Manga-ka: Shouko Fukaki
Publisher: CMX Manga
Rating: Older Teen (16+)
Release Date: March 2010
Synopsis: “A mysterious society is stalking Jin because his father and sister, Toko, betrayed them in the past by removing Jin before he could further their cause. At the same time, long-lost brother Soichiro tries to warn Jin’s friend Fusano that Toko and their father are not the good guys they appear to be. Fusano’s not buying it and leaves with Toko, a decision she may come to regret.”
In my previous review, I recommended The Battle of Genryu as a fun martial arts manga with an intriguing plot. That remains to be true, but it’s a little difficult to recommend now with CMX’s closure. If you don’t mind not getting an ending to your manga, you might still want to check this series out, since it sports some great art, and will hopefully be revived someday.
The plot focused a little less on shock-factor this volume, though it still throws us a few interesting parts as we learn more about Jin’s brother, Soichiro, and his adoptive family. While the first volume presented a somewhat conspiratorial tone, this volume expands on the secrets of Jin’s family and the nature of their martial arts teachings. After Jin agrees to the Minamoto Dojo’s plans to train him, Toko follows him along, playing the role of the good big sister while we get sinister hints here and there about the exact nature of dojo itself.
While originally presented as an antagonist , it seems Soichiro deflected from the dojo primarily to enjoy fighting as a sport rather then as a killing technique. His renewed contact with Jin appears to be an extension of this philosophy, attempting to stop the family’s cycle of violence. With scenes revealing he’s started his own school dedicated to sports-based martial arts, the author offers a differing opinion to the more hardcore training we see Jin undertaking. This casts a darker light on the Minamoto Clan, in comparison to Soichiro‘s athletically focused dojo. Some mildly violent moments occur when these two schools get into conflict with each other, and it added another compelling element to the series.
Meanwhile, Toko seeks to protect Jin from this world in her own way, will still appearing to be a part of it. Soichiro’s past with her continues to emerge, and leads to some cute moments as she flips between girly moments and wielding a knife to his throat, which he seems to take in stride. Unfortunately, while we got to see Toko take on a more action-oriented role this volume, Fusano has seemingly settled into being the girlfriend character. This isn’t an entirely bad role, but hopefully one she won’t stay in given she did sport a fair amount of skills previously. I was a little disappointed with this development, as Jin seems to have outpaced her, failing to deliver on the promise of the earlier chapters of volume one. Given CMX’s demise, it seems unlikely we’ll get to find out if its followed through eventually, but the character interaction is still enjoyable despite the somewhat stereotypical shift for Fusano in these chapters.
Shouko Fukaki’s art continues to be the highlight of the series, taking on a stylish look that hearkens back to 90s manga with its stylized faces and a strong focus on anatomy. Characters are less cutesy and more realistically depicted, with some animated flair to emphasize the more fantastical elements. While the series is more realistic then some fighting manga in its brutal combat scenes, the somewhat-superhuman skills of some of the cast is complimented by this look. Backgrounds are solid with detailed imagery of the dojo that gives you a feeling for the exiled world of combat Jin has elected to retreat to, as well as the more traditional school environment. And yes, like many a manga protagonist, despite his strange circumstances, Jin cannot escape going to class. It seems like the cast of Flame of Recca and YuYu Hakusho were able to avoid it for fairly extended periods of time, but Jin hasn‘t lucked out on this fighting manga tradition. (Meanwhile, Naruto’s village avoided it by having a low-quality education system that disregards high school altogether.)
While very enjoyable, I have a tough time recommending this volume given the current state of CMX. Someone else might pick up the series, but since Flex’s only licensor was CMX since DC had invested in them, it remains unclear if any of their titles will find a venue among surviving licensors like VIZ, Tokyopop, Dark Horse and Vertical Inc. Checking Flex’s website, it looks like one more volume has been published in Japan, which given its 2007 release date is presumably the final one, so people who really enjoyed the series might want to track down the third volume in its original language. I’m guessing it would likely conclude some of the relationships that developed in the earlier volumes, and expanded upon the opposing dojos. The Battle of Genryu is charming enough and refreshingly action oriented for a market dominated by shojo manga and more kid-oriented shonen fare, so fans of the genre will probably want to look into it, though it’s still not quite as stellar as other CMX series I enjoyed, included finished series such as Astral Project and Emma.
Review written June 21, 2010 by Andre
Book provided by CMX Manga for review purposes