Tokyo Revengers | Vol.1-8
Overall Rating - ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
"Watching the news, Takemichi Hanagaki learns that his girlfriend from way back in middle school, Hinata Tachibana, has died. The only girlfriend he ever had was just killed by a villainous group known as the Tokyo Manji Gang. He lives in a crappy apartment with thin walls, and his six-years-younger boss treats him like an idiot. Plus, he’s a complete and total virgin.
At the height of his rock-bottom life, he suddenly time-leaps 12 years back to his middle school days!! To save Hinata, and change the life he spent running away, hopeless part-timer Takemichi must aim for the top of Kanto’s most sinister delinquent gang!"
Tokyo Revengers, or Tokyo卍Revengers, is a shounen manga by Ken Wakui.
Before going into this, I would like to note that the symbol that can be seen in the title, and is used to represent the central gang, is not the Nazi 'Swastika', but the Buddhist symbol 'Manji' which represents good fortune. So, if you were wondering or were worried about the content and representation of this manga, there is no need to worry.
This review is going to cover Vol.1-8 of the series, which covers (almost) the entirety of Season 1 of the anime. The reason I am doing this is because I read this side-by-side while I watched it in order to compare the two materials together to see how the adaptation stands up.
Also note that any and all images in this review are credited to Ken Wakui.
Now, originally, I had no intention of getting into this series but ended up giving it a shot as my sister said that it was good. I had glossed over the synopsis before and saw one or two things about the anime, but it seemed like something I would have a hard time getting through as gangs, revenge stories and angst aren't really for me. And I did have a hard time getting through this in a sense, as I was incredibly tense and on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading and watching this.
But, that is exactly what made this series, thus far, totally and absolutely engrossing. This manga is tense, violent, and dismal, but has its moments of humour and wholesomeness as well. I was barely expecting to like it let alone get sucked right into it and get emotionally attached. Don't let my 4.5 star rating fool you, because in reality this is 100% a 5 star series thus far as I am in love with it (I just have issues giving books that rating).
Trigger Warnings: Violence, Suicide, Mentions of Rape
Getting the writing out of the way as I don't have much to say about it, I thought that the text was perfectly fine and legible. My only minor issue would be that for some characters, a warped text would be used which was a bit hard to read. Something interesting to note though is that the text, and the anime subtitles too, would add hearts which was different. Just note that the manga includes a lot of expletive's which the anime does not have if that is something that bothers you.
The art is a bit different from what I am used to, but still is stunning as usual. I found that there was a lot of emphasis on hair, as the character sport a wide variety of styles. The artist also doesn't shy away from drawing the main character with extremely dumb expressions (as Takemichi is frequently depicted as).
The use of harsh vertical lines I both like and dislike. Like because it helps show movement and adds drama, which is very much so needed to make things appear less stagnant. Dislike because it is a tad bit distracting and can be a bit too much for the eye to follow at times. For action scenes, it does work wonders though, like when it would depict Mikey riding his bike or kicking someone as you can see below.
The format of the panels is a bit different as well. Usually there aren't too many per page, around 3-4, but this has several different panels that range different sizes. On the positive side, you get more per page, but on the negative side, sometimes it's too much to follow.
Comparing the character design of the manga and the anime, the side profiles are a lot softer in the manga while the anime made their features more sharp and pointier (as you can see above). The anime did make the characters look more attractive as well. At times, however, the drawings looked a bit off. The necks were rather long and a bit disproportionate to their bodies, and when a panel would depict a character turning their head around, it would just look odd. Youtuber ResXx (where the image above came from), did a full analysis of the characters if you want to check that out to see more.
Small details sometimes always help elevate the art, so I was happy to see the effort that went into this. For example, at one point during a fight scene Takemichi was ironically wearing a shirt that said 'love and peace.' I also liked the fact that the artist went through the effort of showing that Draken has the exact same shirt in several different patterns.
Weirdly enough, the manga censored the nudity more than the anime. In the anime you get dangerously close to full frontal nudity, but you do see some butts though. While it is rare to see nudity and it wouldn't phase me, it is a bit concerning considering the ages of the characters.
We follow our main character Hanagaki Takemichi who, after being pushed in front of a train, discovers that he can travel back and forth between the past and present and seizes the opportunity to prevent the murder of his middle school girlfriend by getting involved with the gang that caused it.
Starting of on less of a good note, one of the few negative things I could say about this manga would be that the catalyst for the story was a tiny bit nonsensical. It seemed a bit odd that Takemichi was suddenly extremely motivated to save Tachibana when not only did it seem like they weren't together for long (and they were together 12 years ago), but he was also generally someone who wasn't very motivated to do anything at all. Luckily, I was able to glaze over this pretty easily as, once he ends up in the past, the story hits the ground running. You are thrown into the action right away with just enough background information for context.
A main aspect of the manga is time travel, and it may seem a bit out of place seeing as it is the only non-realistic aspect of the plot, but it works really well and it extremely effective for telling a captivating story. The story doesn't get bogged down by the science as it is also kept relatively simple as well, and the dual timeline only adds another layer to the plot. It is also a fantastic way to up the anti as it leaves the reader in suspense, wondering if the future changes and for the better. My only complaint really is that I, at this point, am still left with some questions, such as why doesn't Takemichi's memory repair itself when it travels back to the future?
Now, let's get into the volume by volume specifics. Volume 1, of course, serves to introduce you to the main characters and conflict. Volume 2 gave you a bit more context as to the mechanics of the time leaping, started the first main conflict, or arc, and also gave you a glimpse as to how tragic things can be in this manga. All in all, I don't really have much to say about the story really because I was so entranced with what was happening, but I thought that the plot was complex and chaotic enough to keep you sucked in. Honestly, the less you know about the story the better, just let yourself get immersed.
One of the best things this manga is able to do, is get the right timing and atmosphere. It knows when to calm things down a bit and make it lighthearted, and exactly when to punch you in the gut. One might think that at some point the plot would have to slow and and get boring, but things are constantly shifting and changing, so the story has you gripped and never lets you go. It also does a good job at showing chaos and inevitability, and that not everything will go the way you expect it to.
When it comes to fight scenes, I always prefer the anime, because you just can't quite capture the intensity of it on page, and that is still the case here. What also brought the fights down a bit, when compared to the anime, was that it wasn't broad enough. The manga would hone in on specific characters, while the anime would show the fight in its entirety before showing it from different characters.
As for the ending, I think the anime ended off at a better point. The manga ending was good as well, but it kind of just stopped while the anime continued a bit into the next volume and ended with a fantastic cliffhanger. It made probably every viewer who hasn't read the manga want to immediately pick it up to know what happens next.
Characters are absolutely crucial when it comes to making a good manga, as they are the backbone to the story. They have to be interesting and fleshed out enough to carry the plot. Not only are the characters simply well-written and multi-dimensional, due to the nature of the plot and the unknowingness of where each characters story is going to go in, you get really invested in their story and attached to them. Even characters who are shown only a few times end up peaking your interest (I'm looking at you Haitani brothers). The dynamics and relationships between the characters, for the most part, were also excellent as well.
Takemichi's character isn't something that is uncommon in manga and anime. He is a bit of a wimp and a cry baby, but he finds his feet and motivation along the way. A small issue is that he isn't the brightest bulb in the pack, and I feel like half of the time he just bumbled around and got really lucky, but I thought he would be way more annoying because of what people said about it. And, even though he isn't the most interesting character of the bunch, he serves well as the one the story is told through.
To absolutely no one's surprise, Mikey is without a doubt the best character in the manga. A+ character design both visually and personality wise. He has an interesting duality to him, switching between innocent and childish to dark and cruel, which created a good contrast of character. It really helps depict that, while he is the leader of a fearsome gang, he is still a 15 year old kid. I also really like how, in order to add even more emphasis to his duality, he is only 5 foot 3.
While the author does a good job at creating characters on all levels on the mortality scale, I have to give him bonus points when it comes to the villains. Hanma and Kazetora I don't really consider villains (but like the nonetheless), but Kisaki on the other hand is the perfect villain, because I absolutely hate the guy. Besides Overhaul from My Hero Academia, I have never wanted to punch someone in the face every time he was shown or mentioned more than him. That is exactly why I have to praise the author for their character development, as you clearly did something right when I keep internally cursing him.
In terms of the side characters, I do wish that a bit more time was spent with them in order to create a better impact with the direction their stories went in. I can't really say more than that because spoilers. I also simply wish to see more of the side characters as well. As much as I love Mikey and Draken, there is a large plethora of other interesting characters whom I hope will be explored more in the future.
At this point in time, the inclusion of good female characters is definitely on the weaker side seeing as we only have two female characters - Tachibana and Emma. While it does make sense for the gangs to be male centric, even the only female characters we get barely had a role. Tachibana I do like as she, while on the softer side, knows when to stand up for herself which I can appreciate. Emma on the other hand, seems to only be there for wish fulfillment and fan service at the moment.
Now, let's talk about Takemichi and Tachibana. While the plot evolved to become more than just saving her, that was the initial catalyst, so I wish that we got to see more of them together. We get glimpses every now and then, but you don't get a good enough sense of why they are together, or even how they got together in the first place. The biggest downfall of their relationship is the fact that, well, Takemichi is kind of a horrible boyfriend. He's got a serious case of the wandering eyes and mind, and Tachibana deserves better than him which does suck a bit seeing as he is the main character.
One of the minor things that bothers me about this is the fact that mostly all of the characters are in middle school, i.e are 14/15 years old (except for Chifuyu who is 13). There is also the fact that Toman was formed when they were 12 years old and were already riding bikes as well. Kind of made me go...
It is a bit hard to wrap your head around considering the nature of the plot, but thankfully the story sucks you in so much that you forget and get invested nonetheless. Another issue related to age is the fact that Takemichi is technically a 27 year old man in his 14 year old body, and is dating a 14 year old girl...Kind of an uncomfortable situation but luckily, again, your brain doesn't really take it in as in the moment, he really is just a 14 year old boy.
Regardless of whether or not you think this is the manga for you, I highly insist that you give it a shot because it may surprise you just as it did for me. Do heed the trigger warnings though, and be prepared for an emotional ride.
If you are someone who liked books centering on gangs and turf wars, or if you are somehow who hates it when all the characters turn out okay, then this is most definitely for you.