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Combat Commentary: Belated Introduction

It occurred to me, after reading Philip’s new column, that I had been remis in my priorities. I should have realized that an introduction was in order, otherwise how could readers know what I was trying to do, let alone who I am. I will rectify that mistake right now.

Most of you probably don’t know me from my blog, Burning Lizard Studios, where I review anime and manga (among other things), though mostly anime, because for some reason I decided reviewing every single series I watched would be a good idea. But since my real love is manga, I’ve been wanting to write more about it. I’ve done a few reviews, and participated in some of the Manga Movable Feasts, but writing about manga is too easy to push to the side when I have episode after episode of unreviewed anime pilling up.

To force myself into writing about manga more often, and because I wanted to expand my audience a bit more, I responded to Melinda’s call for contributors. My original idea was to write comparisons between manga and their anime adaptations. I thought that perhaps if I connected what I was already writing about to what I wanted to write about, it would make the transition easier. But that idea was far too similar to an existing column, so I had to think of some new ideas.

It took me a little while, and when I first came up with the idea for Combat Commentary, it was mostly something that I was throwing towards Melinda without much hope that it would be accepted. But, she liked it, and while spending the past month preparing to write this column weekly, I started to fall in love with it too.

The majority of my manga experience comes from shounen manga. I’ve explored shoujo, seinen, and josei a bit, but never found anything that quite caught my attention as much as shounen did. I could go on for a while about why exactly I prefer shounen over other types of manga, but I’d rather simply summarize it: Shounen manga is all about fun.

Most shounen manga (not all) tend not to delve too deep into serious issues. The main purpose is to entertain, and sometimes morality tales are slid in among the pages. I’m not a big fan of drama, though I can appreciate the power a well told tragedy can have. When I read I like to have fun. But not mindless fun, because that is not in my personality, so I tend to overanalyze what I read.

The major genre of shounen—the one most people know it for—is battle manga. The way I look at battle manga is similar to the way I look at a well-written novel. While some seinen series may have deeper characters and a greater focus on storytelling, shounen to me is the graphic medium in its purest form. Rather than rely on a large amount of text, good shounen take full advantage of the form to tell their stories. Most of the story is told with the pictures, and nowhere else is that clearer than during battle scenes.

Letting pictures do the talking is, in my opinion, the purpose of all graphic novels. And because battle scenes rely on pictures to tell the story so much, I consider them to be the heart and soul of shounen manga. Because of this, we can easily tell whether a battle manga is good or bad based on the creator’s skill at rendering battle scenes.

My intent for Combat Commentary is to examine various battle scenes throughout several different shounen (and non-shounen) series and evaluate their effectiveness. The purpose is not to pass judgement on the series as a whole based on the battles, though I do put a great deal of weight on them.

If anyone has any suggestions or requests of series and battles for me to look at, I’d be glad to hear them. As I mentioned in my previous post, I am willing to look at anything, even non-shounen series. While other genres of manga don’t focus on battles as much as many shounen do, my theory is that the skill to draw a good battle scene translates into other areas of creating manga. So I hope that you like my new column, and that I don’t ever run out of battles to review.

Read this week’s Combat Commentary: Bleach, Vol. 2, Ch. 9-12.

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About Derek Bown

Derek Bown is a creative writing and editing student at Brigham Young University. He started watching anime back when Pokemon was first popular, moved on to Ranma 1/2 and One Piece, and eventually found his way to manga. He runs his own anime and manga review blog at Burning Lizard Studios, which he started back in 2009. He is a massive fantasy fan, and loves comedy and action manga the most. His knowledge of anything other than shounen manga is woefully inadequate, but he knows his way around pretty much any action fighter series worth reading. He also happens to be a closet romantic, but will deny any knowledge of shipping fandom if asked. His favorite manga are One Piece, One Piece, and One Piece.


  1. I’ve never read Naruto or Bleach before, but the first two combat commentaries were fun reads and I’m eager to see more.

    Admittedly I haven’t read very many fight-focused manga, but of the ones I have read, Trigun stands out as having by far the best battle scenes. The most memorable fight in Trigun for me was the one between Vash, Wolfwood, Leonof the Puppetmaster and Gray the Ninelives in chapters 12 – 18 of Trigun Maximum, though the manga is packed with great action from end to end. Trigun’s art is a bit overcomplicated, so it can be hard to figure out what’s what on the first go, but it’s well worth it once you get into it, and I’d like to see what you make of my favourite action manga.

  2. As a fellow shounen fan, I am really enjoying your series. Perhaps you can explain to me why the otherwise beautifully drawn D. Gray Man has such incomprehensible fight scenes? I really should have given up on that series long ago, but I have a soft spot for it (it was one of the first two tankobon I ever bought). But I think the latest volume was the straw. I read the entire thing and thought – what just happened?

  3. @Tibboat
    I haven’t read Trigun yet. I looked at a few volumes, but only being familiar with the anime was confused as to what was going on. I also have to admit that the art didn’t appeal to me all that much. But it’s been years, so perhaps it’s time for a new attempt at reading it.

    I haven’t read D-Grayman, that’s another series that has been on my list of manga to read, but that I haven’t taken the plunge just yet. I do need to read it, because as a self proclaimed expert on shounen manga I can’t really back that title up if I haven’t read ALL the big shounen series.

    I think the best part of this column for me is going to be reading all the series that people want me to look at. I started doing manga movable feasts to expand my manga reading list a bit, and this column is going to help do the same thing. So keep the suggestions coming, I don’t know when exactly I will get to them, as most of the suggestions have me reading new series, but I’ll be starting on your suggestions as soon as possible, and getting to analyze the fights as soon as I make my way through the current list of manga I’ve got to analyze.


  1. […] Bown introduces a new column at Manga Bookshelf, Combat Commentary, that will analyze and critique combat scenes in manga. He kicks it off with a corker from […]

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