Manga-ka: Atsushi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: September 2009
Synopsis: “Locked in a deadly battle with the King of Spin, Yohei must rely on his wits and the hidden powers of his Law-Abiding Silver Gun to stay alive, but NoFix has a few hidden tricks of his own. With the Fear Factory crumbling around them, Shotaro unleashes his true, fearsome power to save his friend. But it’s going to take more than the power of the Kyokotsu to stop the King of Spin NoFix and his lust to kill! Amidst the mayhem, the mysterious Emine and his henchmen lurk in the shadows… Will Shotaro finally meet up with his childhood friend? Find out in the final volume of Atsushi Ohkubo’s B. Ichi!”
This fourth volume of B.Ichi was easily the strongest of the series. I cared about what the characters were doing, how they were doing it, and perhaps most importantly, what they were going to do next. Unfortunately you can then imagine my disappoint in realizing that this is in fact the final volume of the series. Alas, but least it went out with a bang.
But really, must you share such lacking fulfillment, Yen Press? I have to assume that this series was licensed out of potential pre-interest from the manga-ka’s better known series, Soul Eater, but that doesn’t stop it from bothering me having a series that was so abruptly cut short get licensed.
For a series that began like many others – weird boy meets weird girl, they go on adventure – the plot’s relevance has slowly begun to revolve around a more recent character, Yohei. Some readers may remember that I’ve grown quite fond of him as a character over the short span of the series, and come this final book, my interest was well rewarded. The majority of the book, as the third before it, follows Yohei and his battle with the continuously more dementedly-insane King of Spin, No Fix, a man obsessed with destroying all facets of Yohei’s life. Their battle has the most easily identifiable cause driving it and No Fix’s abilities continue to escalate to near-scary degrees of efficiency. When the accumulated gang shows up to help Yohei defeat No Fix, his levels of brutality are well established and brutal.
I enjoyed watching the different characters take shots at stopping him and their failures proved as exhilarating as there accomplishments, not because I necessarily wanted to see them get their butts kicked, but because it gives any decent series some much enjoyed tension. There was even some foreshadowing for the inevitable defeat that I didn’t see coming, exciting me with the kind of ‘oh!’ moment that’s never without positive reception on my end. The lead character, Shotaro, however does pull out a sudden hidden power and transformation that leads him to fall victim to yet another shonen-lead stereotype, and while I did find the premise of his new abilities an interesting take on the powers he already possessed (channelling energy from bones of creatures), the weird mime tuxedo look I could’ve really gone without.
The artwork as a whole, though remaining wildly inconsistent, still continues to improve little by little with each passing volume. You can certainly see the difference comparing this book to volume one. While the artistic visuals of the series remain mostly the same, their utilization is much improved upon, mainly in that pages are better laid out and offer much smoother flow scene to scene. With so much of this volume being a high-tension fight sequence, the artist’s growing ability to weave coherent events is much appreciated.
After the big fight sequence begins to taper off, the series does at least allow readers the satisfaction of reading the long-anticipated meeting of Shotaro and his prior best-friend, Emine, who now has a much darker intent for the world they once defended each other from. I was actually pretty excited to finally have this happen, more so than I ever would’ve thought I was before (good job setting me up for it awesome-first-half-of-the-book), and though surprised at the swift spiral into violent confrontation, I was no less disappointed that it only proved to further set into motion a new plot line that would never see fruition.
So it was with an alas and an adieu that I bid B.Ichi, a series I never disliked per say, but at the same time never really clicked with (…until now) comes to an end. Compelling characters involved in a well-planned climax had me hooked in this fourth volume, and though I don’t know if future volumes could’ve managed the same effect, it’s a shame that we’ll now never know.