Ice Blade vol. 3 – Tutomu Takahashi

4 out of 5

Sometimes with manga, I do wonder: would I like this if it was an American comic? Like, am I dorkily holding the foreign work in higher regard because it’s “cool” to read manga? Ice Blade, after all, has no especially deep or can’t-be-found-anywhere-else elements to it, and it boils down to tuff cops and robbers stuff. So set it in New York with a drunk P.I. and publish it at Dark Horse, and am I buying it?

Some of the poetic imagery used in volume 2 helped to hint at the differences, though, and Takahashi’s approach to the story in volume 3 clarifies it: just as certain film genres, when produced in particular countries, take on an interesting mixed bag of influences particular to that country, the same can be said for comic genres. Ky is just yer regular stoic police dude, but this story of subliminal messaging and hallucinogenic drugs and a death cult has so many touches that just would not work in an American comic, rendered with the boyish characterizations of classic manga and then funneled through a very film noir visual sensibility… that it’s far beyond any kind of dismissive or diminutive description. Add in some of the surreality Takahashi employs, and it takes on an art house vibe, bloody and heavy.

Volume 3’s setup is a bit cluttered, having to step through some proxies before it can identify its Big Bad, but the woozy journey is very much worth it, weaving its way towards its conclusion with a few successfully surprising twists, and keeping Ky on the teetering edge of “right,” even if breaking many rules in the pursuit of a greater good.