
Character wise, the focus is mainly on Zaizen so far, and while we are introduced to a fair handful of characters, their personalities remain somewhat under explored for now. Zaizen is a rather quirky protagonist, in that he seems to flip flop constantly. One second he is super trusting, the next he is super suspicious of the same person. Or, like an infant with a 5 second attention span, watching other people playing mahjong is enough to make him agree to something he was utterly opposed to all the while. Then there’s the fact that he jumps and sings and cheers with excitement when he is finally allowed to play mahjong. It’s easier to understand his random juvenile behavior when you consider that he is only starting junior high..but it makes it all the more hilarious and hard to believe that the school is letting this kid invest billions for them. The manga also teases about there being something more to Zaizen than even he might be aware of, and the fact that the manga makes a point of repeatedly highlighting how much his father is against the discussion of money matters in the house could be a hint about that mystery.
As I was researching this series for the article, I discovered that Crunchyroll also offers a “Motion Manga” version of Investor Z which so far, covers most of Volume 1 only. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a motion manga is basically a voice over of the manga text with images (in this particular case, coloured versions) taken directly from the manga and the motion referring to speech bubbles that pop up while being read aloud and some limited expressions on the faces of characters. It’s a rather novel way to experience the story and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to try a new way to enjoy their manga. At the end of the day, if you are tired of the masses of combat based manga out there and wish to try something that mixes education with eccentric, you should give Investor Z a try. It presents its bizarre premise through art that might not appeal to everyone but it does a very impressive job of introducing and discussing the concept of money as more than just a means of procuring goods. If you can embrace the more over the top elements of the series, and are always up for an educational read, Investor Z might just leave you impressed and addicted. For everyone else, you might still enjoy the story as an eclectic comedy that just happens to have some philosophical and educational content mixed in. Just be prepared for some rather unique facial designs and expressions and ham fisted drama.