I don’t pay attention to new manga releases. I prefer to start manga after they have accumulated dozens of chapters, if not hundreds.
A decade ago, I was the opposite. I loved opening the first page of a brand-new manga and watching in real time as it evolved from an obscure title to an entertainment juggernaut. I read My Hero Academia the week it debuted.
And yes, I was among the naysayers that nearly dismissed it as a Naruto replica. To be fair, the author is a diehard Naruto fan, so you can’t fault him for taking inspiration from Kishimoto.
Anyway, Shonen Jump killed my enthusiasm for new Manga because they have a habit of canceling series that linger at the bottom of the popularity rankings. If you read new manga regularly, you can’t help but pay attention to the rankings.
If you have decent taste, your favourite comics are guaranteed to debut in the top five. But over the weeks, you will watch them decline in the rankings until they finally settle in the bottom five. At that point, each new chapter brings a wave of anxiety.
You like everything you have seen. And yet, no one else seems to share your enthusiasm because each chapter performs worse than its predecessor. You keep holding out hope that audiences will see the light, discover the series, and push it up the rankings. But inevitably, the announcement comes. Shonen Jump cancels the manga, and it feels like you wasted several weeks of your life reading a story that stopped mid-arc.
The last time this happened, I was obsessed with Hungry Joker, a manga that, in my opinion, was destined for greatness. They killed it at 24 chapters. That was it for me. I could not bring myself to go through another anxiety-ridden rollercoaster.
These days, I prefer to wait for manga to receive anime adaptations before taking an interest. That brings us to Kagurabachi. The manga caught my eye because it kept popping up in anime-related conversations online. People kept touting it as the next big thing, which I usually ignore; anime/manga nerds have a tendency to exaggerate.
I would have dismissed Kagurabachi if I had not realized one crucial fact. Kagurabachi was not some months-long manga steadily dominating the charts while waiting for an anime adaptation to introduce Takeru Hokazono’s story to the world. Kagurabachi had not even debuted, yet, the manga community was already elevating the title above the likes of Demon Slayer.
That put the manga on my radar, and I have been waiting for the first chapter with bated breath. That first chapter is here, and honestly, it was not bad. From what I have seen so far, the setting is Feudal Japan, which I like.
The genre is fantasy, which is even better. You have a sword-wielding badass using enchanted katanas to wage war against a band of Yakuza backed by a mysterious sect of sorcerors.
Chihiro, the protagonist, is likable. The son of a famous swordsmith, the character is out to avenge his father’s death. The scar on his face has encouraged comparisons with Tanjiro from Demon Slayer, but that is a stretch.
Takeru does a decent job of expressing each character’s personality through the art. The action has the sort of fluidity I appreciate, not to mention those awesomely dynamic camera angles you only ever see in anime. To be clear, Kagurabachi is not the best manga of the year, at least not yet. But for a first chapter, I’m impressed.