4 out of 5
Well, this is no longer the manga I want to read or thought I was reading – something that seemed quieter, more heartfelt, more intelligent – but accepting it as more of a shonen / sci-fi adventure, it’s a good one. Our immortal has become a somewhat typical OP protag, shifting through newly acquired “powers” – things it can create / people it can change into – as needed, and facing against ever ante-upping baddies, which all happen to be variants on nokkers. Oima has gotten a handle on pacing so that we feel like we’re always moving forward; revelations that motivate that movement are where the “flavor” of the book has changed for me, from one of logical and earned self-discovery to narrative shortcuts: we’re told things flat out so we can get to the next scene; a problem is introduced only so a solution can be introduced on the next page. Meaning Fushi faces some nokker challenge, and does his protag “I’ll save everyone!” proclamations, and then the man in black will conveniently explain how he can overcome that challenge. Cue a training montage.
Emotions are also significantly shortcutted – Prince Bon was a great guy all along – but, again, taking this as part and parcel of a more generic shonen rag, Oima is making sure that every character has a unique personality and specific role to play, and clear lines are being drawn between good and bad to make cheering Fushi on quite easy. The art is consistently sharp, with madly detailed panels and lots of action always clearly choreographed.
Some of this stuff is still occasionally a bit too forced – you can shove the narrative along, fine, but Oima will occasionally push it with an odd bit of dialogue or, y’know, the nokkers show up whenever there’s the smallest lull – and there’s a lovely bit of body shaming right at the start that only gets a semi-pass because it’s so offhand that it’s almost hilariously irrelevant. Like, this is probably a mini-romance subplot that would get played out longer in other tales, but here it came in, shook its skinny-to-fat tail, and then made an exit.
I think this will be a lot of fun in the anime, but the manga has definitely stopped being something I look to for any experiences beneath the surface. That’s not to say there isn’t great skill to be witnessed in terms of the art, and there are still some very cool twists in the concept happening, but it’s still rather skin-deep stuff, ultimately. However, if you’re okay with that level, this is an excellent volume, expertly moving things along and giving us new stakes and cool new powers at smartly placed intervals.