Friday, March 25, 2011

Black Gate vol. 1-3 Impression

A story about those who help regulate death

The collected volumes, 1-3, of Black Gate from Tokyopop offers up a nice story at a very nice price less than the sum of its parts. This standalone series from Yukiko Sumiyoshi follows the exploits of a not-too-talented wanna-be Mitedamashi named Hijiri. The job of Mitedamashi, including Hijiri’s guardian Senju, is to close Black Gates that appear around the world. What is a Black Gate, how glad you asked …

The white light, when death is close, these are white gates, portals the departed see and follow upon their passing. While these gates serve a purpose their opposite does also. Black Gates appear randomly and bring death and destruction based on their size. The size of the gate determines the number of Mitedamashi needed to close the gate and save lives. Senju is one such agent and his annoying, short and cocky subordinate wishes to be one also. Hijiri just lacks talent until an encounter with a strong black gate forces hidden powers to be unlocked. This power begins a chain of events which sees changes in Hijiri and Senju’s relationship, in Hijiri working to become a full fledged Mitedamashi as well as a new partner, two protective guardians and some incredible, world changing revelations about Hijiri’s past and what he really is.

For three volumes this is not much of a description so I’ll start to explain a bit. The first volume introduces Hijiri and Senju but they are far from the only players in this tale. The reason I do not reveal the others is the simple fact it can and will ruin volume 2 and 3. The central figure is the ever young (for a very cool reason) Hijiri and his past is what drives the story. Past events and current collide into one … well I’m stopping again. Hijiri is a likeable enough character in the Naruto mold of never give up, full of energy but lacking in true talent. His journey is both sad yet happy and the pace is well carried out. The medium of death and black gates is not too out there nor is Hijiri’s background, it’s just a good manga. Motivations are all wrapped up quite well, it leaves a yummy taste in the reader mouth. Quite a feat in just three volumes to introduce characters the reader will care about and miss once the final page is read. What about the look …

The art style is solid and the cover art is poster worthy showing off the playfulness of Hijiri and seriousness of Senju. The style won’t spark any copy cats as its solid and very shonen manga in its feel. The action and detail in background art gets the job done, not groundbreaking but again solid. Overall from a visual standpoint what the reader sees on the cover is what continues in the book and it is more top shelf quality, very solid, very polished with a very familiar feel. Solid is the name of the game.

Overall, again, for the price and story flow this is a great purchase. Getting readers hooked into a story with good, solid art in just three volumes is really flipping spectacular the more I think about it. Really very solid, well done Yukiko.

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