I’m a huge fan of martial arts manga. If said martial arts manga happen to have swords in them, all the better. Though I would personally prefer a manga about Western swords, since all the manga-ka that draw manga about swords are as fanboyish about katana as I am about bastard swords, the chances of that happening are slim. So I swallow my pride, and enjoy the swords for what they are.
Kurogane is by manga-ka Haruto Ikezawa, and has been running in Weekly Shounen Jump since September 2011. In it a high school student, Kurogane, joins the kendo club after he has a run in with the ghost of a former swordswoman. The spirit, insert name, takes him under her wing, and start teaching him everything about her style.
While Kurogane isn’t physically strong, he does have phenomenal eyes, to the point that he has to wear prescription glasses to dampen his eyes so he can just live normally. While it may start strangely like Bleach, Kurogane never ventures any further into the supernatural. It’s less a martial arts manga, and more of a sports manga really. Except that in this case rather than being baseball, or basketball, or soccer, the sport happens to be kendo.
A fair bit of time is spent educating the reader about the basic rules in a kendo match, which is well appreciated because despite my love of swords I know nothing about the rules of kendo, beyond, “hit person with stick.” The characters aren’t all that memorable, they aren’t terrible, but they don’t particularly stand out. It’s far too easy to identify them by their role in the story, rather than as a person. Kurogane on the other hand is a good protagonist. He’s determined, despite his weakness, and he has a special talent, thereby qualifying as the main character, that is well woven in with his personality. A good deal of his character arc is focused around the idea that while he could track anything with his eyes, his body was too weak to keep up no matter what sport he tried.
The manga does dip into the realms of the overpowered martial arts, and if I weren’t so used to the concept I might be bothered by this. It isn’t all that realistic, to me at least, that a modern person would achieve ridiculous levels of power in a martial art, when they don’t get nearly as much practice as someone who would have used it every day to protect their lives. And if martial artists of the past were that ridiculously strong, stronger because they would have to be, then how did we ever develop guns? Why bother investing funds in creating explosives when a fist or sword is just as good, nay, better? But this is a complaint I have about every single martial arts manga in existence. And I still love them, so take that for what you will.
Kurogane is still an example of a manga that is a lot of fun. It does rely on fanservice a bit too much early on, though given how most of the manga doesn’t focus on T&A the few moments come out of nowhere. Though given how little fanservice there is later on, I’m going to blame the first few instances on the high pressure publishing model manga magazines use. After all, it’s a lot easier to get attention by showing a bit of underwear, rather than relying on readers to invest enough time for the eventual payoff.
Whiler Kurogane does rank lower in my list of favorite Jump series, it’s still a decent series, and would be fun to see in WSJA. Like Nisekoi it doesn’t have that many chapters, and there’s no guarantee that it will be aroud much longer, so chances are Viz wouldn’t want to invest in it just yet. But give it some more time and who knows. Heck, Bleach will be ending pretty “soon” so maybe there’ll be another hole in WSJA that needs filling soon.