"Gyakushu! Volume 1" (Mania.com)
Review Date: Friday, April 06, 2007
Gyakushu isn’t your typical Tokyopop Manga…first, it’s written and drawn by not by a Japanese creator but rather by American Dan Hipp in a kind of Americanized Manga style, less cartoony that typical Manga. Secondly, this book is much grimmer in tone they most Manga. It’s really like a fairy tale where everyone does NOT live happily ever after. Gyakushu is raw, unfettered violence and brutality and filled with sickeningly evil characters…and that’s all within the first two-dozen pages.
It starts out like a very pleasant tale as we meet a retired thief and his wife Demi, and young son Spencer, out for play on a warm, idyllic day in a wheat field. A wizened narrator tells the story in a series of flashbacks. We learn the unnamed thief stole a book of shadowy secrets from the malignant Viktor. The book led him to the secret land where he now lives, in the false belief that he and his family are safe. But Viktor has other ideas. He tracks the thief to the peaceful village, killing nearly every man, woman, and child along the way until he finds the thief. His henchman is a blackheart known as Wretchit, whose face was carved into a permanent, twisted smile by the thief.
They show absolutely no mercy as the thief is mutilated and left to die, only after seeing his wife butchered in front of him, and the whereabouts of his son unknown. Years later, Viktor is now emperor, ruling as a true tyrant, until a mysterious figure, heavily bandaged throughout his body, comes stalking out of the wilderness, killing the Emperor’s soldiers. Could this possibly be the thief? And what connection does he have to the small boy who has been told the now legendary thief was his father.
Gyakushu is about as darkly violent as it gets in a Manga title. Even the narrator is compelled to warn the reader that there is no love or joy in the story…only death. He’s not exaggerating! It’s a simple tale of revenge, although it is perhaps too simple. Hipp really doesn’t give his readers much background to the characters. We don’t really learn much about the mysterious book and why it was so sought after. It’s a potent tale to be sure, as Hipp’s thief lives only for revenge. Again, the narrator is quick to advise that revenge stories often write their own endings. I will definitely be looking forward to volume 2 of Gyakushu!
Mania Grade: B+
Story and Art By: Dan Hipp