Takeru - Susanoh Vol. #01 - Mania.com

Manga Review

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: C
  • Text/Translation Rating: B-
  • Age Rating: 13 and Up
  • Released By: TOKYOPOP
  • MSRP: 10.99
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 978-1427815705
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left
  • Series: Takeru - Susanoh

Takeru - Susanoh Vol. #01

Takeru - Susanoh Vol. #01 Manga Review

By Erin Jones     March 19, 2010
Release Date: June 09, 2009

Takeru - Susanoh

The first volume unfolds like the opening act of a play, setting up an epic plot and mysterious characters that, while not stepping outside the genre, bode very well for the rest of the series.

Creative Staff
Writer/Artist: Kazuya Nakashima and Karakarakemuri
Translation: Stephen Paul
Adaptation: Tim Beedle

What They Say
There is a legend that speaks of a powerful sword hidden and sealed in 'Jagara-Mogara'. It is said that when the spirits of Light, Water, and Earth come together, the seal of this sword will be broken, and the sword will be immortalized. This is the sword of Susanoh. Upon pursuing the sword, Izumo, Kumaso and Oguna arrive at the nation of Jagara, where they confront a darkness that envelops anyone seeking the sword of Susanoh, including these three who are destined to find it.

The Review!

One of the books released during Tokyopop's failed stint with cheap packaging, Takeru's first volume is thin and floppy in your hand.  The paper quality is just poor, which is especially obvious given the amount of white space in the art.  The art itself is generally good, with a few noticeable flaws.  Character designs are interesting and distinctive, with detailed costumes and expressions.  They do fall squarely into the "good/attractive vs. evil/ugly" stereotypes, but for an adventure story like this, it's not too distracting (and the series proves to have a sense of humor about it in the case of one particular character).  Line thickness is played with for good effect, and panels are efficiently designed; everyday scenes are rougher and smaller, while the dramatic ones are given more room to breathe.  Backgrounds, though a bit sparser than I'd like, are detailed and have an actual sense of place, something that many stories fail to do.  The biggest shortcoming of the art is the variety of angles used.  In the quieter moments, strange perspectives and angles can help enliven a scene, but during fights, things can get very confusing.  It "slowed down" the action for me in a bad way, as I had to try and figure out what exactly was going on.
The cover is split between a shot of Izumo-no-Takueru with his two swords and a plain white bar.  Though the layout is interesting and the cover illustration is dynamic, it's fairly monochrome, and has a lot of yellow.  The back cover continues the yellow/white theme, with small portraits of the 3 Takerus (on yellow squares) on a plain white background.  The translation is standard fare for the company; there are few typos and it reads well, but the majority of SFX are left untranslated while a few are replaced with English and a few are subtitled.  The main problem with the text is that whenever bubbles are located too close to the inner edges, words can run into the shadows for those trying not to break the flimsy binding.  Extras include notes from both the author and artist, a few 4-panel gag strips, and a short preview of the next volume, along with several pages of advertisements.
The one thing readers ought to know before diving into Takeru's first volume is the story's origin: it is an adaptation of a play put on by Gekidan Shinkansen, a popular theatrical troupe that puts on kabuki plays.   And, so, it's very fitting that this opening volume unfolds like the first act of a play, introducing our heros and offering some tempting insights into the grand, far-reaching plot.  The three main characters, Izumo-no-Takeru, Kumaso-no-Takeru, and Oguna-no-Takeru, are each searching for the legendary sword of Susanoh, which is said to have belonged to the gods.  Though they each have their own motives to find the sword, they end up joining together to search for it.  Their personalities stand in stark contrast to each other, which works out well as they travel together.  Izumo is outwardly laid-back and generally nonplussed, Kumaso works more with his muscles than his brain, and Oguna is mysterious and disapproving of the antics the other two often participate in.  It's easy to see their characters having emerged from a play; each is based on a simplistic trait, likely expanded by the adaptation.
Their adventuring takes them to Jagara, a kingdom whose battle maidens call to mind the Greek legend of the Amazons.  There, three sisters--the coincidence of the number is not lost on the characters--rule as the queens of the country, and suspect that the three Takerus are the individuals foretold by the prophet Sagame.  Unsurprisingly, the three young men must each undergo a trial set by the First Queen that tests their abilities, or else be executed.  It's a very traditional "quest story," to be sure, and the adaptation doesn't really bring anything new to the table--but then again, it doesn't have to.  Kazuki Nakashima, probably most familiar to fans for his work on Gurren Lagann, captures the grandiose scale of the story without making it trite or over-the-top.  It's still very much a volume designed to set up the rest of the story--the most tantalizing scene comes in the final dozen pages--but I imagine that it will be well worth it.
In Summary: 
Takeru's opening volume is clearly a set-up for things to come.  The mythology it creates--or at least starts to establish--feels fully-formed, and I have no trouble believing that the manga's original incarnation was a theatrical play given the grand, world-changing implications of the story.  Yet, perhaps because of these theatrical origins, the focus is on the story and the mythos, not the characters themselves.  Those looking for a character-driven tale should look elsewhere, but for readers willing to sit back and watch the story unfold, this first volume offers a lot of promise for the rest of the series.


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