- Mangaka : Hanada, Ryo
- Publisher : Kodansha
- Genre : Action, Horror, Sci-fi, Seinen
- Published : Apr 2022 - present
There's always something inherently satisfying when we read a story about a dystopian future where humanity tries their best to fight against monsters or mysterious creatures. It sends a message to our brain that humanity can and will prevail against any kind of external threat.
That is why sci-fi manga like World Trigger, Knights of Sidonia, or the recent massive hit, Monster #8, are so well-received by readers. And now, we get Blackguard as another addition to this exciting genre. So is it as good as its predecessors? Let's find out in this review of the first volume of Blackguard.
In a future where humanity is forced to live inside fortified cities to protect themselves from ape-like creatures called Shojo that can and will eat human flesh, the only protectors are special soldiers known simply as the "Guards". They use special suits and are armed with special guns that allow them to kill every Shojo in sight.
Unfortunately, Shojo have the ability to infect anybody that they bite with a deadly virus that will eventually turn their victims into mindless Shojo as well. So every Guard that ventures outside of the city is incredibly vulnerable to Shojo attacks. So who will protect the protectors? The answer is the "Reserved Unit". They are elite soldiers who are stationed in every sector as a backup for the regular Guards.
Nanao Minami is one of the best members of the Reserved Unit, and unlike other soldiers who use white uniforms in order to blend in with their vicinity, Minami uses a black cloak over his regular suit, which earned him the moniker “Blackguard”. What most people doesn't know, however, is the fact that Minami is infected with a disease that makes him incredibly suicidal.
1. A Flawed Main Character
Nanao Minami, the Blackguard, has the same traits that are shared by numerous stereotypical male characters in action stories, sort of like Levi or Itachi. He is strong, he is a loner, he does his job in a different way than his peers and yet he always produces way better results than them. After all, other than the aforementioned black cloak, Nanami also fights using a specially-made black katana, while his peers fight using high-powered guns.
That being said, what makes Minami different from other characters who share the same traits as him is the fact that he is suffering from a dangerous mental illness. In the story, it is said that the name of the disease is Morbus Si. This disease makes him extremely suicidal, which translates into his reckless way of fighting.
This creates a very unique dynamic to his character that can rarely be found in other popular series. It makes him both perfect and flawed at the same time. While more time is certainly needed to properly develop him as a character, this first volume alone is enough to make the readers care and sympathize with him and look forward to what will happen to him in the future.
2. Decent Worldbuilding
Similar to World Trigger and Monster #8, Blackguard sets its story in an alternate future with man-eating monsters in it, and yet it still highly resembles the real world. This is a neat trick that can be used to combine novelty and familiarity. This way, the readers can expect to see something strange and unique, but they can still somewhat relate to and feel familiar with the world at the same time.
In this first volume, we see that humanity lives in a fortified city that is raised hundreds of meters above the ground. We see sleek suits and rifles, as well as an A.I.-powered room that can provide anything from blocks of food to newly constructed suits within minutes for its owner.
On the other hand, we also see Minami and his fellow reserved units soldiers buying fresh ingredients from a traditional market, shopping for some clothes in a brick and mortar shop, and cooking regular food with the same cooking utensils that we have in our kitchen. For the first volume of a new series, this is quite decent worldbuilding.
1. Focused More On The Characters Rather Than The Plot
As mentioned before, it is good that the story features a flawed character rather than the usual calm, quiet, and strong male lead. Unfortunately, this first volume spends so much time talking about Minami's suicidal tendencies to the point the story doesn't actually move anywhere at all.
Sure, there are characters who exhibit some questionable behaviors that might impact the story as a whole later on, but for the majority of this first volume, we are stuck reading about how Minami has to deal with his disease.
It starts to feel like the story is more of a drama featuring a troubled main character who lives in a dystopian future, rather than the action/thriller story featuring a flawed main character that it set out to be in the beginning. There’s nothing wrong with a character-driven story, but at this point, it seems like the author doesn’t really know where the story is supposed to go.
2. Unrefined Art
Other than the flaw of the main character, the other noticeable difference between Blackguard and other manga that are similar to it, such as World Trigger, Knights of Sidonia, and Monster #8, is the art. All of those manga have far superior art to Blackguard. To put it mildly, Blackguard has quite an unrefined art style.
Some of the most problematic components are the lack of depth, inaccurate perspective, and some errors in anatomical proportions as well. There are multiple times when the characters look like 2D cardboard cutouts, rather than actual human beings with mass and volume. The lack of shading seems to be the main issue for this one.
There are also times when the heads of the characters look too big for their bodies, or the limbs look too short or too small. For this one, the problem seems to be a mixture of the aforementioned errors in perspective and anatomical proportions. You can't chalk it up as a personal style, because there are times when these problems do not exist at all. So hopefully, the illustrations will get better in the subsequent volumes.
There's nothing groundbreaking about the premise of Blackguard. You'll find other series that tell similar stories in a better way, such as several manga that are mentioned above. What makes Blackguard interesting is the flawed main character and his battle against the monsters and himself.
That being said, even the best tool is useless if not properly used. That's why a proper balance between action and drama is clearly needed. Not to mention the problems regarding the illustrations. Volume 2 seems to be the one that will decide whether this series is worth your time or not.
Are you interested in picking up Blackguard? Or maybe you have read this manga? If so, don't hesitate to share what you think about it in the comment section below.