Thursday, February 13, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #44: Wolfsmund, Vol. 3 by Mitsuhisa Kuji

I usually don't like to pick on a book's choice of blurbs, but this one has a monument to the power of targeted marketing that I absolutely must share with you:
Read it! Please read this. This is seinen and you won't get angsty teenagers dealing with stuff or magical girls saving the world. Here be adult stuff.

Amusingly, that cri di cour from the heart of the young male market -- demanding that there be more things he likes, and less of the kind other people, the ones who aren't him, like -- comes from the bucolically named Cherry Blossom Reviews. But that reviewer is absolutely correct -- Wolfsmund is seinen, meaning manga targeted to men in their twenties, rather than the teen-boy and teen-girl books we get more often.

That doesn't automatically make it better than shonen or shojo manga, unless of course you're precisely in the right demographic category. It just means it's in a different genre, with different expectations. "Adult," here, means that the villains are that much more sadistic and cruel, and that named, likable characters are allowed to die messily, to show just how sadistic and cruel those villains are. It doesn't mean that Wolfsmund has detailed concerns about marriage or working life, or that it anatomizes the ennui of the middle-aged failure -- no, this is the kind of "adult" that means blood and gore and death and war. (Though I will admit that this volume does not stoop to the kind of "adult" that means gratuitous female nudity.)

Wolfsmund, Vol. 3 is near the end of Mitsuhisa Kuji's short series; there appear to be only four volumes in total. It's set in fourteenth century Switzerland -- or, rather, in cantons that would become Switzerland later -- and retells the legend of William Tell. More specifically, in this book the hero is Tell's son Walter, grown from the boy who had the apple shot off his head. The evil Hapsburgs of the Holy Roman Empire are controlling three formerly free cantons by strangling their commerce through the single mountain pass of Sankt Gotthard and the nearly impregnable fortress of The Wolf's Maw that sits there.

The Wolf's Maw is held by forces led by Wolfram, who is some kind of minor Hapsburg nobility, and who is precisely as vicious and nasty as a villain in his position is supposed to be. Presumably, in the final volume we will see him finally get his, but he's still mostly in control in this volume, doling out death to a number of the good-guy characters -- mostly as distractions so Walter can get where he needs to.

This is dark and bloody and violent and unflinching in its depiction of torture and death, though it lacks the philosophical flavor and tonal shifts that mark the greatest similar seinen manga, like Lone Wolf and Cub. The art is similarly dark and scratchy, marrying a light touch of medieval woodcut into the standard dark manga look. If you like your manga like the guy from Cherry Blossom Reviews, you won't be disappointed.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

No comments:

Post a Comment