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Image: Cover for Kickstarter version of Unico: Awakening

Much to my joy, I received the PDF for the Kickstarter edition of Unico: Awakening in my inbox last week and wasted no time in downloading and reading it. As you can tell from this site, I’m pretty familiar with Osamu Tezuka’s Unico and the other characters from the original series, so this review will include comparisons and other information based on my knowledge. As the Scholastic Graphix version won’t be out until August, I’ll concentrate on the Kickstarter book for now and prepare a separate write-up for the other version. I’m sure there are differences between the two, so it’ll be fun to explore when the time comes.

Disclaimer: This review is spoiler-free, but there may be parts I discuss or compare the original series which could have spoilers if you’re not familiar. I have used some images from the comic in this review, but they reveal nothing.

Image: Unico: Awakening Illustration by Gurihiru
Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

What is Unico: Awakening about?

Unico: Awakening tells the story of a special unicorn named Unico, whom the angry goddess Venus banishes. Zephyrus, Spirit of the West Wind, feels sorry for Unico and disobeys the goddess, taking Unico through time and space. Unfortunately, this traveling causes Unico to forget everything. By the time this story takes place, Unico has already forgotten his family and the friends he’s made.

The first volume focuses on Unico befriended a sweet kitty named Chloe, and the troubles they encounter. They follow an old woman to an abandoned home and decide to live there. It’s obvious the woman needs extra care, so Chloe begs Unico to turn her human after seeing him previously use magic. Unico agrees, but Chloe can only stay human for a short amount of time each day. Things are going well, but danger is nearby as the horrible hunter named Byron has his eyes set on Chloe.

What are my thoughts?

It’s no surprise, but I absolutely enjoyed this book and certainly look forward to the next volume to see what happens. The Kickstarter version’s cover has a clean and light design, featuring Unico in the middle with the West Wind and Night Wind on opposite sides. I honestly love both Kickstarter and Scholastic covers, and I can only assume that the later volumes will gift us with more amazing artwork.

Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

Speaking of artwork, the comic itself is beautiful and expressive, which the artistic duo, Gurihiru, has a knack for. Not only for this series, but this is true of many other projects they’ve worked on. The action scenes and close-ups draw your attention and move you through the panels on each page. Gurihiru’s style of lineart is wonderful in how it shows weight and detail. The different color palettes used and subtle texture overlay are wonderful and I enjoyed taking a closer look at certain scenes. When the characters are happy, so are their surroundings. Everything becomes bright and colorful. When something is sad, the colors shift to darker, cooler, or muted tones. Same goes for scenes of anger and rage. You’ll see that red has become more prominent in scenes with Venus, and I really enjoyed the pages that had the red “rain.”

Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

With his incredible storytelling skills, Samuel Sattin successfully reintroduced Unico to a whole new audience, leaving me eager to see what he has in store for fans. It was certainly a page turner, and I wish the second volume didn’t feel so far away. Even though I’m aware this is a retelling, I really liked Sattin’s interpretation of this famous chapter and how he managed to incorporate subplots for the upcoming books. Seeing the scenes with the sphinx’s daughter, for example, makes me excited to see how she’ll be saved. Sattin, who is familiar with Osamu Tezuka’s works, has done an exceptional job of honoring Tezuka and the Unico series in Unico: Awakening. His understanding of Unico is something I truly appreciate.

Unico’s determination to save his friends in Unico: Awakening had me eagerly anticipating his next move throughout the comic. The one thing I hope to see more of in this series is Unico finally receiving the love he deserves. Unico often plays a supporting role in his stories, so it’s satisfying to see him take charge and get the happy ending he deserves. But WILL he get that ending, though? Guess we’ll see!

Fun comparisons!

The retelling of this story is based on the original Unico chapter written by Osamu Tezuka titled, “The Cat on the Broomstick” which is also featured in the 1981 film Unico (or The Fantastic Adventures of Unico to Westerners). One thing that caught my attention in this book is the incorporation of both manga and film elements. Countries across the globe fell in love with Unico thanks to the 80s movies, so for original fans, they’ll enjoy seeing similar scenes even if they’ve only watched the films and never touched the source material.

An example of the anime and manga mixture that I can quickly mention in Unico: Awakening would be how Unico deals with the hunter, Byron. In the manga image below, Unico transforms forest animals to resemble humans in order to confront the Baron. Unico does something similar for Unico: Awakening, but uses his powers to enlarge the forest animals to storm Byron’s estate.

Image Source: Unico and forest animals – (Left: Unico / (Right) Unico: Awakening
Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

In the animated film, Unico battles the massive demon to save the day. Similar to the film, Unico must also battle a larger foe in this new series (see the image below). This mixture works well with the Unico: Awakening story, especially with how this version of Venus is.

Demon from Unico / Monster from Unico: Awakening - Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru
Image Source: (Left) Demon from Unico film / (Right) Monster from Unico: Awakening
Copyright: Tezuka/Sanrio/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

There are more comparisons, but I don’t want to reveal too much, so I’ll save it for another time.

Let’s Talk About Characters

Image Source: Unico: Awakening / Unico and Chloe
Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

The characters’ personalities stand out in this series. Most importantly, to me, is that Unico feels like how I’d imagine Unico. He is conscious and open about his thoughts and emotions, and he fiercely defends those he loves. I have always admired Unico’s bravery in the older comics and movies, and Unico: Awakening highlights multiple instances of him fighting and defending others. Chloe and Unico have a sweet relationship, and there are several moments where I felt I’d simply be happy just reading about the two going on fun adventures. It doesn’t help that Gurihiru’s wonderful designs make the two extremely cute, but I feel that both Chloe and Unico are such lovable characters thanks to Samuel Sattin. He really brought the best out of Chloe and Unico.

Image Source: Unico: Awakening / West Wind
Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

The West Wind has several moments in the book that left me stunned by what she was going through. The original manga kept readers fixated on Unico, never revealing what she was doing. As a result, I found myself staring at her pages for extended periods, immersing myself in the occasional sense of despair she might encounter. Her struggle is visible. She’s highly expressive and resilient when necessary. Although the villains possess greater strength, she always finds a way to prevail.

Byron from Unico: Awakening
Image Source: Unico: Awakening / Byron
Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

I find it fascinating how every character has such a distinct personality, especially when it comes to villains. Venus, Night Wind, and Byron are their own individuals, and you’re able to despise them easily. For me, Byron is at the top of the list even before he’s later empowered by Venus’s abilities. You want to hate this guy. With animals, he is disgustingly evil, and his treatment of people is no different. Byron closely resembles his older manga version, Baron Ghost.

Toast from Unico: Awakening
Image Source: Unico: Awakening / Toast
Copyright: Tezuka/Samuel Sattin/Gurihiru

I have to mention this little guy. I absolutely fell in love with Toast. He’s the Siamese looking kitty living in the forest that Unico and Chao meet. While he makes intermittent appearances, I found his dialogue and interactions with the others delightful. He’s a little hero in his own right and has a great sense of justice. You’re awesome, Toast!

Conclusion

Unico: Awakening Scholastic Graphix Cover
Image: Unico: Awakening Scholastic Graphix Cover

There is a lot to love about Unico: Awakening, and if you missed out on the Kickstarter, the Scholastic Graphix version will be available for you. For fans of adventure and fantasy, this series is a treat, offering abundant action and charming characters. Whether you’re new to Unico or not, I think you’ll find this book enjoyable and be curious about what happens. If you’re a parent like me, this is definitely a splendid book for kids. Reading comics is my youngest daughter’s preferred choice over regular books, and she had a blast reading this volume as well. Of course, she’s likely one of the few kids already familiar with Unico, so even she enjoyed pointing out the similarities to me.

By supporting the Kickstarter, I had early access to the comic, and I look forward to getting the physical copy and other goodies to talk about them as well. I’m grateful I could be a small part of this project as a fan and backer and I’m happy to see it’s done well. I wish Unico: Awakening continued success in the future and I can’t help but express my heartfelt thanks to everyone involved in the creation of this comic. You guys rock and thank you for all your hard work.

Want to pick up your own copy of Unico: Awakening?
Check out these online stores or head out to your local bookstore. The first volume will be available August 6, 2024!

Where to purchase:
– Amazon
– Barnes & Noble
– Scholastic

Want to read the original manga by Osamu Tezuka?
While the physical copies are out of print in English, the digital version is still available! You’ll find it on eManga’s website:

To purchase:
Unico (2nd Edition)


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