Mastermind Comics reached out to us to review the first chapter of this series. That in no way affected the thoughts reflected in this review nor are we receiving compensation for this review.
What is “Afro Seeds?”
"Afro Seeds" is the free to download, first shot at manga put out by Mastermind Comics, a western media and entertainment company focused on bringing together a community of fans and artists to express their passion held towards anime and manga.
What is “Afro Seeds About?”
“Afro Seeds” follows a young boy, Amenhotep, who, after the death of both of his parents, gets wrapped up in a world of super-powered fights.
As a blog that is grounded on the idea of fans writing and expressing opinions within and about their fandom, we at Backlog Bebop love to see other groups doing the same. In particular, seeing a western media company put pen to paper to express their love for the art form is really inspiring. As for the manga itself, for a first go at a series the art is solid. In fact, it's far and away the biggest strength of the series. Characters are easily distinguishable and don’t fall into cookie cutter molds, which helps to add life to the setting. Adding on to this life is the diversity found in the characters: The fact that the main characters are from an ethnicity often excluded or left ambiguous in non-western media gives this series a nod to its western roots that is much appreciated and helpful in setting it apart as its own work. Panel placement and panel flow is also what you would expect from a traditional manga series. In the combat scenes specifically, it is clear that the artist had a solid vision for the momentum and movements that he wanted to convey and, for the most part, that was a resounding success. Story-wise, it seems like this series is setting itself up to touch upon social inequality and racial stereotypes that a western company could have the unique opportunity to integrate into a shonen-inspired battle manga format. That alone is awesome and exciting. I'm personally always for a series that can transcend its genre to incorporate deeper meanings and, based on this first chapter, Masterminds Comics is looking to tackle that path.
For each idea that I just guessed that the series could integrate, I have to make clear that those are just that: a guess. With only one 23-page chapter released, I was left with more questions than answers. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem since cliffhangers and plot holes are expected to keep a reader hooked, but the questions I had directly affected the world building in general. The story has a pacing issue, moving very quickly from one parental death to another, while hinting at a hidden power in the main character and racial injustices in the world. Imagery shown throughout supports these guesses, but nothing is every expressly or clearly explained. This is especially apparent in the last half of the chapter, where readers are suddenly thrust into a battle between unknown characters without reasons outside of the traditional shonen "I need to help" main character mindset or even a clear conclusion. Compounding on top of this rocky pacing is dialogue that is a bit too proper. Grammatically and conceptually the dialogue is fine, and it gets the points across, but the feel of the series could be greatly improved by relaxing the dialogue to give a more natural conversational feel. Thankfully, all of these issues could be fixed in later chapters and are issues to be expected from a chapter one of a first try. As it stands, though, many traditional manga series have extended first chapters for a reason: You need to properly establish a world, introduce a properly set up concept/twist, or explain the rules of the series as soon as possible in order to get readers truly hooked. If this first chapter was just a bit longer so as to finish the fight and double down on world building, half of the issues we had would be on the road to a resolution. Unfortunately, this series just left too many questions unanswered in 23 pages.
“Afro Seeds” is a clear example of the western community taking their fandom to the next level. Mastermind Comics’ first foray into the manga world is definitely rough around the edges, but for a first try that is to be expected. With no release schedule in sight, and many questions unanswered after chapter one, it is tough to tell people to jump on the bandwagon just yet. However, with the promise of more chapters on the horizon, a series championing the minorities so often left out of manga, that also could potentially tackle tough and divisive racial questions through the medium, could be worth your while down the road. As it stands, “Afro Seeds” is a grassroots manga worthy of support, just somewhere down the line when more of it is out and a more solid vision of the world it is trying to portray has been realized. There is real potential to reach an audience so often left out of manga here, and hopefully “Afro Seeds” is able to deliver.
If this sounds like something you want to follow, head on over to their social media accounts (under Mastermind Comics) or their website (mastermindcomics.net). Keep in mind that we had issues accessing their website on mobile platforms (including through the link provided on their Instagram page) but had no issue reaching it through desktop browsing.