Great premise and excellent exposition hampered only a little by some slightly rough artwork.
Writer/Artist: Yoshinori Natsume
Translation: Hiroko Yada
Adaptation: Matt Alt
What They Say
NON-STOP DEMON-SLAYING ACTION!
Tobei, a ruthless punk from feudal Japan, has been damned to hell for the past 300 years. Given a chance for redemption, he's sent to the modern world to vanquish 108 malevolent spirits in 108 days. Will the baffling ways of the present prove to be an even greater foe then the sinister fiends he must defeat? Tobei is about to go medieval on the 21st century!
The cover artwork is a visually arresting pastel crayon drawing of Tobei drawn in quick strokes, which emphasizes the chaotic energy and rage that this character embodies. Printing is clear with no muddiness or moire. Included are seven pages of additional artwork and comments by the author as well as advertisements for other Viz Media properties.
Natsume admits that the drawing for this volume was not done under optimum conditions. The drawings can be rough and loose, showing an energy that wants to exceed the boundaries of the figure. These are qualities that serve the subject matter well in spite of what the artist may have wanted. Subsequent volumes exhibit tighter drawing with a vitality more contained and controlled. Natsume's toga are not as frightening or inventive as one would like, but the action is well depicted and doesn't disappoint.
Sfx are translated and substituted for the Japanese with no obvious adverse affects on the artwork. Text reads naturally and well.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tobei, a young man of sixteen executed by beheading and assigned to hell three hundred years ago, remains unrepentant for the crimes he committed when he alive. Lady Ema, ruler of hell, offers Tobei a chance to be pardoned and to leave hell. In order to do so, he must return to earth to collect 108 toga or sins in corporeal form, and he must do so in 108 days. To aid him, he is given the wooden sword, Togari, the only weapon capable destroying and collecting the toga. Of course, Tobei agrees and returns to earth under the watchful eye of Lady Ema's servant, the fallen angel, Ose.
Tobei's first contact with a toga will prove to complicate what Tobei considers to be an easy job. Immediately on finding himself thrust into modern Japan, Tobei comes upon a toga, one that has manifested itself through the actions of a serial killer. In vanquishing the toga, he not only gets a demonstration of some of the conditions of his quest and the of the particular powers of Togari, but he meets two people who will complicate his task. The first is the young woman, Itsuki, for whom Tobei is an unwitting savior. Although she is frightened of him, she extends him care and consideration, probably the first he has had in any life. The second person is Detective Sawazaki, former partner of Itsuki's fallen policemen father, who recognizes that Itsuki's "champion of justice" is more than he seems.
Tobei's vulnerability in modern society is dampened by his unconditional acceptance by Itsuki's family, who have taken Tobei into their home along with his dog, the earthly manifestation of the guardian, Ose. This allows Tobei to pursue toga without sinning himself, but his success only feeds the need to consume more powerful toga and, in doing so, arouses suspicions of more entities than the police.
Tobei's success and gradual change encourages Ose, who recounts as much to Lady Ema, who finally reveals to Ose the actual intent of her plan in sending Tobei to earth with Togari.
Togari very skillfully lays out its premise and conditions by the mid-point of the first volume. While there may be some surprises, at this point, the reader knows more of what Tobei is up against than Tobei does. This makes for very compelling reading.
This is a series that has a very rich narrative. On one hand, there is the time traveler aspect with Tobei as the stranger in a strange land. Tobei's reactions to his new environment, as well as others reactions to him, make comment on both societies. While setting the stage for a lot of action, this also sets up quite a bit of humor. There is also the matter of Tobei's socialization and increasing humanization. While Tobei seems to take two steps back for every one forward, there's satisfaction in seeing that with a little kindness, a vicious killer in one society can become a hero in another. Finally, there is the increasing regard and affection that Itsuki has for this very wild young man. Itsuki defines Tobei's worth for us, and her affection makes him worth rooting for.
Having said all this, the unfortunate news is that Togari is an unfinished series at eight volumes. However, the evolution that Tobei makes in his quest to capture those 108 toga and find redemption make for entertaining reading. Those readers for whom the journey can be more important than the destination will find this very satisfying.