Tough Vol. #02 -

Anime/Manga Reviews

Mania Grade: B

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  • Art Rating: B
  • Packaging Rating: B
  • Text/Translatin Rating: B+
  • Age Rating: 16 & Up
  • Released By: Viz Media
  • MSRP: 9.95
  • Pages: 190
  • ISBN: 1-59116-714-0
  • Size: B6
  • Orientation: Right to Left

Tough Vol. #02

By Eduardo M. Chavez     May 10, 2005
Release Date: April 15, 2005

Tough Vol.#02
© Viz Media

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

What They Say
Kiibo's father crosses paths with Iron Kiba, the man he defeated in a bruising match years ago. Now a famous fight promoter, the vengeful Kiba orders a pro-wrestler to take down Kiibo's father, but his cocky young son accepts the challenge instead! Even with his natural talent, can an amateur like Kiibo take on a professional who's never lost a street fight?!

The Review
Tough has to have one of the cheapest production values I have seen from Viz in a while. They do not use the original cover art for this volume; instead, they dig up a random piece with a character design that is not used yet. The front cover has main character Miyazawa Kiichi sitting down in a kneeling position on a stale background. Above Kiichi there is the "TOUGH" logo in huge sweaty block letters (yes, there is perspiration). The opposite cover is on fire, and the flames are surrounding the spoiler-ific volume description and a small piece of character art featuring Kiichi stretching.

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 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 vending machines and using whatever object they can find as a lethal weapon. 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 yes, but still great stuff!

The translation for Tough is good, but I was not 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 "thwak"-ing skull seem more impressive.

Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Kiichi knows he is tough. He knows he has earned that label through years of training, a strict diet and dedication. Fight after fight has justified his efforts and he will continue on this path until someone proves him wrong. His dream is still in his sight, and he is not interested in any diversions or distractions.

Therefore, when wrestling comes to Kobe, you would think he would be the first person in line to see big brutes grapple and toss each other. Well, Kiichi is not interested. Actually he thinks wrestlers are not even worth his time, cause he thinks they are pushovers. He believes wrestlers are just performers. Their matches are staged, their roles are set before each match, and each fighter acts out their part and the play always goes as planned. Who needs skill for that, right? Why even bother with such silly entertainment, right?

What Kiichi does not know is that wrestling is a very difficult martial art in its own right. Wrestlers train their muscles and bones to become like steel. It takes years and plenty of mental focus to achieve that in order to take the constant blows and chokes and twists. Wrestlers train in a variety of martial arts to build endurance and footwork. Some wrestlers specialize in specific techniques, perfecting their craft until their moves are lethal. They use these skills on the mat when they play their roles but they know they must play the part effortlessly to convince the audience, a best as they can.

Kiichi is set on not going to the wrestlers but chance will end up bringing them to him. Soon Kiichi will experience how tough wrestlers truly are. He will see how these people do not know when to give up. They will make Kiichi feel in his body how skilled and potentially lethal they are. These performers will finally bring fear to young Kiibo, and he is going to love every moment he spends with them.

Who ever said Kiichi was smart, right. Under normal circumstances, he would jump at the opportunity to learn more martial arts techniques, but he thought we he did not know could not hurt him. Often in life, ignorance is never bliss and Kiichi has come to learn what wrestling is like from the inside out. His body, the bones and tendons are telling him how much of a threat it can potentially be to him. His body will not forget that and once he gets a taste of it he will want to experience that pain and fear more and more. For, Kiichi is far from the perfect fighter at this point in his career. What he is lacking is fear for his life that will make him desperate enough to further pursue his craft. This is his first major step there.

I guess what threw me off in the first volume of Tough was how the fight scenes seemed pointless. It was simply fighting for the sake off fighting someone. Maybe, there was more to that. Yeah, Kiichi got up mainly for those who he considered real competition. However, what would he achieve taking on random people off the streets? This volume changes that, slightly, by simply adding the start off a plot. Yup, the Kiibo vs. World Pro Wrestling arch has started. And there is possibly even more fighting and even more danger, but it is more coherent and better structured. Structure is vital to long fighting manga, mainly because the genre tends to quickly fall into patterns anyway. By creating a structure to the story/arc readers begin to understand the rationality behind what may be confused with laziness. I won't call Saruwatari lazy, but outside of creating a fighting style nothing is new, so whatever that can be done to simply improve the readability is considered a positive.

Tough is still far from being an A-rated title. Its biggest problem is how it is not very original. Kiichi is the youngest of a family of fighters. Family got him to train but now his own goals have begun to fuel his passion. Fun curious personality, with a sense of justice reminds me of Hanma Baki in some ways, but his technique, while just as lethal, seems to be almost perfect. I tend to lose some the awe I should be experiencing; instead, I found the fights almost comical. Get to the real violence already, stop pussyfooting. This is about being tough and having some characters simply testing others out sounds cool but takes away from the personalities and cheapens Kiichi's victories. Maybe I am looking for too much from Tough? Or maybe it is just tough to find a well-rounded fighting manga.


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