If you've read Kingdom Hearts to this point, you have noticed that Shiro Amano's manga/adaption has evolved. Back in volume one of Kingdom Hearts; she gave you a terribly short story that was not only rapid and confusing, but had little flow, with tiny but detailed and neat art. The manga was a mediocre companion to the fantastic RPG.
However, In Chain of Memories, Amano had a change of art and reversed his style. His art grew messier and less perfect with larger, clearer panels and battle sequences actually became existent. (ie: Battle with Axel in CoM:1) The pacing was still quick, ceased to be overwhelming or over-conservative. In my opinion, it was a breath of fresh air. However, instead of four tiny books, Chain of Memories was compacted into two bulky ones. Go figure.
Finally, in Kingdom Hearts 2, the long awaited Roxas finally arrived, and I doubted he looked better. However, Hayner, Pence, Olette certainly didn't. Not only did Hayner become a spaz and a loudmouth, Shiro Amano looked as if he rejected completely, the intricacy and tidiness he had exhibited back in KH1. The perspective and the beauty he had put into every character totally faded away with Sora's absence. Worse, Amano anted up on super-deformity and exaggerated faces, especially on Hayner. Compared to a regular, Greenhorn manga-ka, it's good. Compared to what I've seen Amano do, it's not. In addition, Though Axel, Diz, and Namine each shared excellent character developement, Roxas seemed left behind on everything he was in the video game. (Hey, I only said he LOOKED good.)
But this book is where it all changes.
Roxas has come alive: Never before had Roxas shown so much emotion than in KH2: volume two. All that anger, bottled up inside him from early in the beginning gushes out fantastically. Sure, Amano slacked a bit, but he certainly didn't slack when it came to illustrating Roxas's feelings. This is Roxas captured in raw passion, which you didn't see as lucidly in the RPG. Every dirty look, sliding tear, and determined grimace is perfect. Axel's portrayal is also stunning, the Axel-Roxas relationship is shown much stronger in the adaption than in the RPG.
Sadly, after Sora makes his comeback, the rest of the story feels like happy and mild; KH1 all over again. Sora is happy, (until he cries, of course,) Pete is shown as a complete doofus, and everything you expect to happen happens. The gang visits Yen Sid's tower, and there's a wonderful reunion with the Hollow Bastion gang. Exaggerated faces, Sora goes all googly, some gentle conflict. The entire second half feels dull compared to the raw energy of Roxas's story, but I can't really blame Amano for it.
In conclusion, this was an excellent addition to the series so far, though the transition was a big shift; Amano should have kept some of the soberness to linger on. But I'm more than satisfied.
Alright Amano, I'm ready to see what you've got next There's no turning back now.