The setting: Present-day South Korea. The main character: A Japanese youth immigrating to to profess his love for the girl of his dreams. The plot: A balls-to-the-walls action saga about gang wars, power and honor. Welcome to Sun-ken Rock, the critically beloved manga series by Boichi. The series began serialization in Young King magazine in 2006, and recently ended earlier this year. It’s now available as a collection via BoroughCon sponsor Crunchyroll. Spanning less than 200 chapters, each panel is an emotional power slam to the gut. The story revolves around Kitano Ken, a young Japanese man who immigrates from Japan to South Korea to follow the love of his life, Yumin. Yumin had relocated to become a police officer and Ken, head over heels, follows to join her and become a police officer himself. But, as is a core tenet of this story, life does not always goes as planned, and one must fight through the hand dealt to get what they desire.
Ken, unable to join the police force, ends up intertwined in the machinations of the slick Tae-Soo Park, a gangster who places Ken in charge of his gang, renamed the Sun-ken Rock group. From here on out is the story of the Sun-ken Rock group’s quest for power and influence over all South Korea, unwillingly dragging Ken along with them. What seems like a simple story – boy meets girl, girl moves away, boy follows girl, boy ends up in charge of a mob group trying to be number one in the country – is not simple at all.
Sun-ken Rock drives home a powerful message to tolerance and inclusiveness to all people. Many of the driving points behind Ken’s motivations deal with protecting those around him. Either those discriminated against due to their nationality or those taken advantage of by those in powerful positions. Ken’s quest is one of peace through will power, and forging one’s way through the darkness to get to the light. There is much darkness in this tale. Death, rape, vicious beatings – all are various dark situations that occur in the story. This is not a story targeted towards children, this is a story that speaks about mankind as a whole, and the weight that one person’s actions can carry. Emotions run high in this story.
Part of what conveys these emotions is the fantastic artwork. Boichi draws gorgeous panels of fights. A simple drawn yell, conveys such powerful emotion, it can knock you back a little. Boichi delights in drawing extreme detail in each millimeter of a panel. Ranging from the sinews in the muscles to the dirt on someone’s hands. Many of the images in the series are pure delight for the eyes. This is a series to re-read. There is much to discover when going back through this series. The art grows exponentially throughout the series. Boichi really seemed to develop and master his art style throughout the run of the series. However, Boichi also enjoys drawing excessive fan service.
All of the female characters are drawn lasciviously and voluptuously. However, the female characters are not purely for fan service. The main female characters and the supporting female cast are fleshed out with great characterization. For example, even though Yumin, the main female character, ends up needing to be rescued several times – she is also one of the most capable characters in the series. Easily becoming the second most important character behind Ken, the main character, and easily being one of the most badass characters in the series. Often Yumin displays and performs incredible actions, out performing and quite easily becoming the focal point of various altercations in the series. The rest of the supporting female characters range from powerful aides to the main characters – ones that are unstoppable and strong.
This is a story about protecting those in need. It is a story about growth, from innocent to jaded to knowledgeable about the world. At the core, Sun-Ken Rock is a story about honor and doing what is right. Even though the main characters are criminals. Go read it.