We’ve already taken a look at the manga for Soul Eater, and with the anime series coming soon Yen Press have released the work that came from Atsushi Okubo before going on to work on the manga of Soul Eater. Does this manga have the same amount of promise that the creator’s later work had?
Shotaro is a Dokeshi, a person who can use 50 to 60% of their brains allowing them to gain unique abilities. But the use of the ability comes with a price that must be paid, otherwise the user loses something close to them. In the central town of Toykyo, Shotaro meets a girl named Mana, with the pair of them going in search of Shotaro’s friend Emine. As they meet new people on their travels they are sure to encounter new friends and enemies.
If there is one thing to say about Atsushi Okubo it's that he has a unique art style that makes his work stand out from other manga creators. One manga series can at times have a habit of looking very similar to the next, but with Soul Eater and this earlier outing Okubo brings a uniqueness that comes across in every panel of the work. While the series is quite obviously based in Japan, the background artwork is similar to Soul Eater’s where buildings have odd faces or features that help them stand out from the rest. The character designs are another plus, giving each individual a unique feature making them easy to remember and pick out from the lineup.
The story brings with it the usual mix of characters. The Dokeshi are feared for their abilities, but Shotaro’s good hearted nature lets him overcome the prejudice of the population and still help people. Mana is very much the tough girl trying to run from her past and wanting to make friends. Then comes Yohei, the man with a complex and dark past who just so happens to be a whiz at machines and can tolerate Shotaro and Mana and their annoying quirks. It’s is what we’ve come to expect from this type of story; the only real unique aspect is Shotaro’s power by using animal bones and their abilities to fight evil Dokeshi. But Mana herself is the usual kung fu expert who knows how to dish out the pain.
Overall, I would say it’s the villains that are the more interesting members of the cast. Nofix, the dread King of Spin is quite an interesting character and has more to him than just a crazed psychopath, while the Fear Factory itself has its share of crazies to help move things along. You also have The Masked Assembly which has its own set of characters. There are no shortage of interesting villains to choose from and it just helps to reinforce the somewhat bland nature of the main cast.
On the plus side, B.Ichi is not going to run into a stupid numbers of volumes. Clocking in at four volumes in the series, if you are looking for something to quickly read through as a stop gap and not have it running for years, then you can do much worse. It is entertaining in its own right and as a quick detour while waiting for your next volume of a mammoth series to come out, it will fill a hole. Just don’t expect it to rock your world.
Writer/Artist: Atsushi Okubo