King’s Game: Origin Volume 1 Review

King’s Game: Origin

Volume 1

Reviewed by: Linny

Hey buddy, you okay? You’ve got some blood..everywhere.

Synopsis:  A deadly “game” has begun in the remote village named Yonaki. Everyday villagers find a letter instructing them to perform all sorts of tasks or face punishment. Nobody knows who is behind it all or why this is happening. What they do know is that punishment for failing to follow instructions can result in brutal and agonizing deaths. 

Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):

King’s Game: Origin is a prequel to the King’s Game series, which in turn is the manga adaptation of the first novel in the King’s Game cell phone novel series written by Nobuaki Kanazawa. While Origin does lay down the groundwork for the main series, it can be enjoyed on its own without having any prior knowledge of the other works in the series.

King’s Game: Origin starts off a little ‘controversial’ in that we are immediatley introduced to the fact that our protagonist, Kazunari is very much in love with his cousin, Natsuki and both are very determined to marry each other once they come of age. It’s not a complete deal breaker but some readers might find that bit a rather startling way to be introduced to the story. For the most part, the manga focuses on the fact that their relationship is frowned upon by everyone, especially the girl’s mother and this might make it easier to digest for some readers. There aren’t any graphic scenes of intimacy between them and the manga keeps their relationship physically pure all the way through.

Oh! If only you were royalty from the past.

Moving on and focusing on the actual crux of the story, King’s Game: Origin is at it’s heart, a survival horror story so fans of that genre should find themselves more inclined to check it out. The downside of these stories is that if you have read a lot of them, you might find yourself easily predicting what’s going to happen next. With King’s Game: Origin in particular, there were times when it felt like it was trying a little too hard to come off dark and gloomy, with skull imagery randomly inserted during internal monologues. Even the tasks dictated by the letters start off extremely macabre, with the very first letter dictating that all villagers between the age of 10-20 must touch a dead body. But on a positive note, it does give readers a clear idea of what kind of tone to expect from the story from the very first chapter itself so you can decide if the series is for you without having to read an entire volume first.

The first volume gives us a general idea of who our main cast might be. Nobody gets extremely detailed exposition or definition besides our protagonist and narrator,Kazunari and their personalities might feel a bit one note for now. There’s a female character, Machiko who seems meant to be the oomph factor for the series with her outfit being rather provocative compared to everyone else, and her words dripping with flirtatious intent. Then there’s the older teenager, Yuuji who seems to be the leader of the gang and generally good hearted. Even Natsuki, despite being the object of Kazunari’s affection, seems to be the typical timid love interest who’s there to comfort the hero when he needs it and spew a few lines of dialogue here and there.Of course, this is based off only the first volume which is five chapters, so this is more of a general impression of the volume than a criticism. Also, the fact that we know so little about the cast means that the story has the freedom to introduce big reveals or twists about them as the mystery develops.

Way to be obvious, horror manga protagonist.

When it comes to gore factor, Origin serves up a dash of it within its first volume but unless you are extremely queasy, thanks to the art being in black and white, the actual shock factor of the visuals gets a bit downsized. Unless you like your violence to be extremely graphic, or you are extremely prone to feeling queasy, Origin should have the right balance of shock factor to keep it interesting without feeling excessive. That’s definitely something that works in its favour and might help to widen its appeal.
Another factor that might lend appeal to the series is that it is a completed work so there’s none of that frustrating week to week or even month to month wait for new chapters to continue the story. Also it consists of only 30 chapters and thus isn’t a huge time consuming commitment. Rather it’s a decent sized read, not too short but no too long, perfect for a quick read.

Clearly, it’s every kid for himself out here.

Having only read King’s Game: Origin, I did some quick research about the rest of the series in order to get a feel for it and to provide a more informed review. Unfortunately, from the comments and discussions left by others about the main story, there seems to be a higher likelihood that like a lot psychological and horror mysteries, King’s Game suffers from plot holes or way too far fetched explanations that end up sounding stupid rather than providing an answer for all the questions that rise in the story. Is King’s Game: Origin still worth picking up knowing that the main series suffers from that? I would have to say yes. The small cast means that you get time to get acquainted, if not attached to the characters and the setting of a remote village lends itself perfectly to all the convoluted twists and turns needed to make stories like this work. Even if the characters never receive much development and might seem to do some dumb things for the sake of plot, the main draw of this genre is the plot and Origin offers plenty of thrills and chills to keep the plot engaging. And unlike some thrillers, where the police are either mysteriously and frustratingly absent or useless, the detective who comes about to investigate seems competent and promising.

Someone clearly flosses and brushes daily.

In conclusion, if you are a sucker for dark survival game stories, King’s Game: Origins does enough in its first volume to warrant a recommendation from me. At worst, thanks to its short length, you won’t have wasted too much time even if you find yourself disappointed by the ending. The characters may not be the most original or the most engaging, but if you’re after a fast paced psychological thriller, Origins has a set up that aims to please.

 

King’s Game: Origin is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.

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