Samurai Man Vol. #02 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Translated by:Julia Rose
What They Say
The samurai lives by his sword and his armor. He lives by his convictions.
Caught in the middle of a fight between gods, Ryouma was found worthy and became one with the Warrior King of the Southern Skies. Now nothing makes sense, and he has to juggle his high school studies and epic battles that shake Heaven and Earth.
Ryouma's classmate Katsumi has always been a little odd, but recently he's been acting particularly vicious. Is he just angry about losing the position of basketball team captain to Ryouma or is there something more sinister behind his actions?
AW continues to make some of the better-looking manga out there. With Samurai Man they present this in a B6 sized book with a matted cover. They have kept the original cover art - featuring Ryouman in some casual wear. The opposite cover features character art for Ryouma’s love interest Shizuka. Both designs make great use of color and costume design, which is clearly missing in the series. Finally, they only do a slight alteration to the original logo - take out the Japanese furigana and change it from yellow to white.
Inside the printing is solid. I believe this title comes from the original Japanese printer films, so the printing is has wonderful looking clarity. They include the original volume header, with the original Japanese logo and Shonen Champion Comics logo. AW keeps the chapter headers and the bumper art, as well. Inside the cover, there is a message from the mangaka, this time he discusses the importance of research in manga. And at the end of the GN, there is a staff-listing page and a preview spread for volume three.
Serizawa's art works very well for this title. As I was reading it, I get the impression that Koike and his style of panel layout might have influenced him. Similar to what readers might see in Koike's samurai titles, Serizawa really uses a cinematic style of presentation where the action is always at the focus. Presenting the scene at its most dramatic is also important, so you will see plenty of angles and a good use of perspective. At the same time, this is a shonen title so there is the average number of close-ups one would expect from titles for younger audiences.
The character designs are more of a more detailed version of Kamimura Kazou. The characters tend to have rounder more narrow shapes for heads than most contemporary manga. There is a delicate look to the designs. One thing what separates the two here is how Serizawa uses more a sketchy way to draw. Moreover, the sense of proportion and scale is similar. Serizawa's sense of scale fades a bit this volume, as one of the enemies happens to be a giant. In those scenes, Serizawa seemed to have a tough time maintaining the size differences between the two warriors (often making the giant look much smaller than he initially looked). The proportions are good, though. The muscle tone and body size was appropriate for the ages of the cast (though, I think Shizuka was pretty mature looking for a middle school student). Going back to Serizawa's drawing style, he tends to do all the shading through pen work (something that Kamimura rarely did). This gives his art a slightly rough look, but I felt that worked well with this story.
Media Blasters has done a very good job translating this title. The characters seem to stand out as individuals in this story. Though, I did notice them some more slang in this volume. I did not notice any typos, but I did notice a strange scene that I thought might have been an error. I wonder if Shizuka said “I like…. Ryouma” in chapter three or did she say something that would make more sense in that scene “I like… Katsumi”. The reaction from Katsumi and Ryouma made me wonder about that a bit.
SFX are not translated. This is definitely nowadays after fans have voiced their displeasure over the lack SFX translations over the past few years. This manga does not have a lot of SFX, but I really wish the few that are present could have been translated in some way.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
When we last saw Ryouma, he was in the midst of battle. Confused and a little shocked by knowing he had somehow become a Samurai Man, Ryouma had to use his wits and the cooperation of the being that was now residing within him. All this was an obviously new and unbelievable experience for the teenager. Making matters worse was how his opponent did not care very much about whom Ryouma happens to be and why he was engaging battle with him. To Ryouma this quickly became a battle to death and his life and the lives of many others would be in danger because of what suddenly was inside him.
Knowing this Ryouma decided to take the initiative and he began to take control of the reins of the Samurai Man he was now a part of. As long as he could be able to flee populated places, he could be fine. Moreover, as his confidence builds we get to see him not only take control of the monster he has become, but he also quietly moves to take the offensive in this fight to the death. By using his knowledge of the city, his athletic skills and his sharp mind Ryouma attempts to close the gap of strength between him and the demon he is up against. The risks are high but that is the type of person Ryouma happens to be. Moreover, from moment he takes control, the other part of this unique symbiotic relationship ends up going along for the ride (despite his lifetime of experience as a warrior god).
As one would expect in a shonen manga, the outcome for this battle was predetermined. That was actually just a test for the continuation of a pair of battles that have been going on for a while now. The rivalries that we were introduced to at the start of this series, high school rivals Ryouma & Katsumi and god warriors Shiyana & Juri, have not ended. Those two battles have been brewing, building up to a final fight to the death where anything and anyone is fair game. And like the relationship Ryouma and Shyura have, Katsumi and Juri are using each other's talents to take advantage of their best traits to accomplish their goals as well now. Ryouma does not know what is waiting for him and worse of all he does not know just how deep Katsumi’s hatred might be.
Fun with warrior gods! Don’t you wish you had one of your own for those times you need some vengeance?
Okay if you read my first review…. I am sorry if I lead you to purchase the first volume of this series, because after a great start, this title has turned into a laugher. Yeah, I should have seen it coming. This series is only three volumes long and the first enemy in the series was a joke. Nevertheless, I felt that the angst and the strange romance triangle among Ryouma, Shizuka and Katsumi would end up taking this title to a different direction.
Unfortunately, this title completely fell apart as soon as Katsumi came back with unbelievable powers that make Ryouma/Shiyana’s abilities look like those of a baby’s. I had a feeling when I typed up the first review, that each of the three main characters had a deeper connection to the Samurai Man battle they witnessed at the start of the series. I knew Serizawa would go back to that after Ryouma’s transformation. I knew Katsumi or Shizuka would be next, but after reading how much work Ryouma put into assimilating to his new situation I was disappointed by how effortless everyone else’s transitions were. Then having the rivals be so much stronger for no special reason (I am sure there is one, but it has not been disclosed so far).
All of this seems a bit rushed. So what was a title based on the strength of its cast, was now falling into the traps of so many other derivative titles. The complete lack of plot development and how the character development just gave up after Ryouma was worked on pretty much ended any of the good storytelling. And the way that more than halfway through the series, newer better-looking characters are just being tossed in for filler essentially turned the title off for me. Now with only one more volume, I worry if this will end up a complete flop. There seemed to be potential and now I just hope that Serizawa is able to at least wrap up the title nicely. Real shame because AW does a nice job with the presentation of funky little title.
Mania Grade: B-
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: AW Productions
Orientation: Right to Left