Tough (aka: Koko Tekken-den Tough) Vol. #01 -

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Mania Grade: B-

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B
  • Age Rating: 18 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.99
  • Pages: 190
  • ISBN: 1-59116-710-8
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Tough (aka: Koko Tekken-den Tough) Vol. #01

By Eduardo M. Chavez     February 17, 2005
Release Date: January 01, 2005

Tough (aka: Koko Tekken-den Tough) Vol.#01
© Viz Media

Creative Talent
Writer/Artist:Saruwatari Tetsuya
Translated by:JN Productions
Adapted by:

What They Say
High-school junior Kiichi Miyazawa ("Kiboo" to his friends) dreams of becoming an action star like his idols Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. He just may have the awesome fighting skills to succeed, but for now he's stuck going to school and doing his chores...

One fateful day, Kiboo witnesses a hulking biker, Kuroda, rip a truck apart with his bare hands! Awed by Kuroda's super-human strength, Kiboo itches to take him on, and he soon gets his chance. But Kuroda hides a dark secret that could put Kiboo's life in mortal danger! Will fearless novice Kiboo be able to match - let alone defeat - mighty Kuroda in a no-holds-barred contest?!

The Review
At first glance, Tough has to be have cheesiest cover I have seen from Viz in a while. They do not use the original cover art for this volume; instead, they dig up a volume header piece with a character design that is not used for at least four volumes. The front cover has main character Miyazawa Kiichi working on his kicks on a fiery background. Ohhh, macho!! Above Kiichi there is the logo, "TOUGH," in huge sweaty block letters (yes, there is perspiration). The opposite cover is not as inflamed, but it does have a close-up of Kiichi's mug, which was placed next to the long spoiler-ific volume description.

Inside the volume header is simply the logo in black and white. There are no chapter headers or extras to this series, so Viz just jumps into the action after another publication notes and contents pages. The printing is pretty good, especially when considering how much screen tone there is. I did not notice any major aliasing, and the inks looked clean. Good, but simple production.

Let me start off by saying the cover art is deceiving. Yeah there is very little art there, but the character design used on the cover is not what is present inside. Saruwatari will start to move toward this more modern design after down the line, but currently Kiichi is nowhere near as lean or clean as the one on the cover. Actually, Sarawatari's designs are rather bulky. Characters tend to be on the big bulging side; even female characters tend to be rounder then slimmer. I guess the best way to describe it is a combination of Itagaki Keisuke (Grappler Baki) and Hara Tetsuo (Fist of the North Star). While characters are large and beefy (typical of Hara works), they have extreme expressions and strange quirks (ala Itagaki). I cannot say I like the look, but as long as the action is good, I could care less.

These characters tend to only look normal in certain angels. Therefore, in action scenes characters tend to lose detail and start to deform a bit. Fortunately, with the comedic and punk attitude of this series, it is not too distracting. Costume designs are really interesting. Leather, jeans, dragon jackets and trench coats are all present; building a sense of punk and yanki themes that has yet to have been clearly established. There really does not appear to be a Hanshin look present, but I will say it definitely looks 90's to me.

The backgrounds are great when present. This is very important actually, as it helps with the action. Giving the background more detail gives characters more to work with or around. There is more depth to the strategy, for variables for damage and more obstacles to interfere. Saruwatari takes advantage of all of that having characters destroy vehicles, get smashed by headstones and fall from bridges. The layout really works well with the action as well. By focusing on the movements instead of the reactions, readers can see the bone-crushing blows one-by-one. That is really, what matters... the ass kicking! Gratuitous but still great stuff!

The translation for Tough is good, but I wasn't really impressed. This manga is set in Kobe, which is in the Hanshin district of Japan (Hanshin is the Osaka-Kobe area). There is a lot of slang, a lot of colloquial dialogue and a lot of attitude. Two out of three is not bad, but I had a tough time with some of the choices made. Maybe, I am getting a little old or maybe it is because I have lived there, but I it does not settle well with me. Fortunately, there are no real major context issues that I can see; it is really the execution as the characters lose personality with a rather flat adaptation. I was impressed by the research done, so the notes on martial arts are well done and informative.

The SFX are translated with overlays. The overlays are similar in size to the original and have a very clean good-looking retouch. I am not a fan of overlays, but this does make each scrotum "fwap" on page 18 seem more impressive.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Being tough is the way of the land in the Hanshin area. People tend to boast a lot, and there will be times when words are not enough. Some people take to their bikes; others tend to use their fists. In Kobe, Miyazawa Kiichi tends to use his fists, his legs, and his head to back his big mouth up, and from the first volume Kiichi, also known as Kiibo, will have to use his fists a lot because he has a hard time keeping his mouth shut.

Now Kiibo might be crude, lazy and a little on the dim side, but the guy actually has goals in life. He has not been training for most of his life for nothing. Kiichi has been kicking ass in order to become an action star, in the footsteps of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan. He definitely has the moves, the speed, and the knowledge of martial arts but now he has to get his act out of vocational school and into a stage where he can shine. He really does not know how to get there yet, so the only natural progression is kicking the ass of everyone he sees as a challenge to his strength. Along the way there will be goons and thugs that don't know any better than to pick on who they this is "the weak" in society, but for every dozen morons there will be one true tough guy that will make his ascension to stardom that much easier.

Local ass-kicker makes big! Goodness, who wouldn’t want to read a story like that?! Seriously, Miyazawa Kiichi sees his road to fame is paved with the idiots he beats up in the mean streets of Kobe. There has to be a better way to get there, but I have to admit it cannot be as fun or exciting. Kiichi is doing it his way and that means eating a diet rich in protein, constantly working on his fighting technique, keeping his good (?) looks and maintaining healthy bowel movements. He is even doing his best at vocational school, cause a healthy body deserves a healthy mind. Kiichi really has the right tools, but he does not have the place to show it off right now. Welding, hanging out with wannabees and falling for girls will not help his future… but every fight will improve his skills and who knows someone might be watching right. But where is the motivation? Why is doing any of this? Sure its fun and there might be some perks. It has to be better than just doing judo in high school tournaments, but there is no substance at all… Then why not have a four chapter long fight, right?

There really is very little to say about Tough right now. Kichii is just a brute and that is fine, but outside of the action there is nothing appealing here. It definitely fills a void left by Baki the Grappler, and it is much more entertaining than Dragon Ball. Unfortunately, none of the three are titles that appeal to broad markets and Tough is definitely looking for a specific market in an under-represented seinen market. Where Tough fails for me is how shallow Kiichi is. I have read plenty of martial arts manga. Some of them are fight fests; Tough falls into that category, then there are titles that try to either dissect martial arts while others try to even create a plot around the battle chapters. There are different ways to get a rise from manga like this, but violence being so prevalent in entertainment these days getting some substance is nice ever so often. I guess that is why I like Samurai Executioner, there is lots of violence but the episodes that the hack'em-slash'em is built around is typically intriguing. Tough does not have that yet. Instead, it is overflowing with testosterone, and the fights are set up to show bravado and create what is so far a meaningless power structure. We know Kiichi is tough, possibly the toughest dude in the Kobe area, but what does that accomplish right now? "Who cares lets see some ass kicking!" I am not in that mood anymore, so Tough ends up being tough to read.


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