From Eldo Yoshimizu and Titan Comic’s imprint, Hard Case Crime comes Ryuko. I was expecting action and a lot of it, but I was not expecting so many plot twists.
We start with Ryuko, the titular character of the volume, who is an influential member of the Japanese mafia. The mafia is involved in a power struggle between locals in the Middle-East.
In no short order, there is betrayal, a fight against government forces, betrayal, Chinese crimelords and perhaps a terrorist group. We flick back and forth in flashbacks and meet several other lead character worthy candidates.
The action is excellent and fast-paced, every page worth reading. However, at the end of Ryuko volume 1, that’s some 250+ pages, it feels like we’re still setting up the pieces. It’s like A Song of Ice and Fire version of Japanse criminal clans, enemies and allies condensed into a novella rather than a bunch of books. And like the A Song of Ice and Fire; we’re not yet at the end.
I guess, though, the frustration that there’s not more of Ryuko to read right now isn’t a bad thing. It’s the lack of closure that I struggle with.
This is a manga. You read the panels from right to left. I had a PDF version to review and didn’t twig to what was going until for a few pages when all of a sudden, the dialogue made no sense. There is, however, instructions at the ‘back’ of the book which will be easier to spot in the paper.
While this is a Japanese comic book, it is fully and very gracefully translated into English. In fact, a pair of translators worked on the project; Motoko Tamamuro and Jonathan Clements. That’s the same Clements who does such a good job comparing Scotland Loves Anime.
Another notable characteristic of manga characters is that the ladies don’t wear very much in the way of clothing. There’s an important character who goes to battle in what must only be a bikini and a cowboy hat. It’s a fashion choice that’s commented on in the story by other characters.
While Ryuko is fast-paced, I think it is better to read slowly. The whole thing is black and white lines, and there are some panels where the cross-hatching is so thick it’s hard to see what’s going on. There are other panels, very occasionally, that almost look unfinished due to their lightness. It’s a stylistic choice, but it means it’s all too easy to let your eyes skip forward over these visual challenges and doing so misses out essential details.
Overall I enjoyed Ryuko. It’s a good story. Of course, it is, Ryuko sold well in Japan, well enough for a Western publisher to pick it up, translate it and bring it to the West to sell. Titan Comics wouldn’t take the risk on anything less than an A+ read. Yes, there are girls with guns, but there’s more complexity to the story than this.
I look forward to Ryuko volume 2.
My copy of Ryuko, vol 1 was provided for review. It’s available in July from Hard Case Crimes and Titan Comics.