Madara vol. 5 – Eiji Otsuka

2 out of 5

If your expectations / hopes this point are for full-on shonen manga, then I’m sure this comes across a lot better. For me, holding on to hope that something “more” might emerge, Madara has been a slow descent into very typical stuff, and even once settling for the manga simply being what it is – spiky-haired dudes fighting demons – I found this last volume to be pretty anti-climactic. The twists Otsuka employs are reasonable, but I feel like there were better or more impactful ways to use them, and the To Be Continued nonsense towards the end is, perhaps, another predictable aspect of this genre, but it also falls into the camp of being employed in a middling way.

Sho-U Tajima’s art remains a highlight. While the busyness and scale of the action sometimes makes character placement in scenes a little hard to parse – and there are some more subtle beats within that action that I’m not sure come through well – the clean lined style looks very cool and manages the teeth-grit drama and slapstick comedy equally well, and despite everyone being a variation of big 80s hair (both girls and boys), I found it easy to pick out who was who.

The “journey” of the series is what’s been a wash, and exactly because I put that in quotes. Madara’s 5 initial tankobons of collected chapters are uneven; the opening has a scrappy and promising sense to it that’s cut short by the lead’s purported death, and I felt Otsuka leaned into that especially well. But once we were on the other side of that, the connecting character bits to reroute us to a purpose never quite occurred; there was something interesting rumbling with Madara being reluctantly swept up in everyone else’s passion, but somewhere that got swapped out for typical diehard protag goodness, except the reader’s never really alerted to or shown that. It just happens: suddenly our dude is The Man In Charge, and then this ending brings with it some unnecessary twists – the straight ahead story of fighting the bad guy in order to get to Agartha, the promised land, would have been enough to keep this afloat. And with those rather distracting elements, and the lack of character development, the concluding battle (and that it’s not really the end) comes across pretty underwhelmingly.