Prepare for the next big battle royale manga series.
Based on the novel of the same name by Nisioisin, Juni Taisen is a teen plus manga from Viz Media. It’s a royal rumble-style fight series with the only requirement being that only one character lives. The winner gets one wish, and they can get anything they want. Sounds great, until you realize this “Zodiac War” is filled with 12 fighters, each with secret superpowers.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Eleven of the twelve fighters have gathered, and everyone awaits the final contender — Boar. She is strong, confident and a favorite to win the twelfth Zodiac War. However, this time, the rules have changed! The battle is limited to an abandoned city and all of the contestants are forced to ingest a deadly poison. Monkey tries to call a truce, but before she can the floor explodes, scattering all the fighters. Despite the chaos, one thing’s for sure — only one will remain standing.
Why does this matter?
Based on a hit novel, this manga is all about fighting to the death, and who doesn’t love that? It also has a strong superhero vibe which should make fans of superhero comics feel right at home.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
Right off the bat I couldn’t get over how good this manga looks. Details in clothes and environments are spot-on, and that extra detail really helps when heads get blown off. This is a teen plus manga, but I think it might push it a bit to mature levels at times. That can be seen in the intense gore, but also a sexual scene involving a lot of drooling while a character puts a jewel into her mouth. Another female character seems to be centered around her revealing panties and abs, and another character’s most noticeable traits are her giant breasts. At least one of the males is nearly naked, I guess. All that said, this book looks fantastic and is right up there with the best America comics on the shelf.
The character design doesn’t just stop with costumes, as each character has a fleshed out backstory and plenty for the reader to dig into. As the manga unfolds it basically focuses on a specific character giving us a baseline for who they were previous to the fight. Take for instance Dotsuku, “The Fighter of the Dog,” who took care of little kids. Yes, he also sold the ones who had superpowers, but maybe that’s why he’s so good at killing. No remorse. We get a closer look at four or so characters in this manga, all of whom are directly attacked or attacking others.
This manga also has your typical set of rules for readers to chew on. It’s brought up early on when it comes to the wish the winner gets. It hasn’t factored in much yet, but it’s definitely an element to keep an eye on.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Diving in completely blind left me with a lot of questions that are not answered. Why these characters need to fight at all isn’t explained very well and how they could have powers isn’t either. It’d be nice to find out what winners did with their wish in the past, for instance, so we could have an idea of what it would mean in the real world. Speaking of, there is a narrator character who is writing everything down (and it’s never explained how he can’t get killed from all this violence) and he reflects on how an entire city was given up for the fight. We learn 500,000 people will most likely die in the carnage. Why they fight here, or at all, is never explained.
The characters are also somewhat boring with backstories given, but never in a way that is memorable or interesting. Clearly the characters are written so they can be stone cold killers, but with no redeemable traits it’s hard to care about any of them. Even when the story goes to lengths to make you care they typically show their true colors and you go back to wondering when the next one will die.
Is it good?
A highly stylized and pretty action extravaganza. I just can’t help but have trouble caring whether anyone dies due to a lack of development for the characters and their world.