Kai Eto may look like a squeaky-clean kid, but the Greater Kanto Narcotics Control Division’s new investigator hides a violent alter ego and a dangerous past. Together with his stoic partner Hal Kurabayashi, Kai is assigned to track down and stop the distribution of a dangerous new drug – Dragon Speed.

A night on the town with fellow NCD employee Mari turns into a nightmare for Kai when they get mixed up with the Ryugen drug ring in a deadly case of mistaken identity.

Volume 5 of Naked Ape’s (Saki Otoh & Nakamura Tomomi) Switch manga continues the story of the child-like Kai and serious Hal as they continue their drug investigation. Although not much in terms of character development really occurs in this volume, the story is deepened with the introduction of some key and enigmatic players, amping up the level of danger just a notch.

At the same time, amongst all the expected angst and drama, Naked Ape do inject their usual brand of silly humour into the story (particularly in the first half of the volume), but to be honest, it does drag back the tone a bit, and in the end, volume 5 doesn’t exactly hold your attention, particularly because it can’t make up its mind as to which mood it is trying to convey. Add to that the jumping around in the story and the often confusing artwork, this certainly isn’t a volume to pick up if you a) aren’t already invested in the story or b) aren’t existing hardcore fans of the Naked Ape group.

In terms of the art, I originally thought that this was aimed squarely at the girls, what with all the pretty boy designs and hairstyles, and to be honest, it does often feel like I’m reading more of a shojo story than a shonen story (which it is being punted as).

The action sequences are particularly poorly done in that they are often quite confusing and it is not always clear what is happening. That said, the line work is very clean and quite often the facial expressions of the characters are well done, but unfortunately this is let down by inconsistencies in the level of panel detail presented (sometimes great, sometimes not), as well as some pretty poor proportions and background renderings at times.

Overall, I find it difficult to recommend Switch to anyone other than girls who like pretty boys in black and white, meaning that for me, this book was a loss. The story didn’t capture me and the artwork turned me off, meaning I can’t be too bothered into looking at the rest of the series still to come.

Meh, leave it at the bottom of the pile where you found it then.

Related Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switch_%28manga%29