Worst Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Monday, October 04, 2004
Release Date: Wednesday, September 01, 2004
Translated by:Namoi Kokubo and Steven Hoffman
What They Say
Who wants to be the tough guy at school?
Well that's what the bad boys of Suzuran High School are going to find out at the Freshman's Battle, a fight contest amongst the newcomers to see who will be the top dog on campus and Hana is up for the challenge. When naive country bumpkin Hana Tsukishima transfers to a boardinghouse to attend High School in the big city, he finds this fast-paced lifestyle is not what it's like back home. With a yakuza landlord, a cross-dressing housekeeper and boardinghouse mates trying to out do one another... there is little room for the weak-at-heart to survive with this wild bunch. But little do the ruffians know that Hana is more than a match for them. Find out who will be the alpha male to rule and dominate the worst school in town.
WORST, the ever popular manga hit in Japan, comes to America. With over a million copies sold for each volume, it's sure to smash its way into every reader's hands and knock'em down to the ground.
As Digital Manga's first self-published title, Worst is already one of the better manga productions available in North America. This series is printed left-to-right in an A5 size GN wrapped in a dust jacket. Inside the printing is very good with sharp inking, void of tone issues, and because of the size free of alignment problems. On the dust jacket there is a close-up on the main character Tsukishima Hana. The image is also on the cover of the GN, but in black and white (this is done by a majority of Japanese publishers). I like the way DMP incorporated kana into the logo. I have noticed a few more title do this and I hope it's a trend that will continue. DMP kept the original volume header and all of the chapter headers intact. At the end the of the GN there is short ato-gaki, a one page preview for volume two followed by ads for Ikebukuro West Gate Park, DMP's yaoi line and their How to Draw Manga series. While some people might balk at the $12.95 price, in my opinion it is worth the excellent packaging, especially when considering some studios charge the same for subpar packaging.
Takahashi's art is very tight and definitely fits this genre well. At first glance with the hairdos, piercings, tats, scars, and threads his cast look more like twenty-somethings instead of fifteen year-old kids. These kids are huge, ripped and the hard knock life has beat them old. In the yanki manga scene this is the standard. There are still some with overcoats and high pants, but as hip-hop and punk styles become increasingly popular those looks become more common in manga as well. Dreads, sweat suits, goatees mix in with pompadours, skinheads, and school uniforms with ease and style. Character designs are all over the map. In a way it reminds me of how Inoue handled Slam Dunk with very different body type, face designs and styles that matches their respective personalities.
Backgrounds are pretty nice and they are used often. It is hard to find a shonen title that uses them as much, for they often do not do that much to support the writing in many "goal driven" shonen titles. This is more of a "character driven" title (even though Hana appears to have a goal from the start) where character roles and social status are quickly defined, even though the characters themselves have not been fleshed out too much. The layout is pretty simple but it does the job. There is good deal of variety perspective and point of view and it really shows in Takahashi's fighting scenes where fists and headbutts are flying from all over the place: first person, third person, etc. Fun.
The translation for Worst is solid. Whle there were at least a pair of moments where the dialogue did not flow, and the awkward way they have translated middle school names did take the grade down a bit. Positives included: honorifics being used, appropriate usage of slang, subbing signs and very good use of cultural notes in gutters.
SFX might get some attention as DMP handled these in a unique way. They are all subbed using a small font as not to compromise Takahashi's art. The way they translated some of SFX might confuse some readers. Some of the translations are literal so in some situations the kana for "mogu" will be "mogu" instead of "chew." But the translation would be reversed in other situations. Readers familiar with raw FX might not have a problem, but having to translate a translation might annoy some.
Welcome to the big city Tsukishima Hana! Out here in the city there are yankis, cell phones, yakuza and subways. The big city does not take well to country bumpkins. Actually there are some people that take pleasure in taking advantage of newbies. Hana is going to have to learn about city life the hard way. As he finds out on his first day, there will be some battles to overcome and the occasional misunderstanding. But first he is going to have to get used to boarding within a yakuza-style household.
Living with the Umehoshi Family is similar to living in the country in some ways. Everyone who lives under the same roof is like a family member - as "brothers" the five teens living here will occasionally laugh together and fight each other. Everyone is to rely on each other for support - already Hana has helped a few brothers with "personal" issues. They will spend a lot of time together - four of them will go to the same school. Most importantly, they will all consider themselves equals - Tominaga Toranosuke, Sokota Takehumi, Mutoh Renji, Fujishiro Takumi and Tsukishima Hana all equal brothers to each other and to their boarding parents the Umehoshi Family, Masashi and Yasushi (AKA: Mari).
At school, the boys will have to find their place in the social pecking order with their wits and their fists. Suzuran High has been notorious as a lawless powder keg torn apart by factions and the random recluse. No single force has ever dominated Suzuran and on this first day of classes the ruling class (the seniors) would like to flesh out those new classmates who may someday be a threat to the power balance. An annual tradition at Suzuran High, the freshman battle simply initiates the new class into the yanki dominated social caste at this school. Known as a "super-yanki" school Suzuran fighting and strength is crucial to creating an individual persona on campus. Odds are in favor of a pair Hana's new brothers. They each bring reps as big boys from their respective middle schools. Obviously just heresay and word of mouth can not dominate people, but that will not stop most of the freshman class from bailing for fear of their health. And out of the four "brothers" in this high school only one will end up stepping forward as a future candidate for "boss of Suzuran High." To his brothers only Hana is qualified to win this impromptu event, but Hana already knew before arriving on campus that he would be in line for the job. Hana's only concern will be not underestimating his opposition, for the big city is full of surprises.
Like in an old western movie, a new face in town casually arrives knowing little about the history or social structure of the place. He immediately makes an impression amongst some of the populace and eventually settles in with what at first glance would appear to be the wrong crowd. Hana might appear to be from the same cloth, but he has come to this place to make a name for himself and resorting to wrongdoing, as easy as it could be, is not his intention. He wants to be his own man, known for his strength and persona. Preying on the weak or being cruel will not help him at all in the long run, so he takes on all comers when the time arrives. Hana is not unique in the fact that he is a young tough yanki, Takahashi makes sure to let his readers know this by having a very competitive freshman battle, but it is Hana's background that makes him different. While it has not been fleshed out too much, we know he comes from out of the city. In Japan, outside of a city is usually considered the country. Cities sprawl so much, suburbs are swallowed up. Step out of these dense cities and it's basically agriculture and nature out there. Normally not being from the city would be a weakness, but Hana uses it to his advantage. And best of all his personality is very loose, almost made for a young thug. He appreciates his battles; he is confident in his abilities and best of all he respects others for who they are. That last quality is usually found in the best yanki manga characters, and it looks like Takahashi wants to make sure Hana is memorable for it.
Worst comes from a genre that is well received in Japan but has not made much of an impact in other markets yet. Most shonen manga that is brought over has teens and violence but while other genres can cover these aspects under fantasy, sci-fi or sports, a yanki manga celebrates how unique average young people are. They do not need to be a seiyan to fight to survive. They do not need to be from another planet to have mohawks and crazy threads. They do not have to fight ghosts or demons to make a name for themselves. Hana Tsukishima, like Onizuka Eikichi (GTO), relies on his wits, personality and his physical talent to be the best in his "real world." Takahashi makes sure to set up his setting to be like major town out there - big, loud and hard. His cast reflects this and they entertain by making an effort to be strong enough, hard enough and loud enough to be remembered. If Worst continues to be this fun, it will be remembered by fans looking for something different in a shonen title.
Mania Grade: B+
Art Rating: A-
Packaging Rating: A+
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Digital Manga Publishing
Orientation: Right to Left