Kurohime Vol. #01 (Mania.com)

By:Greg Hackmann
Review Date: Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Release Date: Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Masanori * Ookamigumi * Katakura
Translated by:Joe Yamazaki
Adapted by:Lance Caselman

What They Say
A master gunman named Zero searches the land for the legendary Kurohime. She saved him as a child, impressing upon him the importance of justice and helping others. While on his journey he meets a young girl named Himeko and is suddenly attacked by overwhelming forces. Outnumbered, outgunned and out of luck he makes his last stand in order to protect this "helpless" girl. Little does he know this girl has an incredible secret...

The Review
When I first read the cover, I thought that Kurohime had three authors, rather than just one author with excessive punctuation. It's a shame that I was wrong; a couple of extra writers actually might have helped.

Viz is perfectly aware that two things are going to draw readers to the franchise: breasts and guns. As such, the front cover stars Kurohime showing off both of these things, beneath an ugly Kurohime logo. The back cover features much of the same, with Kurohime yielding half the page to the story summary.

And no, that isn't a typo: the author really is billed as "Masanori * Ookamigumi * Katakura" throughout the volume.

The art here is perfectly fine from a purely technical standpoint. The ridiculously over-the-top spells come out perfectly clearly, as do the countless spell flashes and fiery explosions.

I'm considerably less impressed from a design point-of-view. Katakura fails to give Kurohime a look of its own, and instead populates the page with derivative settings and cookie-cutter character designs. The first chapter in particular looks and feels like a rejected story idea from Trigun -- not to mention the main villain Onimaru, who adopts Generic Shonen Enemy Design #27.

The story here, for what it's worth, reads without any hiccups. Signs and SFX are translated inline, with the exception of incantations (which are presented in a combined Romanized/translated form).

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Teenaged gunslinger Zero is in search of Kurohime, the legendary witch who rescued him from certain doom a decade prior. While on his search, he runs into Himeko, a young girl being pursued by the gang leader Onimaru. Onimaru holds a grudge against Kurohime, and can't help but notice that she wields a gun and sharp wit that bear a striking personality to Kurohime's own. After Zero leverages his gun-toting skills to get himself and Himeko out of the situation, she thanks him by revealing her true identity: she is Kurohime, cursed by the gods to take the form of a child. When Onimaru's gang finally catches up with them, she discovers a loophole in the curse; she can temporarily revert to her witch form whenever Katakura writes himself into a corner. With this transformation, she temporarily regains her extensive magical powers, and beings lobbing spell after spell at Onimaru's gang until she and Zero are safe from harm.

Taking advantage of Zero's affections for his would-be savior, Kurohime drags him along on her hunt for a way to break her curse. Along the way, they encounter an old rival of Kurohime's who has possessed an innocent young girl. Kurohime reverts to her original form just long enough to escape the predicament, only to run shortly afterwards into a impostor witch who has claimed Kurohime's identity for her own greedy ends. (No bonus points for predicting how Kurohime gets herself and Zero out of that situation.)

If the Contents section of this review seems short, it's because there's not really a lot to write about. Past the first 50 pages or so, Kurohime's storyline grinds almost to a complete halt. Saying it's formulaic is an understatement: Katakura can't even make it through two whole chapters before he starts repeating itself. Himeko/Kurohime whines about her curse; Kurohime and Zero stumble into a bad guy; Zero reminds the reader that his gun is a sword of justice; Kurohime inexplicably reverts to her witch form and starts casting summon spells that would put the Final Fantasy series to shame. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Unfortunately, Katakura works the same kind of repetition into Kurohime's flimsy attempts at humor. Most of the jokes aren't funny the first time around, unless you think big breasts and people branded with the word "Dog" are inherently pure comedic gold. And even if you do, you probably won't find it nearly as funny by the fourth time Katakura recycles the gag.

Now don't get me wrong: my issue with Kurohime isn't that it conforms to every shonen fighting series stereotype imaginable (though it does that, too). The real problem is that Kurohime doesn't really bring anything else to the plate ... anything at all. The action is uninspired, the villains are generic, the male protagonist is faceless, and Kurohime herself is one of the most annoying leads I've run across in a while. (But hey, Zero can somehow manage to wield four guns simultaneously, despite the notable handicap of only having two hands; doesn't that make up for not having a personality of his own?) Even readers who are looking purely for fanservice will probably walk away disappointed.

Despite its $7.99 price point, Kurohime is a tough sell. If you absolutely must have one more shonen fighting title to add to your list, and quality or originality are no major object, then Kurohime might be worth a look. For everyone else, Kurohime -- or at least the first volume -- is best left on the shelf.

Mania Grade: C-
Art Rating: B
Packaging Rating: B
Text/Translatin Rating: B+
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Viz Media
MSRP: 7.99
Pages: 184
ISBN: 1-4215-1366-8
Size: B6
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Kurohime