Madara vol. 4 – Eiji Otsuka

3 out of 5

I’ve jumped on board a fair amount of shonen manga early on, impressed by some type of story hook or potential character depth, only to be “surprised” by the manga not really making good on those concepts… or rather, dragging out the good to dribble form, extended o’er as many chapters as possible, with a bunch of battles taking up the places inbetween. I was kinda sorta hoping that just because I’d liked a writer for their less traditional stuff that that would translate into an original take on battle manga, and MPD Psycho / Kurosagi Corpse-wrtier Eiji Otsuka initially had me thinking my hope was fulfilled with how Madara started, but this has turned out to be the same pattern as other shonen manga. I’ve written these same sentiments before, but with the caveats of occasional flashes of some plotty fast-footing and humor that spiced up the formula, thinking that the set ending of the story – at five tankobons – might prevent the bloat that made other genre works feel a bit slow to me.

And, as of volume 4, minus the story nuances, that mostly feels correct. Madara is still quite fun, with good slapstick humor mixed in with massive, spiky-haired battles – Sho-U Tajima has really settled into the style at this point, finding a balance between the open, cartoony look with which the series started and weighing it against more detailed backgrounds – but it’s also entirely, super-duper predictable, down to its “twists” of secret family bonds and resurrected villains. The mythology is a mixed bag of interesting and muddled: I really can’t tell if there’s just tons of story between the panels, or if it’s perhaps based on / framed around folklore with which I’m unfamiliar, but it ultimately doesn’t feel like it matters too much, unfortunately. It’s just some sassy protags with magical swords facing a snarky antag with a magical sword, and there’s a girl to rescue who shows up naked for some panels. Everyone – Kaos, Madara, Jamira – is converging to fight Kageo for passage to / dominance over the promised land, and it’s about 200 pages of little scuffles leading up to that.