I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first sat down with this strange volume, but I quickly grew to love this strange, little world that I was entering in these panels. Caught somewhere between Dragonball Z and Lupin III, this cockeyed hero’s journey has a solid story, interesting characters, and wonderful charm that become irresistible the further you go.
Let’s start with the quirky story. The basics: There’s a fighting tournament where citizens of any class in a rigidly hierarchical society can compete to win the Tournament Cup, which seems to bring fame and fortune. We’re introduced to Adrian, a small child in a fighting school who seems to have large odds stacked against him in the tournament, in no small part thanks to his inexperience and size. Once we find out a little more about this hard-luck kiddo, we come face to face with the titular Stranger. There’s not much about him really written, but his crass attitude and style seem completely at odds with this structured world and it’s all kinds of fun. Like Jack Burton in Lo Pan’s world fun. There’s never a mention of how far outside he has come, or what his purpose really is, but the mystery only adds to the larger-than-life expectations and humor.
The art style is very much like a manga, and has the characteristic style of Japanese work, with comedy and emotional depth often running into each other in very unexpected ways. There’s a richness to the world without color, and the characters are varied and interesting in a wonderful display of skill. What struck me most is when the focus shifts to beauty, and the images are truly captivating until they fall into a crude joke, and then the fun begins all over again.
The final rise of this volume is surprising, as the hand that led us to believe a main character’s bumbling nature was absolute reveals a shrewd, strategic mind and blows the foolish teacher stereotype right into the face of every expectation we have, and leaving the world in the hands of the least likely person. The twists and tangents in this story are varied and wonderful.
Going through this book was an unexpected treat, and if you’re a fan of anime, manga, or just love a crusty underdog/Han Solo/Yojimbo guy slapping the spit out of some stuffed shirt pompadours, then this title is most certainly for you.
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