Author: Nitro+ Chiral
Manga-ka: Chayamachi Suguro
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Released: January 2008
Synopsis: “The Igura: a deadly battle game where players stake their lives in the ruined city of Toshima. In a post-apocalyptic Japan where the underworld rules the day, Akira is placed in jail for murder. He’s given a chance at freedom if he can win the game. Whether he finds victory, death, or even love, he will be in for the fight of his life! Based on the ground-breaking bishonen game!”
Togainu no Chi is a manga based off a Japanese-released video game of the same name. Those who’ve heard, or played, the game before, will recognize it as a Nitro+ Chiral boys’ love title that didn’t go easy on the violence and stylishly attractive men. Unfortunately to some, and the benefit of others, though two different versions of manga adaptations exist for this game, neither have focus on the man-on-man portions of the game. So, as one of the two, this version Tokyopop chose to release falls in category as yet another gritty action story set in yet another apocalyptic future.
Let me start off by pointing out that I have indeed played a majority of the game this book is based off, but despite my prior knowledge of the characters and plot, I tried to go in my fresh-eye blinders to see how this adaptation would hold up to newcomers.
Sadly, however, this book had little to offer even a veteran fan such as myself. The story suffers from a serious lack of organization, where too much information is crammed into little page time and makes large portions of the book long, chunky and boring. On the upside of information-overload, if you take the time to read the often tediously long speech bubbles, the game of Igura is nearly fully explained along with the workings of the city, from origin and rule-bending, to the circulating drug, Line, which gives its users increased physical strength.
The story itself, as a sum-up, follows several different characters, but the lead focus of the story is intended to be Akira , a young man forced to participate in a city-sized game of kill or be killed called Igura, in exchange for his freedom from prison. Accompanying him is an old friend, Kei, who doesn’t really have what it takes to survive in this deadly realm where people murder each other for sport, pleasure and advancement. From investigators, to participants and to the sadistic game judges, volume one of Togainu no Chi makes a point to introduce all the key players.
The characters are handled pretty nicely from a portrayal standpoint, though I disliked the artist’s method of character introduction where a simple walk-on or dull appearance marred the few chances for dramatics this book had to offer. My personal favorite of the book would be the androgynous, Rin, whose small stature can’t help but leave a reader wondering how he survives in this cut-throat tournament. Most of the characters do feel like they have a lot more to offer readers in regards to both dark secrets and rounded personalities, but none of them are explored too deeply here in the first installment which at least leaves something to look forward to.
The art is by-far this book’s greatest downfall in my opinion though. While the random panel can prove eye-catching and the overall look does cater decently to its dark source material, overall this book is a visual mess. I found that a lot of the art looked like it’d been done at a horribly low resolution with a slight loss of focus and no consistency when it comes to line width. The screen toning is uneven and some images are even copied and pasted to be used again. Any book that leaves a reader cringing and questioning if the art was just badly traced certainly doesn’t leave a good feeling when you’re through. Based off a video game, I can’t even give the artist kudos for the appealing character designs. Simply said, it looks very cheap.
Sadder still is how fantastic I thought the cover art looked, and I’m sure this book will sell based on that first impression alone. Alas that the inside fails expectations so disappointingly. Tokyopop did a decent job with what they had to work with here, though the evident contrast between their crisp text and the art’s occasional blurriness only makes the flaw more noticeable. I liked their choice of logo font for the book’s title but the two soft-edged blood splatters on the O just add to things about this book that make me feel like I need glasses and seem out of place on the sharp overall design.
Honestly, I was really disappointed with this adaptation, and despite my enjoyment of the game, I wouldn’t suggest this book to readers. The concept is intriguing and the characters interesting but none of the story’s achievements fall to the credit of the artist and would be much better experienced in their native format. This book is a prime example of why you don’t judge a book by its cover (or its game).
Review written January 7, 2009 by Lissa Pattillo.
Book purchased from independant hobby-store, The Batter’s Box