Transported to the virtual world, part 1: ‘Log Horizon’

Transported to a new world based on a video game – this has been a recent trend in manga and anime the past few years. Multiple works deal with the issue of players being transported to the world of their game now becoming their reality. Let’s tackle one of them now – it goes by the name Log Horizon. This light novel was written and created by Mamare Touno and first published in Enterbrain in 2011. There are over 10 volumes currently written with more on the way, including multiple manga and spinf-off manga and other works. Log Horizon originally takes place in modern day Japan, where players of the old yet still popular MMORPG Elder Tale get transported into a new world which combines reality and the Elder Tales video game. Players now have to fight for survival, learning the rules of this new strange world, and trying not to let the entirety of the world fall into chaos.

Our protagonist is Shiroe, a level-90 enchanter who has been playing Elder Tales for years. Shiroe begins to assemble comrades and alliances to try and form order in the chaos that is the world they now are trapped in. The series is written in the third person, mainly focusing on Shiroe, but occasionally shifting the narrative focus to other side characters. Mainly the focus of the story is the developments and interactions between the characters. For instance, a big part of the story revolves around the group Shiroe once belonged too. These characters are introduced throughout the series, and they each have connected back stories and relationships with the other characters as they come in. The best example for the story would be if World of Warcraft players suddenly got sent to a world that was like W.O.W.

Imagine all the tensions and history that would be between the different players as they interact. These could be people who have constantly argued, people who hate each other, people who know each others’ histories and families. To further complicate matters, all transported players retain their Elder Tales character’s skills and traits. Essentially, when transported all the players have become a mashup between their real selves and their game characters. The caveat is that the abilities and skills that they have now require more technique and focus than previously. What used to just be a mouse click, now requires focus and planning. Battles and small skirmishes now are quite literally fights for their lives as the players have to learn the rules of their new world.

Besides the battles and survival aspects to their new world, the players must have to work together to keep each other safe. The issue is that people will always be people, and everyone looks out for number one. What is there to do when people only think of saving themselves? This is what the players have to deal with. Disorder, thievery, slavery, abuse and other crimes are now everywhere in this world. Shiroe and his comrades have to tame this lawless world, and they do so, or at least that is how it appears. Like in reality, fighting does not just happen with physical actions, and there are many times in Log Horizon where brain beats brawn. The twists and turns of the series are fascinating and thrilling at times.

In the end, the world of Log Horizon feels organic and relatable. While something like this happening is unrealistic – the way that the characters act are realistic in various ways. The human condition remains the same, no matter the world, and no matter the scenario. Watching Shiroe and his band adventure is a real breath of fresh air, and watching them encounter and solve problems is thrilling. This is a must read. Go read it.

‘Strike the Blood’: N always SFW

I was looking for a story about a vampire who fights other supernatural people, but needs to be aroused to get power. Well, I found one. Strike the Blood  by Gakuto Mikumo, first published in Dengeki Bunko in 2011, is set in Itogami City, a manmade island where monsters and humans co-exist. Our protagonist, Kojou Akatsuki, is a high school student who recently became the strongest vampire – the 4th Progenitor. How did Kojou become this all powerful being? Why is he now embroiled in fights for his life? Why is there a mysterious girl who now watches over him wielding a spear?

Strike the Blood is a basic story with a few twists, but nothing too mysterious thus far. It is currently at volume 16 in Japan, so with only the first volume read, I’m ready to see how much farther the rabbit hole goes. The first volume sets the stage with our hero who has some unique characteristics/flaws, but is a good person wanting to do right. The heroine is introduced as shrouded in mystery, capable, but still in need of rescue which allows the hero to shine. Secondary love interests as well as potential villains are critical to Kojou’s story.

What distinguishes Strike the Blood from other stories of this genre is the world created by Mikumo through detailed back stories, from whence the world expands as the plot progresses. For example, before the story began, Kojou became an all-powerful being – but how? Rather than a simple answer, Mikumo gives the background to the abilities, the reason Kojou has those powers. A power is revealed, then the reasoning behind that ability is explained to the point where each successive ability springs from a different angle. More so, there is constant mention od factions and beings not seen in the story, creating depth and breadth to the world.

While I enjoy the world building, I don’t like much of the world. For instance, when Kojou gets aroused, he has a desire to drink blood which increases his strength. There are similar stories out there and, while they’re fun, I have seen it before. A cliché is not always bad, it’s not always boring, but it can be just another go on the merry-go-round.

That said, the story is a fun read – not dull – and I will probably read the rest of the series. For me, its saving grace is that I genuinely want to know what the hell caused the main character to become what he is. It’s a story I have read before, be that as it may, but I am still going to enjoy the ride. There is a lot of comedy, humorous situations that the main character gets into with the heroine and side characters, both SFW and NSFW in some cases. There is also a lot of action, fights which remain interesting because of the aforementioned world building. All in all, it is a fun read.

So h if you like action and comedy, and do not mind the fact that its a bit perverse, Strike the Blood is the series for you.

Author spotlight on ONE

It’s a still relatively new year, so let’s try something a little different.  In these author spotlights, I’ll look at a creator of manga, anime, or light novels and discuss their works. Some of these creators you may have heard of, and some may be new to you.

First up to bat is none other than ONE. You may know him from his works, OnePunch Man and Mob Psycho 100, but you may also not know anything else about him – because we have no idea who he is.

ONE is an author/illustrator who has been writing and publishing manga online for almost the past 10 years. OnePunch Man was originally published on his website (where it still is), and his remake of the series in collaboration with the illustrator Yusuke Murata is published  in Shonen Jump. Why was this done? Well, OnePunch Man was ONE’s first real series, and thus the art was not wonderful. The story however, is so goddamn fantastic amazing that I don’t have enough adjectives to give to it. Murata read this phenomenal series, and contacted ONE to collaborate on a redraw of the series.

ONE is someone who creates his works for his own sake. His artwork is not great – it got a lot better, as can be seen in Mob Psycho 100.  I know I am not really doing a real review or biography about ONE, but that’s not the point here. I don’t have much to tell about ONE and his works – you just have to read them. As I was saying, his artwork is not great. When I have shown the original OnePunch Man to other people they have called it “impossible to read.” But it’s really not hard to read, it’s just very far from what one is used to.

He’s not a professional artist, but that doesn’t matter. He’s just that good. What do I mean? It’s the story ONE creates. He is a fantastic storyteller and world crafter. OnePunch Man is a gag manga that explores deeper emotional and psychological issues that people can face. Mob Psycho 100 is also a  gag manga that has a multilayered story about growing up, learning one’s place in the world, fighting against adversity and learning the importance of emotions. ONE makes stories where a joke will happen, then a stunning revelation about humanity and the human condition – and it literally just fits perfectly together.

I’m serious, I can’t give enough praise to ONE. Maybe other people think differently, but no – they’re goddamn wrong. ONE is a genius and you can see that in his work. I read OnePunch Man first, the Murata version, then I read the original series. I devoured them both. The redraw is the original story, plus incredulous artwork. Murata, who was the illustrator for such works as Eyeshield 21, is such a talented artist, I could take a panel and put it in a museum. I was in love by the middle of the first chapter. Then I read the original series. It was not easy at first, I had to muscle through at the beginning. Then the story began to click and I was entrapped. It is just so good, s-o-o-o-o good. Repetitive compliments, I know – but still the truth.

Everything he does is filled with humor and emotion. Mob Psycho 100 literally just flip flops between laughter and introspective analysis of humanity. It still works perfectly, it’s a melting pot of everything possible. Comedy, drama, action, romance – it is all there together at the same time and not. Makes no sense, but then again I am never going to be able to describe it as it really is.

ONE is an author who transcends words, transcends reviews, transcends reason! Which is why this review makes no sense. I don’t have to explain him or his work to you. It’s just that perfect.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Bunny Drop’


 

‘Aoharu x Machinegun’: A battle of life and non-fatal injury

A duel to the death normally involves death – unless you are dueling with airsoft guns.

Aoharu x Machinegun is an action-packed story of the high-intensity sport that involves replica firearms that use compressed-gas canisters to fire the pellets. Many of the weapons are modeled after real firearms from today and yesteryear. Our story takes place in contemporary Japan and centers around the airsoft group Toy Gun Gun as its members attempt to dominate the world of competitive airsoft.

The shonen series was first serialized in Monthly GFantasy Magazine, written and illustrated by NAOE. The series is available to read in English now, published by YenPress. There is also an anime that came out in 2015, which is available on Crunchyroll.

The story is centered around Hotaru Tachibana, a proponent of justice who fights wrongdoing and stands up for those in need. When Tachibana’s friend says that she was swindled by a host, Tachibana rushes to confront him. The host, Masamune Matsuoka, says he will accept Tachibana’s challenge to a duel – an airsoft gun duel. Tachibana loses and ends up having to join Masamune’s team. It also turns out that Tachibana’s friend lied, and was not swindled. Also Masamune is Tachibana’s neighbor, living in the apartment next to Tachibana. Also, Tachibana is a girl – which no one seems to realize, mainly because she dresses in the boys uniform and is routinely beating people up.

So begins Tachibana’s adventure into the world of airsoft survival games. I say adventure as that is the tone of the series. While normally, sports manga have a serious edge to them, this kicks it up a notch. Each match is life or death – although no one can die. I mean the tension of the characters is absurdly high for essentially a game of paintball. The characters talk about dying in the game as if it is real death, or the teams as if they were real soldiers. It is hard to tell the reality of the game from the reality of the story’s setting. Which is fun and also comical at times. The series is rooted in comedy and action.

The characters are quirky and interesting. Tachibana is fiery and headstrong. She firmly believes in her own sense of justice and fights to right wrongs. Which gets her into trouble some of the time because she is incredibly stubborn. Masamune is a giant flirt and more than a little shady at times – but he is very caring about his team mates although he is also a bit dense. The other member of the team is Yukimura, who hates other people except Masamune and writes and draws erotic manga professionally. The situations they get into are humorous, the fights they have are tense, and the story is interesting.

The gunplay is lifted out of action movies and action manga. Everyone seems to be incredibly dexterous and fast as they fight other teams. Also, every person involved acts as if each time someone gets knocked out of the game they have died – which is funny in a sense, if not a bit too ridiculous. Characters talk about grudges from other teams, other players being “killed” in the game, it all makes it seem much more intense than it actually is. Intensity is the keyword, as this series has a lot of it. All of the action is drawn and handled in a way that is quite thrilling. Even though there is no sense of danger, or real consequences, besides losing the match.

This is a fun, action-packed story. Although at times it gets a bit silly with the over dramatic attitude. Still, the story is fun, the action is gripping, and the characters are silly. Have a blast and go read this series.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Bunny Drop’


 

‘Bunny Drop’: Heartwarming, but not for everyone

Bunny Drop is a great series. It touches a lot of emotions and really hits home for a lot of people. However, it then completely changes into something entirely different.

Bunny Drop is a josei series written and illustrated by Yumi Unita, published first in Feel Young magazine. Being a josei series, the story is targeted to adult women, although the story can be enjoyed by all ages, with a caveat.

I’m not going to go into spoilers, but the story does take a turn that may upset people in many ways. The first half of the series, volumes 1 through 4, is great for everyone. The second half of the series is great too, except the ending is, well, complicated. Not everyone is going to like it. Taking that into regard, the series itself is fantastic. The story is a bit sad at points, but it is just cute and bright the rest of the time. It is a very realistic take on parenthood, and what it means to be a single parent.

The main character, Daikichi, a 30-year-old office worker, goes to his grandfather’s funeral and encounters a surprise. Before his death, his grandfather had an affair with some woman and the woman had a baby girl, now six years old and named Rin. Daikichi’s family is neither welcoming nor understanding toward Rin, believing the illegitimate child to be a burden. Daikichi, in a spur of emotion, decides to take Rin in as her ward. From there, the story becomes one about the realization of the difficulties in raising a child, and the experience of parenthood and growing up.

It is very heartwarming at times, as the reader experiences the trials that Daikichi goes through raising Rin. From figuring out how to best get her to and from school, to taking care of her when she has a cold. Daikichi learns what it means to be a parent, and the sacrifices that come with the job. His life is forever changed with Rin’s appearance – for the better. Daikichi grows in a way, becoming an adult that Rin can look up to, that his family is proud of. All the while he is enjoying being a father to the now orphaned Rin.

Family is not what you are born into – it is what you make with the people close to you. This driving message is what Bunny Drop is about. Until we get to part two of the story. Part two is a completely radical shift. It is not a bad change – in a sense it is refreshing and provides new thematic developments and characters – however, it never lives up to the first half of the story. Lump the change of tone and pace in with the out-of-nowhere ending, and one can understand why many readers were upset. All in all, Bunny Drop is a great read that really warms the heart. For the first part at least.

Speaking to the technical side of the series, the art is good, nothing fantastic but pleasing to the eye and clean. The story is well-paced and gripping. Reading about the daily life of Daikichi and Rin is very pleasant. There are twists and turns in the story, times where one is worried for the characters and anxious that everything will turn out alright. That is how one can tell they are reading a good story. Definitely read Bunny Drop. Just skip the second half of the story if you don’t want the headache.

‘Ubel Blatt’: Revenge with a side of justice

Ubel Blatt is not a story for the faint of heart. This is not a story of happiness and dreams, or even of of love and loss. This is a story of vengeance and the all consuming greed that leads to the downfall of man. Ubel Blatt is a dark fantasy filled with violence, sex and bereavement. This is a seinen story – that is, one aimed towards adults. There is very little self-censorship in the story and an enormous amount of violence. I cannot stress how much violence there is – seriously, if you couldn’t read Berserk, you will not be able to read this. But violence is not all there is, and so we find a wonderful and powerful story in Ubel Blatt.

The epic, written and illustrated by Etorouji Shiono and first published in Young Gangan magazine, is published in America by Yen Press.

Decades before the start of the series, the Empire of Szaalenden was engaged in war with the demonic nation of Wischtech. To stop this evil, the emperor sends 14 heros, armed with holy lances. Along the way, three heroes fall before they enter Wischtech. Four of the 11 left betray the others and are killed by the remaining seven. Those seven succeed, and become known as the Seven Heroes, while the four who were killed are branded as the Lances of Betrayal. The Seven Heroes return from their mission, and the empire prospers.

However, history is written by the survivors.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Accel World’


The story of the Seven is not as true as it appears. A young fairy-human hybrid named Koinzell appears in the frontier land between the once evil nation and the Empire. Koinzell begins a bloody campaign to kill the Seven Heroes and right the wrongs committed by those Seven. Who is Koinzell and what is the character’s motivation? That is for the reader to find out.

Koinzell’s quest is epic in scope as he is essentially making an enemy of the whole empire. Taking influence from great tragedies and epics, the characters of Ubel Blatt are well rounded and fleshed out. A reader of the series is able to tell how the characters think and what drives them. Each of the Seven Heroes are for all purposes evil, but the reader can see what drove them to that point. Their actions, while reprehensible, are grounded in something relatable to the experience of being human. Be it, jealously, fear, greed or even something as simple as a desire for something – the smallest of emotions can end up becoming the grandest of tragedies and lead to the downfall of the one who emotes.

Despite some moments of levity this is, in the end, a story of vengeance. Koinzell gains compatriots along his quest, makes connections with his past and meets his enemies in battle. The action in Ubel Blatt is awesome in its scope and detail. Koinzell is a master swordsman, and all of the battles he engages in become more and more inspiring. Conflicts in Ubel Blatt range from duels to full-scale battles between opposing armies. All of these are made more memorable as the characters involved in the battles are fleshed out. Even minor characters have intricate backstories rooted in the ever-expanding world.

There are also many mysteries in Ubel Blatt, and the reader is the one to unravel them as they read. Each plot twist is well crafted and fits with the narrative and tone of the story. Although the story at times may be heart-wrenching, it will leave you desperate for more. It is that intense a story. Koinzell  is an avenger. He will not stop, he will not concede and he will not forgive. His story is something worth the heartache and discomfort. It is a story that feels organic, feels real – even though there is magic and monsters. Go read it.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Dragons Rioting’


 

‘Accel World’: Beyond your limits to the infinite world

Everyone dreams of being something better: being able to change what they hate about themselves and reach their dreams. This is not what is taught in the light novel/manga/anime franchise Accel World, written by Reki Kawahara and originally published by ASCII Media Works. Instead the continuum, an action-science fiction series about a virtual game played by teenagers, is about healing the scars of the heart and learning to accept whom one is. The series is focused on Haruyuki “Haru” Arita, an overweight and bullied high school boy who gets involved with the mysterious and beautiful senior Kuroyukihime, the most popular girl in the school. From there, Haru enters the amazing and expansive world of Brain Burst, a program that allows humans to transcend their limits and battle each other in the infinite “Accelerated World.”

Accel World started as a light novel, which are targeted to young adults and vary in length from novella to full-length. What makes these different is that they may contain illustrations of characters and scenes from the story. Light novels are either self-contained stories or tightly continuing narratives that flow from volume to volume.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Dragons Rioting’


The story of Accel World is simple – the world of the series is one where technology has hit a point where every person has a device called a Neuro Linker attached to them. This device allows a person to connect to the internet wherever they may be, and essentially allows a person’s brain to be connected to the internet. Using the hacking program Brain Burst, a person can use the Neuro Linker to accelerate their brain to allow them extend the time of their thoughts and essentially freeze the world. Brain Burst also allows a user to fight other “Burst Linkers” in a massive online fighting game.

Haru becomes involved in the struggle for dominance in Brain Burst and competes to help Kuroyukihime become the top of the Burst Linkers. The fighting character of a Burst Linker is based on the personal traumas of the person. The characters design and special ability is based on that. For example, one person is unable to feel that they can embrace other, so their arms are knives. Burst Linkers then take their characters and fight for control of the Accelerated World. Based on the color of the character, different factions vie for control.

The world of the story is very fascinating and vast. There is much mystery about Brain Burst. Who made it? Why was it made? These are answers that come about through the story. The Accelerated World is filled with puzzles and Haru encounters many of them. He interacts with the powerful and sinister people in Brain Burst. His adventure is one of self-discovery and healing, beginning at a time when he is very hard himself and has little confidence. For years he has thought that he would not have the ability to reach the heights he wants and be wanted. All the characters in Accel World are damaged in some way. Either in a physical sense or an emotional sense. These damages become part of the characters and the each character’s arcs are based on the healing of those damages. This is concurrent to the ongoing battles that ensue for domination in the Accelerated World.

Accel World is currently available in multiple formats. Besides the original light novel, there is an ongoing manga series and an anime series. It is a fascinating and in depth series that has a terrific story. Go read it.


Read Luke’s review of ‘My Hero Academia’


‘Dragons Rioting’: Martial arts with fists and breasts

dragonsrisingA lot of fighting manga center around the main character growing and solving his inner problems. Dragons Rioting, on the other hand, is a story about the main character trying not to die from sexual stimulation while trying to solve his inner problems.

This manga by Tsuyoshi Watanabe in Monthly D
ragon Age Magazine
 is the story of Tachibana Rintaro – a teenage boy starting his first year of high school. From the time he was a child, Rintaro has had a severe illness that has almost claimed his life several times. The illness is called Hentai Syndrome. When Rintaro becomes sexually stimulated – he will die. Rintaro’s father, a man ripped out of a martial arts story, takes him into the woods to seclude him from women and train him to have control in case he ends up in danger. Rintaro will need that training – as he is starting high school at Nangokuren High School. A school that is filled with martial arts and 99.9% female student body.

Dragons Rioting is a ecchi fighting manga. (“Ecchi” describes a series with many sexual tones or imagery, but is not purely sexual in nature.) Many manga and anime series have this imagery in it – mainly it is used for what is called “fan service,” providing something gratuitously lurid for the fans, such as a character who is always in skimpy clothing (certainly nothing unique to this form).  In manga, many fan service-related scenes revolve around sexual situations. These may be the character having body parts shown, revealing underwear, or putting the character in some moderate to extreme erotic scenario. However, there is a limit to what the majority of these ecchi manga show or go into. These are not pornographic stories – there is a limit that they do not cross as for many of these the intended consumer of the series is a teenager.


Read Luke’s review of ‘My Hero Academia’


To that end Dragons Rioting is a series that has so much fan service it becomes a sort of meta joke on the whole idea of it. Since Rintaro cannot become sexually aroused – every time he is put in some kind of sexual situation his life is at risk. Besides fighting, most of Rintaro’s skills are used for evasion purposes. Many times he uses martial arts to dodge seeing women’s skirts blown up by the wind, scaling buildings to avoid scantily clad women or creating walls from the ground to hide a girl who has had her clothes destroyed. Rintaro’s life has become a struggle to survive.

But what is this story actually about? Well the plot is very simple. Rintaro comes to the school to have a normal high school life. That does not happen, first because of his illness and all the women at the school and then second because the entire school is filled with martial arts fanatics. Everyone at this school is some sort of fighter or martial artist, and they all compete with each other to be the top of the school, or a “dragon.” The school has three dragons at the moment, but that is always subject to change, as someone stronger will always come and go. Rintaro ends up being put headfirst into this three-way struggle as he intermingles with the dragons and begins his own path to dominance.

From here the story takes a much more basic fighting turn. Many of the secondary characters are the ones doing the fighting though, as spare a few fights – Rintaro is amazingly overpowered. I would not say unbeatable, as he does have a few tough fights, but he is very easily able to defeat many in his way. In that respect, Dragons Rioting is less interesting as a fighting story – because Rintaro is so overpowered. It is interesting for him to use some different move from time to time to quickly end a fight, but it gets a little stale. The other characters fights can be fun, but spare the three dragons, the other side characters are not so memorable.

This is a story that shines in the absurdity of the premise and the humor of the scenarios. If you can get past the gratuitous fan service, and see the humor behind it, you will be in for a very fun ride. Go read it.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Sun-Ken Rock’


‘My Hero Academia’: Balancing homework and world-saving

myheroacademiaImagine a world where everyone could be a superhero. Now imagine you are born into this fantastic world, but without powers of your own. Welcome to My Hero Academia, a fantastic take on the superhero genre by Kōhei Horikoshi published in Weekly Shonen Jump. Collections are available in English via VIZ Media

The story centers around Midoriya Izuku, a Japanese high school student who is born without powers, or “quirks,” as they are called in the manga. Essentially everyone in the world is born with some kind of quirk. They range from controlling fire to being able to shoot a beam of light from the belly button. Quirks have an infinite amount of possibilities to them, as every quirk is nuanced in various ways.

Horikoshi is incredibly inventive with the powers and abilities of the characters in the series. Several of the characters are based off other superheroes from American comics. For instance, the major hero of the series, All Might, is sort of a proxy-mashup of Superman and Captain America. However, his abilities, while similar, are not the same as those two characters. Characters have inventive abilities, one person has a shadow that, while controllable, is able to attack, to defend, to jump higher, grab things or people from a distance, used as a chariot, and so on. This is true for all of the abilities in the series. There seems to be a detailed back story and analysis of almost every quirk in the series.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Sun-Ken Rock’


Midorya’s back story is simple – he has always wanted to be a professional hero. To compensate for his lack of quirks, Midoriya thoroughly researches heroes, their abilities, accomplishments, etc. All the while, he is mocked by his former friend, Bakugo.

Luck is on Midorya’s side though. Through a twist of fate, he encounters All Might and, through that meeting, is thrown headfirst into the world of professional heroes at the prestigious U.A. High School, the top academy for heroes. There he mingles and meets with other young hopefuls as they all learn to become pros. There is a huge cast of characters in the series, and all of them get to be the focus from time to time. Midorya is the star, but each supporting character is fleshed out and given their due.

Many of the chapters deal with the growth of the characters, either through their abilities or characteristics. One character has family issues stemming from his father, a pro hero. The manga delves in depth into the personal struggles of the character and what kind of resolution is needed for that character to grow. Other characters deal with issues of inadequacy, either with their quirks or personalities.  Many characters feel that they are unable to compare to others in the series, or in reverse, they believe themselves to be so amazing they become over confident and stunned when they lose.

This is a series very much about growth, not just in character, but growing up in general. Characters learn to deal with more and more issues that adults have to deal with. It is very much a story about learning to become an adult. It is about high school life, change in yourself, and acceptance of others. Through the trials and tribulations that arise, through the fights with villains and other heros, these young wannabe heros become something more. They become heroes in their own way. This is a wonderful series to read. Go read it.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Kiss Him, Not Me’


‘Sun-Ken Rock’: Fight for those in need, fight for what you are

sun-ken-rockThe 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.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Kiss Him, Not Me’


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.


Read Luke’s review of ‘Yotsuba&!