4001AD (Book 4 in the Rai series) started out well, featuring a beautifully drawn series of Japanese ink inspired art telling the backstories of our main character and his world. But then the plot kicked in to standard (but still lovely) comic panels and it all fell apart fast. Honestly, the story was so shallow and ponderingly juvenile as to feel like it was written by a 5th grader who watched too much Saturday anime. Characters are as flat as cardboard, the plot so recycled as to feel nonexistent, and the story insipid. This was a huge disappointment.
Story: Rai is supposedly dead at the hands of his father – cast back down to Earth from New Japan in space. But he was saved and his moral compass renewed – his father is eeeevil! He puffs out his chest and heads off recklessly to challenge his father. Meanwhile, his teen rebel ‘daughter’ has poisoned father with a virus – and so father is doing evil things like killing off parts of New Japan in order to contain the virus. Will Rai get to New Japan in time to save it? And why or why doesn’t father understand that there is more to life than power – and you shouldn’t kill people just to keep it?!?!?
Those who found the 1980s He Man cartoon complex will probably not be bothered by the lack of depth and nuance in 4001 AD. But midway through the book, when New Japan does a Transformers and turns into a dragon, I was bonking my head on my keyboard at (let’s be honest here) the levels of silliness. It is all told deadly earnest and so no one is actually addressing the elephant in the room – this is all 6 year old hero worshipping fluff. Albeit, yes, a 6 year old who watched Japanese anime in addition to reading American comics. But still, appallingly shallow considering the beautiful artwork accompanying the over-idealized characters.
At the end of the read, I honestly regretted the time put into it. Yes, I can say I enjoyed the illustrations, though they were not very creative nor laid out in any stunning fashion. Certainly, the opening had been so promising and I thought I would be in for a treat. But it all went downhill fast once the story continued and my eyes started rolling as the cliches piled on Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.