Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Welcome to another Manga in Minutes! As per usual, before jumping into the weekly review enjoy a few manga related news items from the past week that’ve caught my eye!
That’s a whole lot of licensing announcements for a single week! As always, click the links for more detailed information. And now, onto this weeks Manga in Minutes review!
The latest volume of Hiroaki Samura’s Blade of the Immortal picks up the pace and follows a number of clashes between the Itto-Ryu and Habaki Kagimura’s Rokki-DanKagimura’s. Last volume saw the first true clash between the two groups, and Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 28 ramps up the violence and action as this skirmish reaches its climax. Can the new Itto-Ryu forces fend off the desperate Rokki-Dan? That’s not the only clash going on though, as the Itto-Ryu’s second in command, Abayama faces off against one of the best fighters in the series, Giichi. The series is heading towards its climax, which means all bets are off on who will survive the remaining few volumes!
Raining Chaos? Raining Blood would have been more appropriate. All the little clashes we’ve seen between the Itto-Ryu and Kagimura’s forces were a but a prelude to the carnage wrought in this volume. Its 200 plus pages are dominated by the Abayam/Giichi duel, something that’s been a while in coming and has its roots in events that occurred waaaaay back around volume 13 or so. Around it are various other fights between the unknown new members of the Itto-Ryu and the equally unknown members of the Rokki-Dan. Little in the ways of character development or plot twists occur, and instead we’re treated to some incredible, non-stop action. Scattered throughout the flashing blades and arterial sprays are little nuggets of personality and hints of some of the combatants histories, though for the most part they remain largely blank slates. Despite the lack of emotional attachment to most of the characters in this volume, Samura is able to sneak in some touching moments that might have readers wishing he could have spent more time developing them. At any rate, the fights do what they’re meant to. They break up the lengthy Abayama/Giichi duel and help set up the survivors as baddasses to be feared and respected, giving them a little bit of seasoning and build up for these last few volumes. It mirrors a fighting tournament arc in this way.
Of course, in a volume that’s almost entirely made up of fight scenes it’s only natural that the art is the star of the story. Samura’s visuals, pacing and amazing fight choreography are on full display as he weaves a beautiful path of destruction across all 216 pages. Even the battles with minor characters whose names you’ll probably never remember are interesting and hard to take your eyes off of, to say nothing of the grudge match between Abayama and Giichi. The volume includes what has to be the single grossest scenes in the series to date. It’s really something that has to be seen to be believed, but be forewarned, it’s nasty. Straight up gross and disgusting. It’s also worth mentioning that this has one of my favorite covers to date, featuring all of the main Itto-Ryu members, from Kuroi Sabato to Ozuhan. It’s a lovely cover and one of the only times I can remember seeing them all gathered together like this.
This volume really highlights one of the strengths of the series. Samura has done such a fantastic job at building up Giichi and Abayama that there’s no clear cut villain, no clear cut hero to root for. On top of that, since we’re heading into the endgame there’s an extra sense of no one truly being safe now. Even in the smaller fights, the fact that the characters are blank slates ultimately works for them, at times giving them a sense that anything could happen and just about anyone could win. Unfortunately it also sees Samura once more dipping into the sexual assault schtick, though it’s far tamer here than it has been in the past. It does serve a point, after spending so much time with the Itto-Ryu and seeing them cast in a sympathetic and noble light it drives home that these people aren’t simply misunderstood, but the villains that terrorized and tortured Rin and her family over a decade ago in the series beginning.
At any rate, with Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 28: Raining ChaosHiroaki Samura continues to push the dial beyond 10 and 11, turning up the action and tension as the series builds to its inevitable climax. It continues to set the standard for action scenes on the printed page, putting nearly every other series to shame.
Blade of the Immortal, Vol. 28: Raining Chaos is available now from Dark Horse Comics.
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