BOZEBEATS 001-003 – Manga Review

Synopsis: Boze Monks wage a secret war against unruly souls, Chimi, that plague the land. One such Boze Monk is Ryudaiji, perhaps the strongest in all of Japan. While out searching for one such ghastly apparition he stumbles upon a lone boy in a forest. This boy, raised by wolves, Tamaki Madoka, has no memory of who he was before ending up in these dark woods. When Ryudaiji discovers that Madoka isn’t an ordinary boy, somehow blessed with the power to absorb wayward souls, Ryudaiji seeks to take him in as an apprentice and help guide Tamaki on a quest to discover his origins.

Warning: Spoilers to Follow:

Review:

I’m very mixed on BozeBeats. Since I’m behind on these Jump Start reviews I decided to read all of the chapters Western Jump opted to bring over, rather than keep my thoughts to merely BozeBeats’ first chapter. There are things I love about BozeBeats, and things I loathe. If I was to keep my opinions to simply its introduction this review be almost glowing.

Not only does the series boast wildly detailed art, but a well crafted, if worn, set up that had me hooked early on. Things aren’t perfect however. At times the art is so detailed that smaller panels become hard to understand. There were brief snippets of the story where I couldn’t really tell what was happening. By that same note, the set up often lacked greater emotional impact.

You’re spookin’ yourself, old man.

We open the story with Ryudaiji, a bad-ass character. We’ve seen this kinda no none sense character before, and Ryudaiji’s personality rarely feels original. What keeps him and these opening pages fun is the light sprinkling of comedy and artistic style. Whether Ryudaiji is bland or unoriginal as a character doesn’t entirely matter, as the art is oozing with badassery.

It isn’t long until we meet our true main character, Tamaki Madoka, a lone wolf-raised boy in the woods. Where the story fumbles is in presenting a deeper emotional connection between him and the mother wolf who raised him. The chapter instead chooses to dwell on Madoka’s desire to learn about his past. That means when the mother wolf’s life is in jeopardy, and ultimately perishes, we don’t feel so connected to her. Her death is sad, but lacks greater impact due to our distance and weak understanding of her and Tamaki’s connection. We needed to see more of the two’s bond, and love, to feel the heartache of her loss.

But again what BozeBeats lacks in greater depth it continues to make up for in style. Even with the arts minor failings, this manga looks great. And by the end of Chapter 1 I was quite eager for BozeBeats to become a regular addition to the Magazine’s line up. That is, until the final few pages.

Clearly the bear was a Ms. and is now even more insulted.

Ryudaiji and Tamaki have a fun dynamic. The no none sense master and the feisty pupil. Their relationship produces just enough comedy to give us breaks between the otherwise oppressively serious style. Unfortunately that isn’t what the manga wants to be long term. And by first chapter’s end we eject that pairing in favor of thrusting in a goofier character to stand alongside Tamaki, Hikoichi Hagakure.

Hikoichi is a painfully comical character. The gag’s supposed to be that Tamaki has the skills but is unruly, while Hikoichi has the sense but none of the drive. It’s an even more tired duo than pairing Tamaki with his master, and BozeBeats just doesn’t seem capable of crafting Hikoichi as this wildly amusing character.

Chapter 2 injects way more comedy, awkward exposition to explain things, and generally feels a much sloppier continuation from an otherwise effective and tight first chapter. Heck we even have fourth wall breaking narration, something entirely absent from Chapter 1. Hikoichi quickly becomes more annoying than comedic and generally left me far less interested in the series than I had started.

The right level of ridiculous Shonen absolutely needs more of.

All that said Chapter 3 manages to find a balance between what was great about Chapter 1 and keep the changes to the stories’ tone and direction from Chapter 2. Hikoichi and Tamaki’s dynamic feels less forced, Hikoichi is less annoying and we get a better idea of what the primary setting will be for Tamaki’s ongoing journey of self-discovery. We even get a handful of additional characters, with bad ass designs, to round things out.

Ultimately I doubt BozeBeats is going to find its way into Western Jump’s line up. Things are stretched pretty thin, as I understand, and Jump doesn’t have the capacity to go adding another title. Even if they did, I don’t know that BozeBeats is that strong an addition. What BozeBeats does right is mostly stylistic, superficial presentation. It’s first chapter remains an excellent starting point, but one that had many of its stronger elements jettisoned for Chapter 2. While the new direction wasn’t as off putting in Chapter 3, I still would’ve preferred the Ryudaiji Tamaki dynamic over what the story is offering now.

That’s it for today. Please let me know your thoughts on Bozebeats in the comments below!

BOZEBEATS is published weekly as a Jump Start in Shonen Jump.

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