- Mangaka : Nanao Nanaki
- Genre : Action, Adventure, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Shounen
- Publisher : Viz
- Published : January 2023
Helck is a brilliantly executed concept that combines gag humor with an overarching fantasy epic—a wacky, off-beat story that marches to the beat of its own drum, heedless of the reader’s expectations.
Originally released in 2014, Helck by Nanao Nanaki has found its way into English through the upcoming 2023 re-release, which coincides with the series getting picked up for an anime adaptation!
Despite being eight years old, we’re happy to say that Helck’s art and humor haven’t diminished one bit. Come and join us today on Honey’s Anime as we discuss what we loved about Helck, Volume 1!
Helck opens with a premise like every other fantasy story on the market—a demon lord slain at the hands of a human hero, ushering in an era of peace for the human realm. But Helck does everything except follow the playbook, because we’re not here for those pesky little humans!
Our titular hero, a powerful human named Helck, has joined the auspiciously-named “Seventh Eastern Regional New Demon Lord Championship.” That’s right—the demon empire chooses new Demon Lords via tests of wit and battle prowess, but having a human competing amongst demons is an unexpected wrench in the plans of Lady Vermilio, the Elite Demon Lord overseeing the contest.
Helck is an anomaly—a larger-than-life figure who’s part-Hercules, part-He-Man, and entirely convinced that humans are the enemy. While Vermilio sets about investigating this strange interloper, background plots begin moving in the demon empire, and it seems that Helck might be the least of her problems…
The first volume of Helck doesn’t dwell too much on these hidden plots and instead revels in the pure absurdity of demons choosing their new lord by way of public spectacle. There are plenty of background gags, side jokes, and a level of general absurdity that’s a breath of fresh air compared to the overly-edgy “demon lord” stories we usually see.
Nanao Nanaki’s art style has aged like a fine wine, combining clean lines with the type of dumb humor that can’t help but bring a smile to your face. The original series was released in twelve tankoubons, but this re-release is getting the larger-sized shinsoubans, complete with new cover designs from Nanao herself!
1. Absurdist Humor
Regular readers of Honey’s Anime will know we love absurdism when it’s executed well, and Helck doesn’t disappoint. Fans of the strategy video game series Disgaea will be especially pleased with some of the dumb bureaucracy in the demonic world.
For incomprehensible reasons known only to the demon empire, everyone has an RPG-style “Level,” with Lady Vermilio’s hapless servant having a “Secretary Level,” while warriors have “Battle Levels.” When Vermilio goes undercover to investigate Helck, she even earns a (terrible) “Acting Level” for her awful performance. Coupled with Vermilio’s constant abuse of her secretary, there’s always something to laugh at every few pages.
2. A Bigger Picture
As we mentioned earlier, Helck is known for expanding to a larger, more epic-fantasy-inspired scope, while still maintaining its off-beat humor. In our opinion, this is a selling feature, since many comedy manga can quickly lose their appeal with overly repeated jokes or a lack of clear direction.
Of course, English readers of Helck will have to keep reading to learn about all the different plots coming into play—including Helck’s backstory and his motivations for becoming the next demon lord!
Helck, Vol 1 combines fantasy action and absurdist humor to make a memorable and fun first volume. Despite coming to the West eight years after its original release in Japan, the artwork and comedy are thoroughly enjoyable.
If the recent years of overly-serious fantasy series have brought you down, we suggest checking out Helck for a good laugh! Have you read Helck? Let us know down in the comments below, and as always, thanks for reading!