Crying Freeman (Koike Shoin version) Vol. #01 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: A-

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  • Art Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: A-
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Dark Horse
  • MSRP: 14.95
  • Pages: 404
  • ISBN: 1-59307-478-4
  • Size: Wideban
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Crying Freeman (Koike Shoin version) Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     April 18, 2006
Release Date: March 08, 2006

Crying Freeman (Koike Shoin version) Vol.#01
© Dark Horse

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Koike Kazuo / Ikegami Ryoichi
Translated by:Kumar Sivasubramanian
Adapted by:

What They Say
He is Yo Himomura, deadly assassin for the 108 Dragons, the Chinese Mafia. But to the criminal underworld who fear him, he is known as Crying Freeman, the killer who sheds tears at the fate of his victims. Young, handsome, sensitive, an artist, Yo has been hypnotically programmed by his Dragon masters to kill on command: he cannot resist his masters' commands to kill, his masters cannot stop his tears of remorse.

The Review
There have been many reprints of this title in Japan and actually Viz released this in the States a decade ago in a couple ways (with dust jacket and without). Dark Horse does this the easy way and possibly the best way available to get readers to once again be introduced to this classic. Printed in its original format, right to left, Crying Freeman has been released a wideban format. 408 pages in this first volume, the equivalent of two full volumes, for the price of one and a half. The format is exactly like the one released not too long ago by Koike Shoin, and it features the same cover art and design. On a mustard background an portrait of the lead character Hinomura Yo, crying as he holds a dagger in his mouth, placed on a red cicle. Practically all of what you need to know about the Yo is right there, the tears that gave him his nickname Crying and one of the many tools for killing he uses as an assassin. To the left of the image is the title in Japanese and below the image is the title in English (followed by the artist credits in English and Japanese). Dark Horse placed a parental advisory sticker on the cover as well. Flip the book over and the same motif is there but flipped (mustard on red). Here we see more of the tears and the logo in both languages.

As this is in the original size trim as the original the print looks pretty good. The alignment is fine. I got a couple of pages that cut off text bubbles a bit, but that might have been my copy (or maybe the bleed was funny since Ikegami uses every bit of the page possible). Tone looks generally clean and so do the pages that were originally in watercolor. Lines look clean and they really look good on Dark Horse's nice paper.

Straight up solid.

No extras in this book. This volume is rated 18+ and is shrink-wrapped with a advisory sticker on the book. There is some detailed nudity with pubic hair, sex, graphic violence and rape none of it censored by Dark Horse. Genitals are either not drawn in or are shadowed by the artist. There is one panel featuring penetration that was covered by a mosaic (not put in by Dark Horse).

There are few manga artists that are as renowned for their designs like Ikegami Ryouichi. And in my opinion there are few artists that do Koike's stories justice. The realism, the detail and the way he captures moments in Koike's stories really only helps enrich what already is a very full experience.

For decades Ikegami has been doing a unique sense of realism that does not shy from the taboos of modern society. Like most artists from the 70's and 80's Ikegami's strongest point is his form and the line-work that gives it depth and texture. Characters are generally drawn to scale with their physique drawn to the size appropriate for the time and setting. Though for the most part most of the important characters tend to be broad shouldered chiseled men or stunning perfect bodied yamato nadeshiko women and you will not see bazooka bosoms or big-eyed green heads in this manga. Instead, bodies are drawn with tremendous care and detail. Not only do they all look different at first glance, but Ikegami also takes time to draw in details like scars, moles and facial hair to make every character really stand out. Costumes and tattoos get just as much detail giving characters personality and individual tastes. Even hair styles are drawn with a lot of line-work for layering and mandatory fraying.

In regards to the layout and backgrounds, Ikegami does not let up on quality. Cityscapes are especially important in this title. Knowing the locations of each scene gives the story more meaning and relevance. When Ikegami had his characters at Metro Police Headquarters in Tokyo, I could easily tell they were outside of Sakuradamon in the Marunouchi District of Tokyo-to. When there were scenes in Hong Kong you could see the bay and the buildings of the time. There even is a reference to the Twin Towers when Ikegami goes to New York. All this effort showed of some skill and knowledge of how to enrich an already full story. The layout is extremely cine-graphic. Very active, it changes up perspective and direction all the time. He uses some great technique that really guides readers eyes through the reading process while keeping the story suspenseful.

Sometimes, I hate being a reviewer. One of my biggest sources of stress comes from new translators/adaptors. Having read this from Viz almost a decade ago, I already had a good reference as to how this series should read in English. So when I saw Kumar Sivasubramanian in the credits I was a little worried. Fortunately, this turns out to be an excellent presentation from Sivasubramanian and DH. They use some of their best techniques from their unflipped manga to give this a sophisticated feel. The translation is rich in detail. There is a bit of history and crime culture in this first volume describing the Italian Mafia, Japanese yakuza and Hong Kong drug syndicate. Then the personalities come out very well. It takes some time to figure that out, especially with a lead like the hypnotized Hinomura Yo but with the rest of the cast it is clear. Honorifics are not used, but you can feel the sense of formality when employed and slang is used well in context. They translated that well and kept all of the information without resorting to Americanizations (or changing the era this is set in). As they did for Berserk they kept the volume headers in Japanese with English subtitles. They also do the same for signage and some extended aside text.

SFX are translated... in the gutters! YES! My long-lived fight with Dark Horse is over and the fans have won. This has to be the best of all worlds as they do not compromise the art at all. Moreover readers don't have to flip-through the book for a glossary. Dark Horse also uses the gutters for short cultural notes, making the read fluid and fast.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
If you are a sane person, someone who enjoys living, you possibly do not want to meet Hinomura Yo. Mr. Yo is an assassin and dog for the international drug syndicate the 108 Dragons. Mr. Yo is well known through Asia's underworld by a different name, Crying Freeman; a man capable of killing with every part of his body and equally capable of controlling the hearts of women. And yet, he is also a man who sheds tears for everyone he kills. You see, Mr. Yo might be a cold-blooded killer of the highest caliber, but he is still a man. He is not the judge of those kills and he does not have to know of their crimes (if any were committed). Still, his heart aches for his actions are final, efficient and void of emotion in complete contrast to his own ideals. Mr. Yo has guilt riding heavy on his soul, but his body belongs to the 108 Dragons, the growing Hong Kong mafia that wishes to control the underworld through drugs and violence.

Hinomura's soul is still his; his tears and art are symbols of this. The programming he went through cannot do anything to him once the contract is over. The brainwashing is ineffective before he gets a contract. Yo was a man of great talent, limitless potential and tremendous pride all of which fell into the hands of the Dragons that took control of the physical part of him.

He is his own man as long as murder is not involved. Or so he thinks he is. His good looks and artistic talent could have given him the world already, but his new ability to kill has given him even more freedom. Like a dragon flying above all others, strong and wise enough to surpass them all Yo could some day come to run the 108 Dragons. He is free to make that choice when the time comes. But to a man not from that world, that style of "freedom" is a prison preventing him from truly living his own life.

His freedom is exhibited through his art. A pottery master by trade, Hinomura still gets to make his art allowing him to travel the globe. He was once an up-and-comer in the field, exhibiting his works in places like Tokyo and New York. He is still an artist, but because of his current primary profession he understands that his life in the present is no longer his. The tears might even be a sign of his lack of freedom; symbols of the power the 108 Dragons have over him. But he has found another way to express his freedom else now. Through the love he has for Emu - the only person to ever see his tears and survive. She fell in love with him at first sight and his heart could not take her life. She is his way to freedom, but she will also be the reason he will likely suffer at the hands of the Dragons.

Will Emu help him find a way to break this contract? Will her own strengths continue to inspire those around her, new loves and new potential enemies, to help Yo earn that freedom? Only a Freeman is afforded a choice to create their future! Yo thinks she can help him accomplish that.

There are few mature series out there that have spun off as many reincarnations and gained as much recognition as Crying Freeman. If you have not heard of Crying Freeman you possibly are too young to remember the fact that this title was released a decade ago in English by Viz Media. You possibly do not watch anime because you were not aware that ADV Films released the animated series about a year ago. You possibly don't watch live action film either, because the title was adapted into a motion picture. Crying Freeman was a huge hit across east Asia and made a mini-splash in the States as well. Koike and Ikegami two dragons of manga collaborated to create a crime title filled with the romance of the underworld and powerful themes of freedom and brotherhood that appealed men and women alike as well .

Essentially the story of a man programmed to sculpt the future, yet unable to anything with his future. The lead in this story is ironically a ceramic artist who lost a bright future because he trusted his ideals. It is hard not to understand his struggle. Koike has made Yo a very approachable reasonable monster. He makes pottery and is pained psychologically by what he does, but his actions are not his own. And like many of us he finds comfort and inspiration in new person in his life. So readers can see this was a man whose convictions would not have lead him to this life, nevertheless he is a cold-blooded murder and should be treated as such. Koike creates a dilemma readers have to overcome as the same time as Yo and those in his life have to attempt to do the same. Even his new love Emu treats him like a murderer, understanding he might kill her the next time she sees him. There is no taking that out of him now, but Koike tries to give his lead a hope through Emu and their relationship that breaks the rules he lives by.

Moreover, Koike creates more themes that are relevant to his readers. Yo's attempts to attain normalcy, no matter how brief create a powerful image where humans as individuals have little if they do not have control over themselves as a whole. The soul and mind make not a complete man with out the body. And without the definition of a full man, freedom is not possible. These constructs define the constant conflict posed in this series where man no matter how random can have his life changed and in turn change lives if given the right tools. You don't have to be an international man of mystery to understand the struggles Yo is going through. They can be seen by the salaryman stuck at a dead-end job and the young punk making his identity equally. But what Koike and Igekami do is put that random person (young artist Yo) in a position where he is changing the landscape around him, something that most people will never be able to do. The settings might be fantastic, but the themes are so easy to relate to.

Altogether Crying Freeman is the rare blend of action, suspense, drama and romance that is not only timeless but hits hard at the fundamentals of people's own struggles with self-identity. It takes readers across the globe into a world where the rules are based on survival. Assassin, gentleman or artist, Koike will guide you through Yo's merciless world of murder and deception that does not let up from the very first chapter. Yo's amazing story unfolds through amazing art that will wrap you in a world as complex the underworld is dark. So glad Dark Horse brought this classic back. Highly recommended.


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