Samurai Man Vol. #03 (Mania.com)
By:Eduardo M. Chavez
Review Date: Sunday, March 12, 2006
Release Date: Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Translated by:Julia Rose
What They Say
The samurai lives by his sword and his armor. He lives by his convictions.
Japan falls into the dark vortex of Juri's ambitions. The Onmyouji and the military take action! What about Ryouma? The emotionally charged last episode!
AW continues to make some of the better-looking manga out there. With Samurai Man they were able present this in a B6 sized book with a matted cover. AW kept the original cover art featuring Ryouma and a team of Onmyouji ready to on all evil doers. The opposite cover features an ominous looking King Shiyana next to the volume description. Cover make great use of color, and show of the personalities of the characters well. Finally, AW only does a slight alteration to the original logo - take out the Japanese furigana and change it from yellow to white - finishing off a good presentation with an already good looking logo.
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, as he apologizes for how this series ends (prematurely). At the end of the GN, there are a couple pages of art from the mangaka's assistant noting how much love they put into this short-lived title.
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, so overall this was a pretty smooth easy read.
SFX are not translated. This is definitely disappointing, especially 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 (for an action title), but this volume possibly has the total of the first two combined and I really wish they could have been translated in some way.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
A lot has happened to Ryouma over the last couple of weeks. His field trip through Kyoto has brought him much to be excited about and just as much to be depressed about. He has had to fight for his life once too many times recently and he is seriously getting tired of it. However, what has really brought him down is the realization that he has literally become a monster. As he says, he is a demon in human skin. More people are starting to see through that skin of his, as his demon side continues to destroy entire communities. However, if he cannot understand what is going on as his friends and classmates betray him, so he cannot trust anyone but King Shiyana either.
Unfortunately, there is no running away from what has happened since that day in Kyoto. Yes, Ryouma became the monster then but what is happening to innocent people is what is really driving him mad. Whatever opened up the heavens to let loose the Samurai Men onto this Earth also left the doors open for scores of monsters that want to make this dimension their playground. The military, the onmyouji and all the demon hunters in the world are not enough to stop them from taking over. A Samurai Man must step up and bring an end to this and take the eternal battle somewhere else.
Ryouma has always been someone who fought for those he cared for. Even before he became the Samurai Man, his strength was in his belief that everyone should be treated as an equal a part of a team. He cannot let them down again, but even if he chooses to fight is he able to bring it to and end?
Honestly, I have to say Samurai Man had to be one of the biggest teases I have read in ages. This started as a series with so much potential. With such a well-rounded lead who was out of the standard shonen mold, Ryouma was a sparkplug quiet team leader type; I could see his character alone leading the charge against whatever battles were to come up. Ryouma's personality just grabbed me from the very start. His unconditional care for those around him and how he would use his smarts to his advantage made him a very intriguing shonen character. Seeing him take on adversity, even when the odds seemed against him also had me rooting for him early in the series. The dynamic between him and King Shiyana was fascinating, because Ryouma never hesitated to take on the role of Samurai Man. Maybe he was confused about what he had become, but he never looked back when it came to using his new strengths. So many other leads wimp out or have to find themselves. Ryouma was always confident in himself; he just never flaunted that part of his personality. I could see that Serizawa did this to make readers see that Ryouma was very much like a different version of Katsumi. Their differences in personality and temperament are what sent them on diverging paths.
However, Serizawa never got to finish his story. Ryouma was never able to face off against Katsumi again in this manga. Ryouma was never able to get Shizuka in the end either. He was not able to save Japan. Instead, like a samurai man, all Serizawa was able to do was give the ending a fighting chance and send his own samurai to go fight again. Serizawa tried very hard to wrap up the story, by giving the entire cast a moment to say their farewells, but it was too late. You could see the end coming a mile away. Ryouma would have to leave alone and with a city and humanities future in ruins. What a depressing way to end this series.
Ultimately, Samurai Man ends up being nothing but a disappointment. The character play from the first volume ended around the start of the second installment. Then readers were treated with cheesy battle scenes that looked as bad as they were written. The fight between Katsumi and Ryouma became a joke. I wonder if anyone else laughed, because Serizawa quickly would go and add five new characters in the next volume. None of them made much of an impact and then the story ended. Nothing really happened in this volume. You meet those new characters and they bring even more conflict to the plot. Serizawa tries to work on Katsumi's character. However, as this occurs in the second to last chapter there it does little to help bring a conclusion. Threads were left wide open - Katsumi/Ryouma, Ryouma/Shizuka, Ryouma/Shumei, Juri/Shiyana and Shiyana/Ryouma; nothing was resolved. I was reading a confusing rushed version of what this series once was and I should have saw it coming.
I almost feel cheated in a way. I think I would possibly have felt the same way if I were reading Shonen Champion Magazine at the time. But if I did, I would have not bought that last tank.
Mania Grade: D+
Art Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B+
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: AW Productions
Orientation: Right to Left