Two American guys, Piro and Largo, travel to Tokyo and run themselves out of money. They’re forced to look for odd jobs to keep from starving and to earn enough to pay their plane fare back to the U.S. Sounds simple enough.
This Tokyo is a little askew from our own, however. Piro and Largo soon find themselves emmeshed in a world where all the tropes of Japanese anime, manga, and gaming are reality. Before they know it, they’re mixed up with ninjas, zombies, guardian angels, magical girls, a mecha-driving police force, and ‘zilla monsters; caught in the crossfire of a corporate shooting war between Sony and Nintendo; and falling in love with a couple of pop-culture idols, one retired from public life, the other up-and-coming. Add to that a mysterious young lady who might have hacked the world’s biggest computer role-playing game–from a hospital room–and you’ve only scratched the surface of Megatokyo, Fred Gallagher’s tour-de-force webcomic and manga.
I stumbled on Megatokyo a couple of years ago and was quickly hooked, first by the quirky, fun characters, then by the surprisingly deep storyline (which occupies a loyal and populous forum community 24/7, interpreting and re-interpreting each installment), and finally, by Gallagher’s steadily-improving and ever-more-intricate artwork. The man can draw.
Even better, he recently began drawing the comic live online, which is a hypnotizing way to spend an hour or three as a few simple lines evolve into incredibly detailed backgrounds and character images. Gallagher’s spent some time living in Japan, speaking the language, and it shows in many of the settings that are drawn from real life and in the multitude of cultural references and in-jokes.
The story may or may not be nearing its climax. It’s hard to tell–it’s taken several eventful years to chronicle two or three weeks in the lives of Piro, Largo, and their friends. Happily, every comic from day one is archived on the Megatokyo website, and I recommend starting from the beginning and working your way up-to-date, or it will make no sense at all. You could just come for the cool pictures, but you’ll miss much of what makes Megatokyo the phenomenon it is.
Compendiums of Megatokyo are available as a manga at some bookstores and comic shops (I’ve seen them at Books A Million and Barnes & Noble) as well as online from Amazon, etc, or at the Megatokyo store. Five volumes have been published so far, and the sixth is coming in December, I think.
If you want to watch Mr. Gallagher draw the comic live online, there’s no set schedule, but if you follow the Megatokyo Twitter, he’ll make an announcement when he’s about to start. The video feed is interactive, but keep any comments or questions brief and respectful. The community doesn’t suffer fools gladly.
I’d rate the material at a PG-13 for some violence, occasional mature themes, and some language (usually masked in l33t-speak). No explicit content. Most of the story is funny and lighthearted, but there is evil lurking in the dark corners of Megatokyo, and our heroes ultimately must confront it. The final showdown is coming.