Category Archives: Manga

Sun-ken Rock – Manga Review

Korean Title: Sun-ken Rock

 

Genre: Action Comedy Drama

Length: 25 volumes

 

Positives:

  • Some good comedy.

Negatives:

  • Comedy often undermines serious moments.
  • The further you read, the less engaging it becomes.
  • Sexual content with no purpose.

Ken is a young Japanese guy in love with a Korean girl. When she moves back to Korea to become a policewoman – “Officer” – to become a policewoman-officer, he follows her with designs of becoming a policeman-officer, but through circumstances too ridiculous to comprehend, he finds himself as the leader of a gang.

After reading this hilarious setup, I thought I was in for a great time with Sun-ken Rock. Then it settled into its core, the meat of the story, which is a series of repetitive arcs (with no end in sight) of Ken being an idiot, stumbling across someone – usually a woman – mid-abuse/rape, calling the gang, and getting in a fight. Rape? Sounds serious. Except that the comedy undermines any chance of taking such a subject seriously. And it’s not as though Sun-ken Rock handles this humour with the genius skill of South Park, raising an interesting point through the unusual choice of comedy, which is a shame because the comedy is good when not breaking a serious scene.

If you’re here for main element – action – prepare for disappointment. Sun-ken Rock’s action looks nice (the artist put all his effort in these 2-page spreads), but is repetitive and the characters are too stupid to enjoy.

By the way, the plot about Ken and the Korean girl is superfluous with how little importance the author placed on it. Sun-ken Rock is not a good manhwa. How did it receive 25 volumes…? I should become a detective to find out.

Art – Medium

The action shots look great, while the rest is so-so. Most female characters have the same design.

Story – Low

A boy with a crush on a girl follows her to Korea to join the police, but becomes a gang leader by accident instead. Sun-ken Rock suffers from repetitive story arcs and shallow characters. Even its one selling point – comedy – doesn’t mesh with the serious, particularly in relation to sex.

Recommendation: Skip it. Whether manga or manhwa, the action genre isn’t empty enough to require you dig this deep in the slush pile to find a worthwhile series. Go for The Breaker over Sun-ken Rock any day.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

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The Cain Saga – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Hakushaku Cain Series

 

Related: God Child (sequel)

 

Genre: Gothic Historical Mystery

Length: 5 volumes

 

Positives:

  • Unique in style and story to other manga.
  • Glimmers of engagement.

Negatives:

  • Messy storytelling and structure.
  • Messy art.

So messy is the storytelling and structure in The Cain Saga that the conflict comes from finding scene transitions rather than the characters. Imagine you are watching a conversation scene in a film, camera cutting back and forth between close up of two characters, and suddenly it cuts mid-conversation to a funeral. Is this funeral a part of the conversation? Have we started a new scene? Yes…no! Not sure…

It’s a shame The Cain Saga suffers from such a glaring issue, for it could have been great. The Cain Saga is the story of Earl Cain Hargreaves, a wealthy heir exploring his family history of lies, secrets, and treachery told through a series of short stories.

Are these stories any good? Mmmyeah…ish. The ideas are fine, but as said earlier, the structuring makes it a chore to read. The dialogue is similarly disjointed. At times, it feels as though each character is talking for a different scene.

As I am trying to decipher yet another scene transition, I find myself wondering what made me add this manga to my collection many months ago. It must have been the genre. I love Gothic fiction, a rarity in anime and manga, so it was nice to find some. Sadly, it wasn’t what I had hoped. The search continues.

 

Art – Medium

Detailed art – possibly even too detailed. Without colour to highlight details, the art regularly looks like a mess, which is a pity.

Story – Medium

An aristocrat delves into his family’s history filled with secrets and lies. It’s a shame poor structure and muddled scenes make The Cain Saga a chore to read.

Recommendation: Try it. If you can stomach the messy art and storytelling, The Cain Saga has interesting Gothic short stories to tell, different from your typical manga.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

The Breaker – Manga Review

Korean Title: Breaker

 

Related: The Breaker: New Waves (sequel)

 

Genre: Martial Arts Action Comedy Drama

Length: 10 volumes

 

Positives:

  • High quality art.
  • Solid action.
  • Han is hilarious.

Negatives:

  • Slow to get the protagonist’s story going.

The Breaker follows Shi-Woon, a downtrodden student, and his womanising martial arts teacher in hiding, Han. In the story’s opening, Shi-Woon is a victim of severe bullying at the hands of classmates. These one-dimensional bullies found in every Karate Kid-type story made me groan, but when Han tells Shi-Woon he is bullied because he’s a piece of shit, I laughed (see first image below). You don’t expect the master to tell the apprentice he’s trash. My opinion changed thereafter.

Han is the best character here and, in my opinion, the true protagonist since he has the most page time and conflict focus. His combination of goofball during downtime and serious when needed makes every scene with him a joy. He’s a martial arts master in hiding from several high-end gangs he’s peeved off in the past and he sees potential in Shi-Woon to become something great. The sexy Shiho, a master in Ki healing, joins them soon. She and Han play well off each other, particularly in regards to the sexual humour.

Having the underdog learn from a master to win a series of fights is nothing new and I would say oversaturates action manga. However, The Breaker executes it at the top tier, so don’t let past slush get in the way here. For one, there’s more psychology to Shi-Woon than your usual underdog. The author made an effort to explain why he is mentally and physically weak at the start, developing him in a believable way from there.

The Breaker also deviates from the formula with the inclusion of these gangs, which takes the story into a more Ki-powered mafia direction. Having more than a string of fights prevents the story from growing stale. Don’t misunderstand – action is still the focus, but there’s enough around the action to elevate it from the slush pile.

As for the action itself, it has all you expect – trash talk, comebacks, punches that knock the soul out of your gut, blood pouring over one eye, supernatural strength, and despicable villains. I preferred the comedy sections, but wasn’t disappointed either when it switched to action.

Art – High

I love The Breaker’s art style and character designs – Shiho is gorgeous. Panels aren’t cluttered and the action sequences have clarity often lacking in action manga/manhwa.

Story – High

A bullied student learns to pick himself off the ground when his school teacher turns out to be a martial arts master in hiding. Taking the Karate Kid formula as a baseline, The Breaker adds supernatural martial arts, sex appeal, humour, and plenty of opponents to defeat.

Recommendation: A must for action fans. The Breaker’s great characters balanced in comedy and action make this an engaging read to the end. If you only want to read one martial arts series, The Breaker should probably be it.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

Tetsuwan Girl – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Tetsuwan Girl

 

Genre: Sports Historical Drama

Length: 9 volumes

 

Positives:

  • (Not sure)

Negatives:

  • Strawman antagonists.
  • One-note protagonist.
  • The confrontational dialogue is painful.
  • The eyes!

I don’t remember how Tetsuwan Girl got onto my manga list. The art doesn’t catch my eye, the premise reeks of strawmen, and nothing about it would make me pause while scrolling down the endless manga database. How did this get here…?

Tetsuwan Girl is about the start of women’s baseball in Japan and its players after WW2. In typical fashion of sports fiction, the team consists of the usual suspects of character types – the tough one, the butch one, the quiet one, etc. However, where good sports fiction will have this trait as the mere surface with depth underneath, Tetsuwan Girl stays at the surface. None of these women strays outside of their one note.

Take the protagonist. The author didn’t allow her to show natural toughness. Instead, her scenes feel like a reality show where the producer tells the “star” to act tough in front of the camera, manufacturing conflict for the dumb audience. They’ll even have some passing stranger pretend that he has a problem with women living to spice it up. I’d be more convinced this was real if Godzilla stomped onto the stadium.

The antagonists are worse. Each is a strawman setup to allow the protagonist to win effortlessly through some horrendous dialogue. The confrontations are so bad that I couldn’t take the struggle seriously. Did people really struggle for women’s baseball after the war? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t believe it after reading this. If it were real, Tetsuwan Girl’s conflict wouldn’t be so fake.

Art – Low

The art looks rough, unfinished, the draft stages of a painting. Every character has this peer-into-your-soul stare. Creepy.

Story – Very Low

A woman joins the first professional women’s baseball team in Japan after WW2. Flat characters, rubbish antagonists, and no direction make Tetsuwan Girl a mind-draining experience.

Recommendation: Avoid it. Tetsuwan Girl feels as fake as Jerry Springer but without the absurdity to make it entertaining.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)

After School Nightmare – Manga Review

Japanese Title: Houkago Hokenshitsu

 

Genre: High School Supernatural Mystery Drama Romance Horror

Length: 10 volumes

 

Positives:

  • Some horror elements.
  • The concept.

Negatives:

  • The execution.
  • Uninteresting characters, despite their flaws and tragedy.
  • Drama undermines the supernatural conflict.

Who would have thought that After School Nightmare could make a love triangle involving someone with a male top half and female lower half so dull.

Students cannot graduate from this school until they find a key, competing against classmates in a nightmare realm for the mysterious object. Sounds interesting, right? Just like the love triangle, the writer couldn’t have made this more boring. In the nightmare, classmates have to “fight” (read: look menacing), which is undermined by having no impact in the real world, where everyone is chummy despite trying to kill each other yesterday.

As for characters, the melodrama is whiny rubbish. The protagonist likes a girl who likes him as a guy, but another guy likes him as a girl. The conflict goes as such: “I’m not a girl! I’m a boy! Waaaaah.” Three volumes in and it has gone nowhere. The first volume had as much happen as a single chapter of a better manga.

These characters are so shallow that I can’t even remember their individual motivations. People seem to think giving characters a trauma or a flaw makes them deep. In great writing, the use and execution of these flaws create a character’s depth, not the mechanics of the flaw. Take Mr Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. His flaw, pride, doesn’t sound great – it isn’t tragic, he didn’t suffer some great loss, he isn’t a war victim, or anything of the sort. However, the use, the impact of his pride gives him that complexity I find lacking in After School Nightmare’s characters.

I could not wait for this manga to end.

Art – Medium

The art often looks weak. Lopsided, inconsistent faces. The horror elements do look cool, however.

Story – Low

Students must enter nightmares to fight each other if they want to graduate. A unique concept sunk by weak conflict, uninteresting characters, and cheesy drama.

Recommendation: Skip it. There must be a better love triangle of confused sexuality in manga than After School Nightmare.

(Find out more about the manga recommendation system here.)