Rai: Welcome to New Japan
Eric S Brown
In 2014, Valiant Comics rebooted their futuristic samurai warrior Rai, giving him a new ongoing seires. The first four issues are collected in a trade paperback simply titled Welcome to New Japan, with a storyline and world close to that of the original with New Japan in orbit above the Earth while being led by a powerful A.I. known as Father. There is also a terrorist group at war with Father, seeking to bring the A.I., and New Japan as whole, to their knees.
One of the main plot points in the new series that differs from the original is the introduction of PTs android companions given to all citizens at the age of 16. These companions are meant to help control population growth and are essentially slaves to their human masters which gives the series a Blade Runner feel. The events of the story bring up many questions about the nature of good and evil as well as the true nature of humanity. The use of the PTs may be creepy, or even disgusting to many readers, but those particular uses aren’t actually shown. They are simply mentioned as background info for the world Rai lives in. The details of New Japan’s society are plentiful and add a superb depth of atmosphere to the story.
This series also gives Rai a young, human sidekick named Lula who has lived a normal, boring life. Having always longed to live a real adventure, she eagerly aids Rai in everyway she can, perhaps even eventually saving the champion of New Japan from himself. She comes across as a very relatable character and not just fluff added to the storyline.
The art of this 2014 series is fantastically drawn and colored by Clayton Crain. His work truly brings Rai’s dark future world, and its denizens, to life on each and every page. Crain’s depictions of everything from the armor that the “cops” wear, to the buildings of New Japan, are both super detailed and powerfully realistic despite being fantastic in their nature.
If you’re looking for a straight up, action filled super hero comic, this incarnation of Rai likely isn’t for you. That said, if you enjoy a Noir style mystery that actually makes you think, I can’t recommend Rai enough.