Reviewby Zac Bertschy,
Kiibo finds himself in a battle to the death with Samon, a fighter under the tutelage of Iron Kiba, a sworn enemy of Kiibo's family who is determined to crush his school and reveal its secret techniques to the world. Unfortunately, Samon is about twice Kiibo's size and has him bested in every possible way... how can Kiibo win?
There's a particular genre in manga that seems to consist almost solely of beefy potato-headed guys beating each other up while someone on the sidelines explains what moves they're using to bash the tar out of eachother, and Tough is one of them. Volume 4 doesn't do anything to stray from the previous volumes, except that the lead character, spunky, underpowered and spunky (did I mention he has approximately 35 percent more spunk than your average shonen hero?) Kiibo goes from fighting one guy who's totally overpowered to fighting another guy who's totally overpowered. Yawn.
In this installment, Kiibo is right in the middle of a brawl with a really tall and muscular guy named Samon (pronounced like the fish, I assume) who has him totally beat in terms of size, power, speed and experience. Of course, Kiibo is the hero and has a secret technique that helps him bring Samon to his knees. About 10 pages later Kiibo is in the ring with some guy who looks exactly like Samon, and has the exact same advantages against Kiibo, but he has a different name. Generally, they spend a lot of time talking about the kinds of holds Kiibo uses and shouting out attack names, and it's all very sweat-covered and manly. It's also really cliché.
There's an arching plot in here somewhere about Kiibo's sacred martial arts school being under fire by another sinister organization that wants to crush them and reveal their secret techniques to the world, but it's pretty clear by the pacing and organization of the storyline here that it has very little to do with anything and that the focus is on little spiky-haired Kiibo bringing big beefy dudes to justice with his predictable fists of suitable fury. There's a market out there for tough-guy stuff like this, but when it's as light on story and substance as Tough is, especially after four volumes, is anyone still reading?
The artwork is acceptable for the most part, but retains that heavily cross-hatched look that permeated shonen titles in the 1980's and just isn't all that popular anymore. I suppose it's refreshing to see something that isn't all giant eyes and spiky hair but everyone's pretty darn ugly. There's nice detail work here and there, especially in the backgrounds, and the pacing of the story is mostly competent, but it isn't anything to write home about. Viz's translation is pretty straight-faced.
The book is called Tough and it's about a bunch of tough guys being tough and fightin' tough and tossing enough testosterone around to make Hulk Hogan choke, so I suppose the title's pretty well representative of what you can expect from this. If it's your cup of tea, and you'll know full well if it is or not within about 10 pages, then you might enjoy it even if you'll probably recognize how repetitive and derivative it is; everyone else should just find a shonen fighting manga that actually bothers to have a story and likable characters.
Story : F
Art : C
+ The pages are bound together properly
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