Remember the dark days before DVDs and videotape when the only way to watch a television show was on television? If you were fans of a show like "Star Trek" and you wanted to relive a favorite episode you had to catch it in syndication or you could page through your "Star Trek Readers" for the short-story versions of the episodes written by James Blish. Or maybe you had one of the dozen "Star Trek" photo-novels that took you through classic episodes from "The City on the Edge of Forever" to "Amok Time." These were pretty good in their time because, let's face it, they did not have a lot of competition.
The whole point of that prelude down memory lane is to note that it is interesting to have Cine-Manga put out a photo-novel of "The Gift," the fifth season finale of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." After all, the number of fans who already have all of the episodes on tape and then went out and got all seven of the DVD sets is legion. Why would we be interested in a photo-novel of one episode? The answer, which may or may not prove to be satisfactory to you, is that there is more here than just all of the dialogue and the camera shots from "The Gift." Thrown into the mix and commentary from the cast and crew, "BtVS" trivia, excerpts from the uncut script, and photos from the set including looks at the key stunts.
For example, Clare Kramer's head keeps popping up to explain Glory's character development, we learn that not all of the previous 99 episodes appear in the opening montage, there was a scene at the end that tries to fake us out into thinking Anya has died, and the fake head of Sarah Michelle Gellar that they put on the Buffy-bot makes her look like she should be in a George A. Romero zombie film. The net result is like watching a DVD with pop ups, trivia tracks, options to see special features, and the like. Only you are holding a book and not watching television. In that regard, this look at "The Gift" is worth a look. Now the question is whether this book on the 100th episode of "BtVS" will succeed enough to be followed by photo-novels on other key episode (e.g., "Becoming, Part 1 & Part 2," "Hush," "Once More With Feelings," [insert your own favorite here]).
Ironically, the photographs are the least impressive part of this version of "The Gift." In the old days they were big, not so much so that you can look at them but rather because of the economics involved (less photographs means more savings). These pages usually have four to eight photographs, and at the latter end of the spectrum they get pretty small. But what will appeal to "BtVS" fans are finding out the bits of dialogue that were cut (sometimes they were specific lines rather than short but entire scenes) and what Joss Whedon and the show's other producers were thinking. This is their opportunity to learn that Xander's comment "Shpadoinkle" refers to a song from Trey Parker's "Cannibal! The Musical" and other pop culture knowledge of no immediate or intrinsic value.
Sounds good to me.