Axel-In-Charge: Extending "Secret Wars," Excitement for a "Totally Awesome Hulk"
Welcome to another Manga in Minutes! We’re kicking off this weeks column with some more licensing announcements, and a few releases dates as well.
Definitely a busy and exciting month for manga news! And without further ado, this week’s Manga in Minutes review…
With her temple burned to the ground and being pursued by the mysterious attackers, young shrine maiden Isanami chances across the down on his luck ninja, Saizo Kirigakure. Tossed together by fate, the duo soon find themselves caught up in the machinations of the warlords of the period as they vie for control of the mysterious power Isanami wields. With little choice they end up seeking the aid of the legendary warlord, Yukimura Sanada! All this, ninja battles, a giant snake and more in Kairi Shimotsuki’s Brave 10, Vol. 1!
I have a bit of a soft spot for samurai series or series dealing with Japanese history, however tangentially and Kairi Shimotsuki’s Brave 10, Vol. 1 seems like it might be able to scratch that itch. The book features appearances from a wide variety of historical figures who should be recognizable to anyone who’s every watched or played Sengoku Basara, Samurai Warriors, Nobunaga’s Ambition or any of the other dozens of projects based upon the late Warring States period. Brave 10 narrows the focus down to a highly fictionalized version of the Sanada Ten Braves, a group of ninja who aided him throughout the era.
The heart of the volume, however, is the budding relationship between Saizo and Isanami. Unfortunately it more often than not feels like a forced one sided romance which is often played for laughs. It doesn’t help matters that the characters have very little on page chemistry together. The only time this is played straight comes when Isanami explains her fondness for Saizo and it comes off as incredibly cheesy. It’s a hugely important moment in the volume though, and clearly sets in motion some changes in the way Saizo views himself. It also helps explains why, later on in the volume, Saizo seems hellbent on protecting her instead of merely tolerating her presence. We’re introduced to a number of characters fairly quickly, but sadly none of them really stand out at this point. There’s Sarutobi Sasuke, who seems like he’ll be Saizo’s friend/rival, and Anna, a Russian ninja, and four or five others who are really only notable at this point for their abilities.
Kairi Shimotsuki’s artwork is dense and highly detailed to the point of distraction. Characters are adorned with long flappy robes with ornate designs, bits of armor attached, or shrouded in bandages, wearing complicated facial masks and more. When they’re standing still, they’re pretty lovely and interesting to look at, if a little over designed. Unfortunately, because of this none of them really stand out or feel memorable. The men tend to be lean and muscular, while the women provide ample amounts of fan service and, with the exception of Isanami, are ridiculously well endowed. The complicated designs aren’t a problem when the characters are sitting and talking, but once the action kicks in there’s a 50/50 chance that it’ll slip into a jumble of black lines with no discernible flow or action being depicted. When the fight scenes are easy to follow there’s a glimmer of the decent action book this will hopefully end up becoming, with special attacks flying across the page and unusual weapons and techniques making up for the lack of intricate choreography.
Brave 10, Vol. 1 is an ok read and one that hasn’t completely lost me with its art problems. While I’m something of a sucker for historical fiction like this, the first volume felt a little too bland and generic. It didn’t really do anything to differentiate itself from any number of ninja themed series, and doesn’t seem to be using the historical period as anything more than window dressing. Hopefully this will change in future volumes.
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