The Battle of Genryu: Origin, Vol. 1
By Shoko Fukaki
Published by CMX
Jin is a normal, happy-go-lucky high school student with unusually strong fighting abilities, something which has caught the attention of his friend Fusano, who suspects there is something “a little bit different” about him. As it turns out, what’s different about Jin is something his father and sister are determined to keep secret, especially from Jin’s estranged brother, Soichiro, who makes a living displaying his own abilities for the entertainment of the masses. When Soichiro approaches Jin’s sister, Toko, with a view towards bringing both her and Jin into his world, it becomes clear that their family relationships are not what they seem. Toko rejects Soichiro’s advances, appalled by his use of secret techniques for show and clearly terrified of what could happen to Jin should she be unable to protect him. Undaunted, Soichiro finds his way to Jin through more devious means, setting up a fight he’ll be unable to refuse.
When I first read this manga several months back, my impression of it was “competent but unremarkable.” Now on my second read, my perspective has changed a bit, and I find myself quite drawn to these characters and their world. I’m especially partial to the women, Toko and Fusano, and their mutual ability to take care of both themselves and the primary object of affection in their lives, Jin. This story doesn’t quite pass the Bechdel Test (at least not yet) but these women are strong, smart, and tender, and they can hold their own against the fairly terrifying men around them. Toko, particularly, displays such stirring affection for Jin, even now I find myself returning to the book’s middle chapters to catch a glimpse of it once more. That Fusano, one of the most skilled young fighters in the story is used by Soichiro as helpless bait to lure in Jin is truly unfortunate, though it is such a common occurrence in manga of this kind, I can’t quite bring myself to get worked up over it as I should. There is a lot of talk, even from Soichiro, about Fusano having the potential to be a “real martial artist.” I can only hope this will be developed more as the story goes on.
What remains a great mystery, even by the end of the volume, is any hint as to the origin of Jin (and Soichiro’s) power, aside from a vague implication that they may not be fully human. With the true relationship between them yet unexplained, it is also unclear exactly why Soichiro is so anxious to bring Jin to his side or even what that really means. After all, Soichiro seems to be mainly using his abilities to attract money and fame, at least on the face of it. What hidden truth makes Toko so desperate to protect Jin from him? The man is sleazy, there’s no doubt about that, but what’s behind it all? It is these questions that most drive me to want to pick up the next volume.
Another thing The Battle of Genryu: Origin has going for it is the fact that its fight scenes are both fairly intense and easy to follow, a combination that is often difficult to find in this type of manga. I expect the fighting only appears realistic to those of us who honestly know nothing about it since even I must question some of the physics involved, but realism is pretty far from the point. If you’re looking to escape shonen battle clichés or for any kind of sincere insight into the martial arts, this is definitely not the book for you. The artwork overall is generally attractive, if not unique, and there are some unexpected touches here and there in backgrounds and a few bits of paneling that actually evoke a shojo-esque feel.
Though it would be difficult to shift my assessment of this manga as “unremarkable” at this point, there is definitely a warmth and charm to it that I did not pick up during my first read which makes that a real possibility in the future. With this in mind, I’ll be genuinely interested to see where it goes from here and whether the elements of it that I’m most drawn to remain enough of a focus to continue. Though I can’t quite recommend this series’ first volume, fans of light-hearted battle manga may find something here to hook them, along with a hope of better things to come.
Review copy provided by the publisher.