Thursday, March 29, 2012

Short review: Garouden

Initially, my intention was to go through all of the Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei volumes I have one after the other, but now I'm kind of hobbled and don't have the option to stand over the scanner. So, I'm going to comment on some new (to me) stories that I've found on Manga Fox. As always, the expectation is that if you like a manga, you should buy the paper copy to reward the artist. But, we all know the odds of that happening.


(All rights belong to their owners. Images used here for review purposes only.
Image taken from Manga Fox.)

Garouden, story by Baku Yumemakura, art by Jiro Taniguchi. Grade: B+
Jiro is a very established manga artist, having debuted in 1970 with "A Desiccated Summer". The wiki entry lists close to 50 titles for him, none of which I recognize, though. He has a very strong, defined style in Garouden that is realistic and somewhat similar to that of Katsuhiro Otomo. Baku is an SF writer that has collaborated with Jiro a few times. Baku's wiki entry is very short, just mentioning one award-winning story, "The Lion that Ate the Crescent Moon".

Garouden is a very short story, only going two volumes, but it's very intense and violent. Bunshichi Tanba had once been a calm, normal young guy, but his friend, a karate student, gets into a street brawl with two yakuza, and the friend gets his throat cut. The thugs get ready to kill Tanba next, and he is forced to go full-out to save himself. The sensation of bone crunching under his fist gives him a thrill and he then sets out to be a dojo challenger - a wandering fighter that goes to different places and fights the strongest person there. He eventually comes up against Kajiwara, a wall of mass of a guy that is training to be a pro wrestler. Kajiwara's sole feature is in having a resilient body, but he can't bring himself to break joints. Tanba goes full out, but is eventually trapped in a stranglehold that causes him to pass out. This is the only time he's been defeated, and Tanba spends the next 6 years in making himself stronger for revenge, while Kajiwara climbs through the pro wrestling ranks.

The manga is then the story of Tanba trying to meet Kajiwara for a rematch, and culminates with the actual battle in Yamashita Park in Yokohama. The backgrounds are realistic, and the character designs are mostly consistent. There is a heavy emphasis on karate and wrestling moves, but most of the attacks look convincing. When someone is in pain, you can almost feel it. Still, it is a short series, and I would have liked to see what the long-term repercussions of the match would have been. If you like stuff like Tough, then you'll like Garouden Recommended.

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