In reading a number of Seinin titles these past few months, i have found myself somewhat surprised by the stark difference between seinen and shonen stories; i will not say that Seinin is a necessarily superior genre to shonen as many Otaku have been known to conclude.
Rather i am finding that Seinin titles offer a level of excitement in their plots that are mostly absent in Shonen titles, probably because of how dark some-most- of the series can get.
is as good as Seinin action fantasy manga can get, a series only rivalled by VINLAND SAGA in telling a considerably violent yet deeply moving, well paced, well constructed story regarding the ravages of war and vengeance.
When Wischtech threatened to invade the fiefs of Szaalanden, the Emperor dispatched fourteen youths. Of these, three perished during the journey and four turned against the empire and joined Wischtech in its campaign of conquest and destruction.
Seven Heroes halted the invasion to herald a time of prosperity, while the four Lances of Betrayal were supposedly defeated.
Two decades later, the Lances of Betrayal have reappeared and formed a bandit militia near the frontier fief Gormbark. With Wischtech emerging from its slumber and war threatening to engulf the empire, the seven heroes are called upon to return, unite and destroy their ancient enemy once more.
A man with black swords and a scar over his left eye slays an entire troop of the enemy militia and becomes as much an object of fear as of hope, his own past, motivations, and purpose remaining a mystery .
is a German term and stands for 'EVIL BLADE'a curious pair of words, most likely referring to the several hidden black blades within the right hand of the hero of this tale, but probably synonymous with the dark nature of the tale, which tries to pin down the true nature of those that supposedly fight for justice in this manga, and how accurate it is to impute to them the term 'hero' in the face of the consequences of their actions.
Really Ubel Blatt, set in some parallel medieval German styled world, infused with elements of magic and fantasy achieves its success through the two perspectives from which it approaches its story.
On the one hand is the philosophical questions it sets about asking; the story of Ubel Blatt takes place in a tranquil empire, one that has known peace for decades; sure greed stands at the base of the structures of power, but the people know safety.
Corruption dogs every hierarchical system, but all are fed and all enjoy the considerably benefits of the world the emperor so casually controls. Yet even if the success of every civilized nation is measured by the peace, tranquillity and satisfaction enjoyed by its citizens, how justifiable is that peace if the core of its structure was built on lies, if the cost of a good meal and amicable environment was the blood of those that so heroically gave their lives for the scorn of the world.
Yet if one agrees, as most people would, that the continued peace of a populace supersedes any other concerns, how justifiable is it to pursue truth and justice, if the results of that truth would lead to untold destruction for many innocent lives.
That is where Ubel Blatt begins its journey in chronicling this amazing story, the hero of the story perpetrating what even he recognizes will lead to considerably harm to the general populace, yet continues to push forward anyway, choosing to prioritize revenge over the needs of those innocents around him.
While the manga makes considerable effort in trying to create a somewhat complex situation, contrasting the dark deeds of evil men with all the good they have accomplished decades later, it has a way of pushing these questions to the back, the hero, Koinzel largely disinterested in the idea of negative consequences resulting from his seemingly righteous quest.
Yet Ubel Blatt manages to create sympathy in this character, not portraying to the readers some bull headed fool that cannot see past his own rage. Indeed Koinzel understands what is at stake if he accomplishes his goal, and indeed he chooses to ignore these misgivings. But Ubel Blatt makes it easy to understand his perspective of things, making the situation that much more complex, in trying to determine which party in this conflict stand at the side of justice.
-Imagine the story of a boy, a master swordsman, placed at the head of a 14 man party, to lead this brave group of well trained men into battle against a dark enemy of the empire that wishes to destroy all life with unnatural technology.
Imagine a boy that must watch seven of his comrades fall to fear and despair halfway through the journey; this boy then choosing to respect the fallibility of his comrades, instead choosing to advance with six unwavering comrades, contending with a destructive enemy as the last line of defence for the empire, and defeating this enemy but losing three friends in the process.
Imagine this boy returns to his seven cowardly friends, only to find that, upon being pressed by guilt and the shame they would face once the truth was revealed, they had plotted evil, massacring this young boy and his three friends.
Then imagine that this boy is revived 20 years later, within the body of a moon elf, to learn that not only had his three fallen comrades-along with himself- been branded traitors, but that those seven that had betrayed him where now heroes, lords, ruling the lands of the empire, basically worshiped by billions.
It is only justifiable that this boy would rage, would swear to tear these seven idols off their thrones and murder them. So what if, in assaulting these heroes, he would be bringing chaos and catastrophe? So what if these seven had done great good in the past 20 years, bringing a peace that would fall with their demise?
What would it matter to this boy to protect a peace held together by the blood of his friends, for a people so ready to degrade the heroic names of his comrades?
-Ubel Blatt is a deep story, despite its action packed nature. Its dark, bloody and vengeful as it chronicles one man's struggles to make sense of the new world he has been reborn into, at a time when an ancient technologically advanced enemy he once gave his all to defeat has re-emerged.
The manga is surprisingly character oriented; i say surprisingly because the one criticism i would aim its way is the scarce use it makes of its secondary characters, those strays that attach themselves to Ascherit, look beyond this title of 'king killer' the most hated man in the world, and appreciate the hero within.
As interesting as some of the back stories get, the story does little to infuse new characters into the intricacies of the primary plot. Sure they are assigned objectives and purposes to accomplish in the story, yet always feel somewhat distant, that precluding Ato.
I have to say that she is the one character that has surprised me most; initially quite irritating, doing little more than ranting on about her hate for Ascherit, then becoming a love sick puppy that followed him everywhere, i applaud the master/apprentice relationship that they created between these two, Ascherit finally drawing out the blade master in him, lost decades ago, and taking upon himself a student. And of course Ato's character changes positively as she becomes this intriguing monster of a swordswoman, simply grateful to be accepted by Ascherit.
But i digress, yes Ubel Blatt doesn't fully utilize its secondary characters; yet that doesn't take away from the masterful way it matures its primary characters, specifically Koinzel and his seven sworn enemies.
-Taking a cursory look at Koinzel it is highly likely that all you are going to see is this dark avenger, determined to achieve his vengeance no matter the cost. And the series seems to suggest just as much initially. Yet as the story progresses, it is surprising the amount of growth Koinzel undergoes, especially in his personality, this being a character that appeared in the manga already moulded to execute his task.
The story does a brilliant job of showing his softer side; yes he is vengeful and yes he cuts his opponents up into little bloody pieces with little remorse. His hate for his seven sworn enemies is ostensible, yet so is his adoration.
He might have tasted betrayal of the worst kind at their hands, but as the story progresses, we are treated to a number of flash backs that detail Koinzel's life as a gifted kid and the friendship he shared with all his comrades.
Indeed one of the most touching scenes in the manga is when Koinzel has his blade pointed at the head of an enemy he has been chasing down for the past few chapters (I won't say who, spoilers) and yet he hesitates. This is a man that has, over ten or so chapters, descended into madness, committing atrocities on a massive scale, that man that so gleefully brought his blade down against Koinzel.
And yet as the man mumbles to himself, lost in insanity, not pleading but speaking cheerfully, chatting to Koinzel of the old days, mind having broken finally and stranded him in the past, all Koinzel can think of is that one conversation they shared on the hill, when the man shared his inner demons, his fears, the promise that he had Koinzel make to protect him in battle because he wasn't all that powerful; basically Koinzel breaks down.
And over the course of several chapters it becomes abundantly clear that not killing his betrayers, walking away, would actually be the easier choice for Koinzel, the one he would have taken if not for the burden of the souls of his dead friends.
Really, it added a sense of tragedy to the series, that continues through out the manga, exploring the mental struggles our hero has to contend with. Which is why this manga fascinates me so, that the chaos the innocent civilians of the empire would face if he executes his vengeance doesn't faze Koinzel, where it would other heroes and anti heroes. Yet the memories of his former friends is enough to pause his blade.
-Not that the series is all about brooding and questioning; Ubel Blatt is action packed, immensely, the action scenes accentuated Atoroji Shiono's amazing art.
Sure the character designs are considerably generic, yet the background scenes are quite detailed, the action scenes fluid, violent, eye catching and strangely intriguing.
-Though no where else does the manga shine as it does during its war, which the series has a considerable number of. It isn't just the scale well actually it is the scale, because the manga has a way of actually bringing the ''massiveness' of everything to the page.
I hate reading manga that chronicles epic wars and battles but has to tell you so, in other words it doesn't translate the story efficiently to its panels. Ubel Blatt is brilliant in presenting the chaos of battle and war, of magic, of raging armies on horse backs and dragons, of super powered yet somewhat antiquated ships taking to the air; and the way the scenes allow the war to move, allowing readers to take in the entire picture of what is happening rather than simply honing in on the main characters; the current of battle and destruction just comes to life in its pages Ubel Blatt is simply brilliant.
Yet that doesn't make the series any less brilliant in the area of duels, that bout between Koinzel (i hate that name) and Ikfes proving to be one of the best i have seen in manga.
-You will literally find yourself at the edge of your seat as you read this manga, because Ubel Blatt is fast paced and fast moving, dragging you along epic chases and hard hitting sword duels, allowing you to feel each sword stroke and death cry. It is a manga worth the respect its receiving from the French, being one of the best selling manga is France.
-I should point out that this is a Seinin, which means it is quite graphic, be it with the violence, the gore, nudity and sex scenes.
-The series can get quite dark and has unsurprisingly few light moments; it can be quite tragic and quite moving, specifically with the drama between the many characters, though the focus lies primarily with Koinzel, the mystery of his rebirth, black swords and moon elf body.
RATING: 10/10, is one of the very best manga i have read this year; and it kind of sucks that it's that good, because it is monthly, which i dislike, having released barely 5 or 6 chapters this year for whatever reason.
The idea of waiting for this story to progress irks me. But i will wait. If you like Seinin, specifically medieval styled stories, then this is the manga for you. , which has a lot of German themes with regards to name and designs, exists within the mould of series like Berserk and Vinland Saga.
HIGHLIGHTS: Ascheritt Vs. Ikfres, The war of the heroes arc, Balestar, Glenn