Fantasy, Vikings, and Gunslinging: Manga Reviews!

Here’s some reviews of the manga I’ve been reading recently.  The first part will contain three manga and the second part, which will be written this weekend, three more.  All of them may be recommended without exception–unless you can’t endure fanservice.  Then, I won’t recommend Zero-In to you.

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The manga Superior and its second part Superior Cross were delightful to read.  This series had great fights and the plot some nice twists.  Yet, the most appealing things about this fantasy are how the mangaka, Ichtys, works in a Christian worldview, how likable and dynamic the characters are, and the often gut-wrenching situations in which the characters find themselves.

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Of particular interest is the Demon Queen, Sheila.  She starts off as a rather bloodthirsty, callous, ruthless character with a sense of humor.  After running into Hero, who has a strong sense of justice and made a vow not to kill anyone with the sole exception of the Demon Queen (He’s like Kenshin Himura, but less cool), Sheila falls in love with him, managing to keep her identity in the dark.  This allows her to tag along with Hero and his company.

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This series is rife with Christian symbolism and theology.  They quote Scripture on a few occasions.  That neither humans nor monsters are ontologically good or evil indicates that all rational creatures possess free will.  At the same time, several characters confess to having a wounded nature (very Catholic there)–particularly Sheila in the very powerful ending to this series.  One scene basically shouts the concept of doffing the old man and putting on the new.  If Christian manga are of interest to you, you can’t let this one go without reading it.

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Vinland Saga is a favorite of mine.  (The image in the header gives that away.)  Unfortunately, they release chapters at a snail’s pace.  The drawing style feels more like Prince Valiant than manga, even though there are certain characters who definitely have a manga-ish appearance.  All the weapons, armor, and backgrounds are beautifully done.  (Maybe that’s why it takes so long for the mangaka to write chapters.)  The characters range from being lovable to despicable.  Overall, the story is quite compelling, even though certain parts can be too drawn out, especially around chapter 80.  Until around chapter 54, the manga is a true page turner, and the pace slows down a bit afterward.

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The first section of the comic deals with the antagonism between Askeladd and our hero, Thorfinn.  Askeladd leads a company of Vikings on raids, Thorfinn included, and is the one responsible for the death of Thorfinn’s father.  In exchange for good conduct on the battlefield, Thorfinn is allowed to duel Askeladd and try to avenge his father.  The comics take a very interesting plunge into history when this company is assigned to guard Prince Canute, the man who would become king of Denmark and Britain, during a war with Britain.  Askeladd and Thorfinn must protect their charge against all enemies, hostes et inimici.  (Forgive my indulgence in Latin.  Hostes = enemy of one’s country.  Inimici = personal enemies.)

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This series stands out among manga for a variety of reasons.  It shows a very interesting conflict between Christians and Pagans–reminiscent of Tokugawa period Japan.  Some of its views of Christianity are inaccurate (a corpse is not the highest symbol of Christian charity!), but it shows this religion in a favorable light, especially when compared to Viking paganism.  I also enjoy how historically accurate and unusual the characters all are for manga–as a matter of fact, some characters relate much more to figures found in sagas than those in Japanese manga.  Though, I am disappointed with what the mangaka did to King Canute’s character–even though it makes the story more compelling.  (Canute was a good guy from everything I’ve read.)

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You have no idea how hard it is to find decent pictures of this manga–and by decent, I don’t mean well done!

Here’s a fanservicey, action-packed shounen for you: Zero-In.  Again, we have a series with very likable characters and the cool and absorbing action draws in the reader.  It feels a little like Gunsmith Cats: an almost perfectly entertaining series if you can ignore the scenes of nudity, especially a few which go further than that.  Zero-In concerns a privately owned Japanese police company called Minkei.  Our two main characters are the experienced and powerful Mikuru and her love interest, Kou.  (I cannot see Kou as much of a lead, but this series falls in the harem genre.)  The plots tend to be episodic, and many interesting characters are met along the way.  Overall, this manga excels in providing the reader with great fun–if only they would translate the chapters faster!  (I’m very close to reading it raw, which I find a bit time consuming these days.)

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8 comments on “Fantasy, Vikings, and Gunslinging: Manga Reviews!

  1. Genki Jason says:

    I like the sound of the story in Superior. I finished watching the anime Maou and enjoyed it a lot and that has a similar romance/fantasy plot although the hero knows right from the start who the Demon Lord is. I looked at the cover of Zero-In with the cute gun-wielding girl and the car and immediately thought about Gunsmith Cats. That was a fun read so I might take this up.

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    • That reminds me of how I need to watch Maou. The first couple of episodes didn’t grab me, but the writer of Anime Ashita convinced me to give it another chance.

      You won’t be disappointed with Superior. The weakest part of the manga are the backgrounds, which are minimal and not too inspiring.

      The first image I found for Zero-In was surprisingly Gunsmith Cat-like, especially with a Mustang being in the picture. I wish I knew whether the mangaka wrote something else!

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      • Genki Jason says:

        Maou does improve. I was ready to write it off as some harem anime but its smarter than it first appear. Heck it even manages to go into free market capitalism and the use of multiple currencies and modern farming. I think Adam Smith would be a fan 😉

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      • I remember hearing about the interesting economic twists that they gave the series. The economic themes makes it sound like Spice and Wolf, which further inflames my desire to watch it. And the author of Anime Ashita claims that episode 9 is particularly powerful.

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      • Genki Jason says:

        Oh yeah, if I remember correctly, episode 9 has a a brilliant grandstanding speech at the end. lf you like existentialism then you’ll dig it. I loved it.

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      • I enjoy watching existentialist films. The first season of Shakugan no Shana was very interesting because of the use of that philosophy in the show. However, I don’t agree with the philosophy or most rather subjective philosphies for that matter. But, the speech might still be enjoyable to hear for all that.

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  2. dmdutcher says:

    Superior Cross is pretty good. The premise though makes me wonder if he was consciously riffing off of a certain thing in order to tell a story and redeem it, or if it was coincidental.

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    • Hmmm…Not sure what he would be riffing off. I mean, the only thing that comes to mind is the concept of a guy who’s taken a vow not to kill. But, we find that in several anime and manga: Rurouni Kenshin, Black Cat, Trigun, Grenadier, Trinity Blood, Zero-In and even Vinland Saga is featuring it at the moment! In any case, these series always turn out fun, so they can use that trope as often as they want in my book!

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