Undertown is an English manga series written by Jim Pascoe and illustrated by Jake Myler, with the first volume published by Tokyopop in 2007. The series consists of two volumes, and fans are still waiting on the release of a third installment.
The story revolves around Sama, a ten year old boy who's a bit of a crybaby and, despite his age, still plays with his beloved teddy bear, "Eddie." One day Sama'a overly-strict father suffers a heart attack and becomes seriously ill; while he waits in the hospital, Sama meets an old man who tells him the legend of a mythical place called "Undertown," the place where teddy bears come from. He describes it as a friendly place where "everyone smiles" and there's an object called the Sugar Stone that can heal anyone. Following the old man's instructions, Sama enters Undertown, only to find that it's a Crapsack World populated by furmen and insects who are at war with one another over sugar—and the few people there who have even heard of the Sugar Stone would stop at nothing to get it.
Sama at least has Eddie to help him, his teddy bear having come to life after returning to Undertown, although Eddie can't remember a thing about his life there. They quickly befriend some furmen—a porcupine named Joey P.P., a rabbit named B.W., and a penguin named Broom—who promise to help them find the Sugar Stone for Sama's dad. During their journey, Sama is pursued by the ruthless insect insurgents and their mysterious leaders, The Cloud and The Mind, as well as other more ambiguous characters. Along the way, the group discover more and more sinister mysteries about Undertown and about the teddy bears, like Eddie, that originated from it.
Tropes used in the series:
- Adult Fear: For Sama's father—being seriously ill and believing you'll die without being able to tell your child (whom you're consistently giving a hard time) how much you love them. And Sama's only able to see him for a few moments in the human world before he's dragged back to Undertown, so from his perspective his son's vanished into thin air right after he tries to make up for how he's treated him.
- Animesque: In the same vein of the other series in Tokyopop's Manga Rising Stars.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Sugar, aside from being a drug, is apparently the main power source for everything in Undertown.
- Arc Symbol: A teardrop; the shape is constantly used on and throughout the book (including to denote a new chapter) and if Mighty's hallucination is to be believed, the Sugar Stone is shaped like one.
- Tears and crying are a general theme of the story, as Sama's tears are literally stained on his face and he struggles not to cry so often, seeing it as a sign of weakness. On the opposite hand, Raindrop alleges that she cant cry no matter how hard she tries. A river in Undertown is also called "the crying river".
- As You Know...: The second volume does this a 'lot', with multiple different characters talking about what happened in the last volume, presumably to catch the audience up in light of the long hiatus.
- Baleful Polymorph: The bridge beasts are furmen transformed with insect magic.
- Bizarrely, Joey P.P. was transformed from a raccoon into a porcupine by the insects, and this is apparently a horrible fate that he needs to be saved from bad enough that he betrays his friends to help himself turn back.
- Beast Man: Several variants; the Furmen (mammals), the lizard boys (reptiles), an unnamed bird variety, and there's the insects, who look the least human of them all. The second volume introduces "fish" pirates.
- Blatant Lies:
- The old man at the hospital's story about Undertown as being a happy and friendly world; it's revealed quickly that Undertown is anything but happy, and that the old man isn't even human, but is in fact The Mind.
- When Sama's group mentions the Sugar Stone, Mighty claims to have never heard of it despite having just seen it emerge in a hallucination.
- Xenakis is the second book; clearly the claims that The Cloud was a little human girl in a costume are ridiculous nonsense.
- Body Horror: The Dringlings, a horrific monster known for eating teddy bear hearts. The audience only gets glimpses of their bodies, but what the comic shows is that their mouths are a literal wheel of repeating teeth and gums protruding from the head like a proboscis, and they have multiple eyes and a furry body protruding with multiple bloodied human hands and feet. The Mind makes a brief transformation into one that involves his human face cracking and tearing bloodily as his mouth turns into a wheel and his extra eyes emerge. They're the darkest part of the comic.
- Cowardly Lion: B.W., who hates fighting and cowers away from an irritated Sama in his introduction, Joey P.P. calling him a "fraidy". By the climax of the book, Joey P.P has since become a traitor and when Sama fights The Cloud, B.W. distracts him long enough for Sama to deal a finishing blow.
- Denser and Wackier: There is a very noticeable tone shift between the first volume and the second, with the pacing of the plot becoming much faster and therefore a lot crazier in execution. The characters' behavior also becomes more exaggerated and comical as a result.
- Distressed Dude: Mighty Chireugi, for a large portion of the first volume until his rescue.
- Driven to Suicide: The Cloud leaps to his (really her) death after Sama accidentally breaks her costume and reveals she's a human girl, no longer having the loyalty of the insects or the aid of The Mind. Subverted in the second volume when it's revealed She survived.
- Fantastic Drug: Sugar is this in Undertown, in addition to being Applied Phlebotinum. Eating enough of it causes Furmen to hallucinate and suffer effects not unlike real-life drugs. How terrible a drug it is is left unclear, as B.W. insists that the problem is just people taking "too much" and he himself is noted as taking some; being fed sugar continuously, however, is treated like a form of torture for Mighty.
- Raindrop tells Sama that there are new friends he shouldn't trust, right after an earlier scene where Branca reveals he arranged for a spy to watch Sama. Sure enough, Joey P.P. goes back on their pledge and turns him in to The Cloud, in exchange for sugar from Branca.
- Joey P.P.'s claim that eating enough sugar messes with your head is demonstrated in full force with Mighty Chireugi's ordeal in the Hallucination Room.
- Many aspects of The Cloud foreshadow his Reveal. The Cloud is one of the only insects with just four limbs, as he's really a normal human girl in an insect suit that presumably wouldn't be able to pilot one with more limbs. He also refers to one of his comrades as having a "simple insect brain," which alludes to the fact that he (as a human) and The Mind (as a dringling) are not actually insects. A conversation he has with his insect pet, Flee, has him repeating to himself that he will be "Free" with the Sugar Stone. He (she) was originally from the surface, and presumably intended to go back.
- Similarly, while discussing Raindrop, B.W. tells Sama a rumor about a human girl who came to Undertown and was captured and tortured by insects until she became pure evil. The Cloud is a human girl leading the insects to commit atrocities, and is more likely than Raindrop to be the girl of the rumors.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Eddie can't remember anything at all about his past in Undertown, save for his name and some vague feelings. He brings all his memories back after ringing the Teddy Bear Bell, and immediately regrets it.
- Meaningful Name: The Chireugi brothers: Mighty is a hardened general who commands several of the Furmen in the war for Undertown, Verbal is a smooth-talking front man for the brotherhood, and Noble Chireugi is the wisest and most ethical one of the bunch.
- Mysterious Past: It's not known in the first volume why Joey hates The Cloud so fervently, or what kind of past he has with the insect Branca that contributed to his selling out the rest of his friends.
- Regretful Traitor: Joey P.P. sells Sama, Broom, and B.W. out to The Cloud for a huge suitcase of sugar, despite still hating The Cloud. Shots of his face before the betrayal show him feeling bad about it, and he apologizes to Sama right as the insects arrive to capture them, as well as discouraging the insects from looking for the missing Eddie.
- The Reveal:
- From the first volume, The Cloud is a little girl who also entered Undertown from the human world, who has been walking around in an insect suit.
- Several in the second volume, but most notable is that the sugar stone is a teddy bear heart, aka Eddie's heart.
- Sliding Scale of Living Toys: Judging by Sama, Colleen otherwise known as The Cloud and Sama's mother's examples, anyone who travels to Undertown with a stuffed animal will find their stuffed animal fully alive and real when they get there. In Sama's case, Eddie talks as if he was fully sentient and aware even before they traveled to Undertown, although this could be because he originated there.
- Wham Shot:
- From Volume 1, The Mind in his one on-screen appearance transforms grotesquely into a creature with multiple eyes and a literal ring of teeth instead of a mouth. Later on the book, the audience is shown that this is what a dringling looks like.
- Later on in the book, there's the shot of when The Cloud's mask is cracked and reveals a human girl's face underneath it. A following panel is a full-page illustration of the girl pulling the mask apart.
- From the second volume, the very last image is Sama's mother waking up in Undertown, in the same spot Sama first woke up.