3 out of 5
Madara… takes a break. In several ways: as the character takes a pause, and the writer and artist feel like they take a pause, and then the story takes a pause for a flashback chapter. None of this is necessarily bad or unentertaining, and there are elements that are suggestive of the bits of clever humor and solid storytelling evident in the first two tankobons, but – as the series is only five books – this is very much the middle, and so we spin our wheels a bit, and in a somewhat mundane fashion as well. Things start off strong, jumping forward after last chapter’s disappearance of Madara to Kaos and Loki fighting side-by-side against the moki, and a dude who looks exactly like Madara – his brother! – showing up, but the whole twin gambit is another one of those kinda-sorta-totally-normal shonen things, as-is Kirin getting kidnapped by the same. Otsuka dribbles a bit of good world building into this, but the whole thing get somewhat demystified with finding out that our eponymous character is still alive – so he was only out of the story for one chapter – and chilling in another village. Here’s where the art starts to become very Dragon Ball-y round and streamlined, and we’re again functioning as very typical shonen manga; there’s not much to differentiate this from any other mystical, OP-protag destined-to-be-a-hero tale. Things start to warm up a bit as we learn more about some of the characters we’ve met, and how their histories are intertwined… and then it’s off to a young Madara and Kirin story, which is also about as typical as things get, with the duo taking off – against their elders’ wishes – to deal with a couple of bad guys in order to save Tatara, and surely hearing prophetic things about staying together and fighting the good fight along the way.
The CMX printing, since it’s American style, left-to-right, has the odd job of including a manga-style preview of another book in the “back”, which reads right-to-left. No impact on anything, but that must’ve been a fun decision for the editors to make.