Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Manga Review: Tactics, Volume 8

Generally speaking those who love manga and anime generally check out the book form of a franchise before the animated one. I, however, did things backwards with Tactics. I had the opportunity to watch the 25 episode episode show from 2004 long before I actually read the ongoing manga. Both serve as fine representations of Sakura Kinoshita and Kazuko Higashiyama’s original work, but I must admit that I enjoyed the manga version much, much more.

In case you’re unfamiliar of the franchise it basically takes place during the Taishou period in Japan and follows the exploits of Kantarou Ichinomiya. Kantarou possesses the ability to see demons, spirits, and other creatures regular humans cannot. Because of these powers he has become a folklorist and exorcist, working independently to help those in need bothered by things that lack explanation. Joining Kantarou is the oni-eating tengu known as Haruka and a fox-spirit named Yoko. The series follows their exploits as they take on various missions revolving around the exorcising theme.

Tactics has been in circulation now in the States for some time and Tokyopop just released the eighth installment of the series. Fans will undoubtedly be dying to know how the bit with Minamoto winds up in this volume. Those who read the seventh installment undoubtedly recall it ended with Kantarou squaring off against Sakata. In the opening pages here we do indeed see Kantarou and Sakata in a heated dual, and things get worse for our hero when Minamoto shows up to help Sakata. Just as the tides turn, however, Haruka jumps in to save the day.

What transpires next is a lot of fighting as Haruka shows just how cool he is. One thing leads to another and things get a bit darker for a few pages as the battle escalates. There are a few surprises in store for readers during this conflict and I appreciated the way things were resolved. It felt very appropriate given the tone of Tactics and what we’ve learned of its characters. Speaking of learning about the characters, there’s a bit of development in the relationship between Haruka and Kantarou that transpires in the rest of the volume. It’s very welcome and truly pushes their bond further than any of the previous installments.

As the eighth volume continues there’s a bit with Muu-chan and Sugino that is as entertaining as you’d think it would be, and Kantarou gets involved in the story as well. Shortly after there’s another chapter about a kappa and a few others as the installment goes on to feature more tengu bedtime stories.

As always, Higashiyama and Kinoshita have put together a fantastic volume of Tactics. The writing is superb, the stories here are engaging and suspenseful, and the artwork is certainly a cut above. Every page is full of detail and those that have enjoyed the seven prior volumes will undoubtedly feel right at home here.

Tokyopop has another fine installment of Tactics on their hands with this eighth volume. The development that happens between Haruka and Kantarou here is about as rich as any we’ve seen so far, and the variety in content is solid as well. The different chapters all have something unique to offer and the conclusion to the conflict with Minamoto at the beginning definitely fits the bill for action. This volume is highly recommended!

Maki Rating:

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