Nanbaka Volume 1 Manga Review
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: Nanbaka is a comedy about four very unruly and silly prisoners and their daily hijinks which include things like constantly teasing and tormenting their personal jailer named Hajime, and breaking out of their cell several times on a daily basis for the sheer fun of it.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
The manga kicks off by introducing us to Jyugo, Uno, Nico, and Rock, four young prisoners at a unique prison named Nanba Prison, which is described as the largest prison in Japan and prides itself on its state-of-the-art security system. The inmates of Nanba prison are divided into groups and assigned numbers and our four prisoners constitute group 13. There isn’t much of a story starting off besides watching our four prisoners goof around in a prison that’s clearly pure fiction. Not only do our prisoners have air conditioned rooms but they have access to anime, magazines, gourmet food and have almost every guard under their thumb, save for Hajime who is the only guard who can beat them at their games.
The manga was originally a web comic and it should be rather evident to readers of webcomics from the full coloured pages and the art style itself. The characters are drawn with physiques and facial features that are over the top and flamboyant and commonly seen in online strips. It also then follows that the chapters and pages of the comic often feel like 4-koma/ single page jokes rather than one cohesive story. The characters are often spouting one liners or reacting in an exaggerated manner to the joke in the page. The first volume consists of 12 chapters and one half chapter which gives the readers an extra tit bit about two of our four prisoners. Each chapter is extremely short consistig of about 10 pages of actual content with a couple of pages that act like flash cards of information about the cast. it’s a quick read which works well with the style of comedy being used as each joke and chapter is used quickly and then it’s on to the next one before you know it and avoids outstaying its welcome.
The characters in Nanbaka all feel like extreme caricatures that have obviously been fabricated for the sake of comedy above all else. Despite his tough looks and addiction to fighting, Rock is a hungry hooligan who will become a numb zombie at the sight or promise of good food. Uno is a gambling addict whose biggest weakness is women. In fact, the only reason he keeps breaking out of prison is so that he can go on dates. Jyugo is an escape artist who considers breaking out of prison his hobby. Then there’s the runt, Nico who’s a young kid with a million incurable diseases which apparently don’t cause him any real harm but are also extremely contagious at the same time yet don’t affect anyone else unless it is for a joke. As you can see, the comedic stylings and content of this series are extremely bizarre and contrived so it might not appeal to those of you who prefer more realistic comedy.
When it comes to the story progression, Nanbaka starts off being a series of gags but it eventually reveals that there is an actual ongoing plot somewhere amongst all the insanity. Even though everything has been pretty light hearted thus far, around Chapter 10, we finally get to find out exactly how and why our four protagonists were incarcerated into Nanba Prison and that Jyugo is hiding a dark secret behind all his jovial and casual prison breaking ways. It feels a little odd given how silly Nanbaka has been up to that point but it helps give the series some purpose and gravity for readers who were tiring of the comedy.
It’s difficult to harp on too much about Nanbaka one way or the other thanks to its quick and short story format. There’s a lot of violent comedy where characters are being physically abused for the sake of comedy with censored blurs denoting how badly they have been beaten up. The comedy can feel a little try hard and predictable as most of the jokes center around our group of four being great at breaking the rules but failing at everything else. Or how despite them being the most notorious group of prisoners, they’re all actually rather silly and innocent teenagers with very silly weaknesses like food, manga, etc. If the sound of that and the look of the art appeals to you, by all means, give this manga a shot. If you end up loving it, the good news is that it has an upcoming anime release. However, if you have read enough manga or watched enough anime to predict all the outcomes in subversion of expectation content, then Nanbaka will hold absolutely no appeal to you as you will see each twist and joke coming from a mile away.
Nanbaka is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.