Emperor\'s Castle Vol. #01 - Mania.com

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  • Art Rating: B-
  • Packaging Rating: B+
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Netcomics
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 176
  • ISBN: 1-60009-061-3
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Left to Right

Emperor\'s Castle Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     November 30, 2006
Release Date: September 01, 2006

Emperor\'s Castle Vol.#01
© Netcomics

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Kim SumgMo
Translated by:Michael Han
Adapted by:

What They Say
Chunhoo Kang lives in a world of crime, sex and intrigue. He's the Nihon Saikono Warrior, Japan's greatest fighter in the yakuza underworld. However, he's also Korean. He holds the title through Shi-Nan-Joo, a powerful and ancient martial arts from Korea. Haunted by past sins, Chunhoo abandons his crime life to search for the young woman and son he abandoned decades ago. His yakuza bosses are unforgiving. They want his honor and title back. Assassins trail him all the way back to Korea and Chunhoo resolves that he's not going to be anybody's servant anymore. He's going to become an Emperor, standing at the apex of his own empire. Meanwhile, his son Sukgi is a rising hotshot in the Baekhwa criminal organization in Korea. He's got it all; money, women and power. But when the Baekhwas spark a national murder scandal, the mob boss forces Sukgi to publicly assume the guilt for the crime by threatening his mother. To save her life, Sukgi must agree to take the fall, a certain death sentence. Will father and son find each other? What will happen to Sukgi's mother? Will Shi-Nan-Joo be powerful enough for them to survive the murderous intrigues of the crime world surrounding them? And who is the Emperor that Chunhoo seeks to become? Will he be for good or evil?

The Review
This is a slight change for this publisher. And I can only attribute it to this being one of their first true seinen titles. Instead of being printed in their traditional B6 with that lovely yellowish paper, this book is on a whiter stock. Now with the amount of heavy inking in this title I might have disapproved, but netcomics found the right weight that did not bleed through. Still the paper is a little bright for my old manga-phile eyes, but I should not complain much if the fans like this color. The cover has an image that is not seen this volume featuring the two Kang's - father and son. The opposite cover has an image of Kang Chunhoo the Saikono Warrior getting ready to turn his world blood red! Extras are non-existent outside of a brief preview of the next volume, but there are a bunch of ads at the end of the book.

Kim's art is a little distorted. I have come to grow accustomed to seeing that in Korean seinen. However, if you are looking strictly at style and form, he has something going here. First, these guys are big, tough and as hard boiled on the outside as they are inside. And yeah, these guys sure think they are big. Kim gives each one of his characters those little details that set them apart from the rest. Scars, missing fingers and strange hairlines give them an individual look in a world that is pretty much a "family" affair. Furthermore, the attitude is just right. You can tell by just looking at the body language and the looks in their eyes just how high up in the bad-ass chain his characters are at. Broad shoulders, facial hair and suits are the norm here. But then when you see the ladies they are well-proportioned and just as well dressed (or undressed). There is some sex right at the very start of this book. So there is some nudity that is left uncensored. I will warn readers though that this book is rated 16+, so if you are not prepared for the nips you will see them early.

I have been very fortunate to have read my share of netcomics titles over the year. So I can say that after a rough start earlier this year, most of their translations have really improved. Emperor's Castle is one of the better ones I have read from them. And as I have seen over the last year with every new release they have cut down on the grammar errors too, making this an easy entertaining read. This title with its mature themes was not easy to work on. The personalities and tone had to be done just right because of the social structure within gangs. netcomics handled that element very well.

SFX are completely retouched and overlaid. The retouch is great. The work is very clean and does not seem to compromise art much. However, the fonts used are very loud and did not feel appropriate for this subdued title.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Emperor's Castle does what many gangster manga do early on - they present the world the cast lives in. Kim-sensei presents the realities of living in Tokyo these days. On the surface it is a modern city filled with culture and built on wealth. But some of the culture is evil and some of that wealth was acquired through devious means. There is plenty of crime and poverty in this city. Kim's lead in this manhwa, Kang Chunhoo, fled South Korea to Japan to try to make it on his own at all costs supporting the stereotype that major cities are home to crime and illegal immigrants.

The real story does not begin until twenty years later. Kang has decided that it is time to get out of the world that actually treated him very well for most of his adult life. Since leaving Korea all he has known is the life of a mobster. He dedicated himself to that life and he understood the consequences. But in that culture no one ever leaves their "family" alive. Yet, ironically it is family that forced him to fight for his life once again when he returns to his homeland.

Unfortunately, at home no one is waiting to celebrate his return. Kang's wife is dead. Kang's son has been framed for a number of gang related murders. And the Japanese yakuza have landed in Korea to take back the life of their best warrior! Kang has no where to go in his kingdom. The emperor's castle is being raided from all sides. But the emperor is not willing do give up his position!

One thing that I have been screaming for has been more yakuza manga. There was a time when yakuza manga made up a good portion of the seinen titles we saw. Viz had their share of these. Through early ages of mangadom they were responsible for many of the Buronson and Koike titles. And Dark Horse has had a couple through the years. However, with the recent return of mature manga, I though yakuza manga would come back full force. Consider how many yakuza movies have been brought over to the States over the years (Beat Takeshi films and a handful of Miike titles) but manga has been ignored a bit. I have to go back to my strange theory that swords and ninja stars are fine but fists and guns are not. Well, the people at netcomics decided to go against the grain and they released a mature title that should quickly find itself in the collections of the hard-boiled manga fans out there.

Emperor's Castle has all the right elements for seinen success. What are the prerequisites? Sex, violence and vengeance make up most of the pie. However, I will start off with the art instead. Kim's art is perfect for this format. He uses lots of inks for effect showing off the characters and their physical traits early on. The cast is pretty big already, so getting a good grasp on how they look is key. Kim also makes sure to utilize costumes and body language well. Emphasis on the attitude and style of a gangster gives more realism to the story and a good dash of realism always helps in a seinen title. He follows that up with the basics. Open up the book and there is an uncensored sex scene! A chapter later, there is a full blown gang war " fists, knives and guns. Close that off with some yakuza romance in the form of finger cutting and you have me sold.

Themes of honor and family are expressed throughout this first volume. The lead, Kang, devoted much of his life to honor his gang family. Yet, the guilt he had for neglecting his real family in Korea made him give up the gangster life. Such a story could only be found in fiction. The stakes are too high, he sacrifices so much and the premise is righteous beyond belief. However, as a guy this is the type of renegade turned hero every man wants to be. Kang is the Saikono Warrior! He takes on a gang all by himself and earns his freedom. He vows to rescue his son from the executioner. His long hair, sunglasses and huge frame make the otaku among us shake in our boots! And we want more in the end.

Emperor will not appeal to everyone. The concept has its unique attributes but is pretty simple. The art is pretty intense and violence is at the core of the plot, so this is not for the faint of heart. However, for those looking for something outside of the shojo dominated world of manhwa... Heck, for people who thought mature manga would be more manly manga, this is for you. This is a hard-boiled story that does not shy away from what makes men's manga unique and entertaining. This is seinen romance Korean style.


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