Reviewby Carl Kimlinger,
Mokichi wants to change himself. He wants to stop being a good-for-nothing grade-A wuss and make a man of himself. Upon entering his new school, he seizes his chance, and in an attempt to make his mark among the school's toughs, ends up getting thrashed by a girl and "exposed" before the entire campus. The girl, Tamako, happens to be part of the school's extremely strong (kinda) all-girl wrestling club. Impressed by her skills (and body) Mokichi decides to join the club. Mokichi's days of lust, breasts, violence, and breasts have just begun.
From a simple description of Battle Club's premise, there are several possible paths the manga could take. It could be an action-packed sports manga with a little romance thrown in. It could be a romance with a little sports action thrown in. It could be a fan-service drenched harem comedy with a wrestling gimmick. With all of these (frankly preferable) options, one is tempted to wonder why Battle Club ended up as an empty-headed martial-arts spectacle of panty-shots, exposed breasts, lesbians, and exploding clothes. That is, until one realizes that author Yuji Shiozaki is responsible for Battle Vixens, known to fans and non-fans alike as an empty-headed martial-arts spectacle of panty-shots, exposed breasts, lesbians, and exploding clothes. It's nice to see him expanding his narrative repertoire.
Other than the visual nod to Fight Club at the beginning of the book, it's difficult to think of even a single redeeming quality in this confused, pointless exercise in mindless titillation. There is something a little refreshing about a male lead who is as unrepentantly vile and pathetic as Mokichi; pulling off a girl's panties is a standard ploy in fan-service manga, but Mokichi is one of a very few main characters to do it intentionally. But other than that, he is merely a collection of convenient voyeuristic tendencies, serving as an excuse to pack each chapter with as many close-ups of crotches and nipples as is humanly possible. The other members of the wrestling club are a collection of doujinshi-ready stereotypes: clumsy, naive Tamako; the flagrantly lesbian vice-captain; the transgendered captain. The dialogue is laughably stilted, and weighed down with a lot of unnecessary slang ("ya feel me?") and profanity. There is no plot to speak of, only a series of numbing, repetitive fights that serve only as opportunities for crotch-cams (the suplex is a popular move for obvious reasons), and as excuses for stripping the female characters of their clothing (including undergarments). Even the laughs fall flat, dependent as they are, on meat-headed sex-and-bodily-functions humor of a deeply juvenile nature. Occasionally (very occasionally) one of the jokes works—Tamako's dad and some repeated animal metaphors are highlights—but they aren't enough to justify digging through the comedy graveyard that dominates the majority of this volume.
If the manga has any saving grace at all, it's the artwork. It's quite professional, if somewhat undistinguished. Settings are well rendered, and the characters are smooth, fairly simple and (relatively) distinctive (with the exception of some female characters). The fights are clearly staged, and only occasionally lay the speedlines on thick enough to obscure the art to the point of confusion. Of course, the real stars of the manga are the bodies of its female characters, and they are undeniably attractive, in a hyper-sexualized, over-inflated way that is entirely at odds with their proclaimed ages. The loving care put into every nipple, curve, and face-full of crotch really shows, resulting in detailed fan-service that is quite pleasing to the eye. Panel layouts are energetic without being confusing, although they rarely slow down to breathe, unless it's for a sniff of pheromones. The artwork overall lacks the personality and individuality that characterizes really good work however. It's good, but a far cry from being great.
Presentation is standard Tokyopop: sparse (in this case nonexistent) extras, untranslated Japanese sound effects, and standard binding, paper, and print quality. Additionally, the artwork is presented in all its uncensored 18+ glory. If only they had done something about all of that annoying slang. In all fairness though, nothing they did could have saved this manga.
Over the course of the manga, Shiozaki has his characters comment on the quality of the story they are in. Tamako calls it "contrived", and both she and Mokichi agree that without the fan-service, the story is dead. It's meant to be funny, but pointing out the flaws in a story of one's own accord doesn't make them go away. Indeed, all it does is show that, though he has the intelligence to spot his sloppiness, Shiozaki has neither the skill, the drive, nor the respect for his audience to fix it. Far from being funny, it's insulting. Which is the perfect word to describe the entire enterprise.
Overall : D-
Story : F+
Art : B
+ Some humor; lovingly detailed breasts, butts, and panties.
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