Venus Versus Virus

Review covers the full series

At first glance, Venus Versus Virus seems like a standard Monster Hunter comic. I’m not going to spend too much time explaining the basic plot, but I’ll just say that I think the author must have been a big Persona fan.

There are two girls, Lucia and Sumire, who hunt monsters that only they and a few other people with the appropriate special power can see. Both use guns, but Sumire has special powers she can trigger by shooting herself in the head with a special tranquilizer gun. You can’t honestly tell me that there’s no Persona influence there.

Anyway, I didn’t mean that as a criticism. The interesting thing about Venus Versus Virus is that the basic setup (i.e. monster hunting) doesn’t seem to matter. If you read the series then you’ll be thinking that the setup isn’t very original until about a quarter of the way through the first volume, then realise that it really doesn’t matter as the fact that the girls are supposed to be monster hunters hardly ever actually referenced.

Instead Venus Versus Virus is rather picky about what it spends its time on, and chooses to focus on what are probably its strengths.

Action is probably one of the main focuses. And I thought that the action is handled quite well. No fight lasts too long, and while there’s plenty of chatter mid-fight I never thought that there was too much chatter. I never once found myself wishing that the characters would stop fighting so we could get on with the plot, which is a sign that things have been done right.

The relationship Lucia and Sumire is the other main focus. The author tries to hint at some romantic tension between the two, but whether they’re just good friends or if things are a little more than that, is left up to the reader’s imagination. But however you take it, it’s interesting to see them fall in and fall out with each other as the series progresses.

We also have a character who probably fits roughly into the “cool old guy with a score to settle” cliche, and a lollita character who fits into just about every cliche possible. They’re not as developed as the main characters, but get less attention, so it works out.

Venus Versus Virus also gives the villains some screen-time. The author spends some time focusing on a couple of the villains, telling us their motivations and offering them a chance for redemption.

Though unfortunately the author is probably too transparent when playing for our sympathy, to the point where you can start to predict which of the antagonists are still going to be alive and breathing at the end. (See a villain who doesn’t get much time on stage explaining their backstory? Sorry, but they’re probably not going to make it.)

One annoyance I had with Venus Versus Virus was that it is one of those Comics that doesn’t explain everyone’s backstories until it needs to, then spends an entire volume near the end of its run set in the past explaining everything.

Generally I don’t like this approach, as telling any story out of order hurts both the flow and readability. And there weren’t any big reveals or newly understood motivations gained to justify giving the reader the information out of order.

Also, hearing the exploits of the “cool old-guy” (then a “regular young guy”) weren’t quite as entertaining as the regular flow of the story with the main characters.

Then there was the ending itself. Now, I didn’t mind the fact that the story began on a huge cliche. It quickly grew up from there. But  the story also ends on a cliche. In fact, it’s past cliche. About two thirds of the Anime, Manga and Video Games coming out of Japan end this way.

It’s not that it’s a bad ending exactly. It’s, um, very tried and tested. But I just find it annoying when a series doesn’t put much thought into making the ending special, and ends just like any other. I realise if your cast of characters has just saved the world then it’s difficult to have a unique ending; however the whole “a series must always be about saving the world” cliche is a big part of the problem too.

But, Venus Versus Virus really seems to be about cliches. The series has a few very good ideas, surrounded by a layer of cliches.

You know what? Cliches ain’t always that bad if done well. Here, they don’t overly drag the story down. Venus Versus Virus just ends up being fun to read. It takes its layer of cliches and turns them into a very solid foundation for the more interesting stuff.

I absolutely loved this series. You probably will too if you’re into the genre.