Joker article published in Animerica Extra Vol. 2, No. 6, May 1999
This article was written by and is copyrighted to Patricia Duffield and may not be reproduced in part or whole without permission.

The Joker series is a collection of science fiction stories revolving around Assistant Police Inspector Riin Rikudo. Riin is a really nice guy, the kind of person who watches mystery dramas with his landlady because she's afraid to watch the death scenes by herself. He's the kind of guy who can't stand to see a nice girl mixed up with a major criminal. This is how he becomes involved with Joker.

 

Joker is a tokusoshihokan, a special investigator for the Ministry of Justice with a licence to kill (kind of like James Bond). She is also a gosei-ningen (synthetic human), possessing super human abilities. Unlike other synthetic special investigators, however, Joker can change her appearance at will, taking on the features of anyone. Of course, Riin doesn't find any of this out until later.

Riin meets Joker while his department is investigating D. P. Hudson, a suspected drug lord. Joker is undercover as Hudson's girlfriend at the time, and Riin is assigned to trail her. She doesn't make his job easy, though. After toying with Riin for a while, Joker ends the game by confronting him with his pick-pocketed ID card and announcing, "You're pretty lousy at shadowing people." He tries to persuade her to leave Hudson. She feigns apathy. "My life was created by a hand other than god's," she says, explaining that she is a synthetic and not worth his concern. This does not dissuade him. When he tries to force the issue, he finds himself handcuffed to a nearby railing instead of her narrow wrist. "You can't touch Hudson, right now. I need a little more time to arrange everything," she explains. "Until then, police involvement is unnecessary, so don't interfere," she says with a mischievous grin, tossing the key beyond Riin's reach. "My name is Joker," she adds, "the trump card."

Joker takes even more of a shine to Riin when he attempts to rescue her from Hudson and his gang. Riin's efforts end up forcing Joker to reveal her identity and get them both captured. This is no big deal for Joker, though. She toys with Riin a little more then almost casually breaks them out and deals with the baddies. After making herself look like Hudson, she gives Riin a goodbye kiss and leaves him to read about the rest in the papers.

The series continues with Riin and Joker meeting again in later investigations. Not surprisingly, one of the main threads of the series is their relationship. Poor, extremely hetero Riin has to learn to cope with Joker's ability to become a man (which she occasionally does just to bug him). To confuse Riin's romantic life further is Spade Ace, another synthetic special investigator who looks a lot like the male version of Joker and enjoys playing with Riin's mind almost as much as Joker does.
There are currently seven collected volumes* in the Joker series, which has been running in WINGS COMICS since September of 1987. Besides the manga, there are also a pair of Spade Ace novels, a book of illustrations, a couple of CDs and a one-shot video which was released in 1992.

The series is a team effort with Yu Maki writing the stories and Katsumi Michihara handling the art. Some of you may be familiar with Michihara's work on the manga for Ginga Eiyu Densetsu (Legend of the Galactic Heroes). Michihara's synthesized shojo/shonen style, knack for sci-fi, and attention to detail make her particularly well suited for the artistic challenges of this series. Yu Maki's stories are a wonderful balance of action, intrigue and humor. From government conspiracies to virtual reality murders, the Joker series has a wide variety of cases and characters with diverse motivations. A well-rounded action series, Joker is definitely worth trying, especially if you like heroines who can kick some butt.

 

*Teio no Niwa
Moon Fantasy 1
Moon Fantasy 2
Dream Playing Game
Green Paradise
Sherlokian Computer
Kai no Utagoe

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