Tough (aka: Koko Tekken-den Tough) Vol. #04 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B+
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 17 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 192
  • ISBN: 1-4215-0015-9
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Tough (aka: Koko Tekken-den Tough) Vol. #04

By Jarred Pine     October 25, 2005
Release Date: October 04, 2005

Tough (aka: Koko Tekken-den Tough) Vol.#04
© Viz Media

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

What They Say
On a ship anchored miles from shore, Kiibo enters the ring to wage a do-or-die battle against the bloodthirsty fighter known as "The Beast." The Miyazawa family's sworn enemy, Iron Kiba, has staged the fight to crush their Nadashinkage school once and for all, and should Kiibo lose, the secret techniques will be made public. But when the bell rings, a spooked Kiibo freezes dead in his tracks!

The Review
A martial arts, freestyle wrestling manga that is specially tailored for fans of the genre. Saruwatari-sensei gives us what we want – grips, holds, kicks, punches, blood, broken bones, and everything great about those ass kicking fights!

VIZ decides to put their own cover together here using a posing Kiibo all flexed out under the English brick lettering that is actually sweating. I think it’s trying a bit too hard to be “tough”. An “Explicit Content” logo is actually part of the cover in the lower left, instead of being a sticker on the shrinkwrap. It is a mature rated title under the Editor’s Choice label. The print reproduction is solid with crisp tones and no signs of fading or distortion. There are chapter headers but no extras.

Artwork is definitely reminiscent of the 80s and early 90s martial arts genre, with large beefy guys with lots of detailed muscles that make Ahnold look like a girly man. It’s not pretty, but the style completely works with this title. We are supposed to feel as though these monsters are more than human as it enhances the intensity of the matches. The fight illustrations and panel work is fantastic. Not only do you see the detailed full-facial impacts, but also the moves leading up to and following impact, complete with oozing blood and broken limbs. Saruwatari-sensei makes you feel the fight and understand each and every move that fighter throws at you. Since this volume is mostly action, there are not a lot of backgrounds, but the ropes and boundaries of the ring are there to give the right perspective to the reader.

SFX are translated with overlays. It is a decent job and I do like the effort taken to make sure the “KRUNCH” actually makes the reader hear it with the creative font styles. The translation is good, it feels like a much more literal translation most of the time. My one complaint would be that the characters don’t have enough attitude for being punks, yakuza, pro-wrestlers, etc living in the Hanshin district.

Contents (Watch out spoilers ahead):
Tough is a niche title for martial arts genre fans that will never have a large audience appeal. It is a title that I would not use as an across the board recommendation for manga readers, just like I would not recommend Five Venoms or Master of the Flying Guillotine to general movie fans. This is fighting manga for fighting otaku. Saruwatari-sensei creates a martial arts/freestyle wrestling manga for martial arts/freestyle wrestling fans, catering to the fans by giving us exactly the type of material we want to see – fights, blood, broken bones, insane moves and techniques, ripped tendons, and 100% ass kicking.

After crafting a nice story of deception and building up Kiibo with proper motivation, Saruwatari-sensei gives us fans of the genre exactly what we want – a violent death match with the giant Samon. Kiibo is fighting not only for himself, but for his father’s acceptance as well as protecting the Miyazawa family secrets of the Nadashinkage. A loss will mean Kiibo’s father ritual suicide. How’s that for weight on your shoulders? Never mind that giant of a beast named Samon standing across from Kiibo with his nightmarish Hell Drop.

The match is Saruwatari-sensei in his element, creating an intense battle between two exceptional foes where each one pushes themselves to their limits. When Kiibo throws on Onihei’s secret Soaring Hell-God Lock early the match, Samon makes the seemingly impossible escape and throws a barrage of powerful punches and kicks that leaves the ring posts smoking from their impact. Kiibo gets absolutely pummeled and looks to be in trouble when Samon latches on the Hell Drop, which is reversed by Kiibo as he puts Samon in his own deadly move. Bloody blow after bloody blow, the match continues all while Kiibo’s father watches from the sidelines without interrupting the match. He knows that if Kiibo cannot defeat Samon, he is unworthy of being heir to the Nadashinkage. In the end, Kiibo proves exactly why he is in fact worthy, building upon the moves he was taught and creating his own powerful finishing technique, but also using the teachings in a way that shows that he is not just a cold-blooded killer but a protector of life.

Where I became a little disappointed is with the resolution and transition into the next story arc at the end of this volume. Kiibo nonchalantly moves into his next match at a karate tournament after a sudden and random tragic event happens to Samon. After such a terrific wind-up to the fight, I was hoping for some downtime to allow some closure between the characters and some development as well. But the sudden tragic event is a shock out of nowhere that does not come across as well as Saruwatari-sensei might have intended; the defeated actually lose more than just the match. Kiibo decides he no longer wants to fight these death matches and rushes right into a match with a defending champion. He has a hard time learning how to fight a sanctioned match that has rules to follow by. There is no setup to this match at all, something that was done so well with the previous Samon match. I only hope that the karate match ends soon in the next volume and the story gets back to developing something with a bit more to chew on. In the meantime, there are the fights to enjoy. Gratuitous but fun for us fight manga otaku nonetheless.

Tough is definitely a niche genre title that is made for fans of martial arts and freestyle wrestling manga. If you want well-illustrated and violent fights with detailed grips, holds, and other techniques, you will love this title. Outside of that, there’s not much too offer those readers who are not a fan of the genre. Tough is not a title that will appeal to a broad cross-section of readers, but it is an important title nonetheless as I believe there is a niche market for fans of these types of stories. Saruwatari-sensei gives us what us fight fans want – ass kicking after ass kicking! I do hope though that he gets back to crafting more interesting stories to set up the fights rather than just jumping from fight to fight.


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