It seems like it’s impossible to get away from politics these days so a political manga may not sound that great, but what if it was trumped up with incredible violence and crazy sci-fi ideas? That’s what Golosseum has to offer manga fans as it releases in America this week. The book has incredible fighting, cameos from Putin and Hulk Hogan look-alikes, and a certain liberal candidate who wants to rule the world. Prepare yourselves for one of the most intense manga I’ve ever read.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Scientists discover a new material that renders people immune to all existing weapons. But these “peacemakers” instead transform world war into a martial-arts free-for-all! Rasputin plots with Russian President Putinov to control the global supply. Opposing them are the unstoppable Axe Bogan, a certain master in a jumpsuit from China, and a slew of other muscular heroes!
Why does this matter?
The beauty of manga is that most of these series get to marinate a bit over in Japan before coming to America. Golosseum, for instance, started in February 2015 and has five volumes to its name, so you know Kodansha is confident this series will wow Americans with so much material to read.
Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?
This is the type of story that is hard to take seriously, so much so that if you’re taking it seriously by the end you’re doing it wrong. The book opens with a mysterious blond girl named Sasha who is very good at killing. Creator Yasushi Baba proceeds to show readers that Sasha has the incredible power to see into the past before she kills 30 men with ease. Your interest will be sparked and you’ll try to figure out what is going on. Then President Putinov (rendered to look exactly like Vladimir Putin) proceeds to explain what “Peacemakers” are to the Japanese prime minister while shirtless and stroking a tiger. These Peacemaker devices are why world war is over, and combat between nations is now between men on the battlefield using their fists. The story jumps around the globe revealing the current state of Los Angeles (it’s not looking good) and a Chinese agent who wants to kill Sasha. There’s a lot to take in with this series, but if you’re willing to allow its zany ideas and crazy action to do their thing you’ll have a good time.
The core to the premise of this series is the Peacemakers, which are weapons that allow people not be hurt by anything but flesh-on-flesh. You must be punched or pile drived into the ground in order to be hurt. These weapons have very strict rules (which are a customary thing in manga like Death Note) that set up potential loopholes and plot twists. This mysterious technology has something to do with Rasputin–who is somehow still alive–and it’s a sort of arms race across the world to build the best fighting army wielding Peacemakers. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that Sasha’s ability to see the past and Rasputin’s ability to see the future are integral pieces to the mystery of the series.
That said, many will enjoy this manga because of its well-drawn action. Baba draws some excellent fight scenes with plenty of rippling muscle-clad men doing impossible stunts like pile driving 100 men into the Earth using a chain. Sasha gets the most fight scenes which revolve around her quickness and inability to get emotional in the heat of battle. She’s the McGuffin of the narrative, but also the mysterious character of the bunch who you’ll root for ’til the bitter end.
It can’t be perfect can it?
Women aren’t depicted in the best of ways; there are crazy cleavage shots throughout mostly for fan service. Sasha is mostly represented in a respectful way and yet Baba manages to stuff her in a waitress dress that doesn’t serve much of a purpose beyond showing off her breasts. The depiction of black people, however brief, isn’t very good either, with each one talking in Ebonics and committing violent acts against the police.
The muscles of the fighters are unrealistic and can look flat in a 2D sort of way. The bulky look may have a story purpose–the Japanese have quicker and thinner fighters who can match up well to the slower, bulbous Russians–but it still looks outlandish and sometimes silly.
Is it good?
The premise of this manga is outrageous, with characters and ideas that are so bonkers it’s easy to be struck by the boldness of the creator. As it stands I’m intrigued to see where this goes from here, and I’ll come back to see how Baba shocks. This is manga with the charm of a grindhouse film pumped up on steroids.