Reviewby Carlo Santos,
Whenever Takeru asked her mother why she was born with a boy's name, her mother always told her: "Because girls grow up to become demons." But little did Takeru know just how true that was—for deep within the temple where she lives lies a terrible secret, a demonic weapon called the Witchblade that consumes its bearer with bloodlust. Now in high school, Takeru's life is torn apart when demons come after her, her family, and her friends. Only by taking on the powers of the Witchblade can she hope to kill the demons, but will the weapon's violent nature turn Takeru into a monster herself? With only her friend Kou to protect her, Takeru must stop the demon invasion, while also uncovering a shocking conspiracy as to why the demons were awakened in the first place.
If a manga omnibus costs the same as buying the volumes individually, is it still worth buying? That may be the only deep philosophical question to come out of Witchblade: Takeru, which is heavy on the boobs and bloodshed but offers little in the way of story. Oh, sure, there are events that lead to other events that eventually culminate in one big final event, but swap it with any other action-adventure-supernatural plotline and nobody would notice the difference. The only unique trait of this short series, it seems, is its basis on an American comic franchise—as opposed to other Japanese manga where the authors have to come up with their uninspired dreck all by themselves. As we learn from these 400-odd pages, gratuitous sex and violence is indeed a universal language.
If there is anything this title deserves praise for, it's for at least getting the basis of the Witchblade mythos correct. Yes, there is a fearsome supernatural weapon that has granted its power to certain women throughout the course of history. And that's about the point where this series veers off from the original, spewing clichés left and right and hoping that the combination of grotesquerie and softcore erotica will distract readers from its storywise deficiencies. Surely no one will be surprised to learn that the newest bearer of the Witchblade is a stereotypical Japanese schoolgirl, and that her first mission is to fend off the demons threatening her family, and that her very devoted platonic male friend Kou suddenly finds himself in a crisis of conscience because he may have to kill her to save her. Please, feel free to point out if there's anything here that isn't copied from dozens of other action-adventure demon-hunting stories. No? Didn't think so.
Maybe there is a reason for compiling this two-part series into a single volume, though, because those who would have given up after Volume 1 may be surprised to find that Volume 2 brings in a new layer of story. The second half reveals that Takeru's kinship with the Witchblade is all part of a terrible family secret, which connects to a shocking international conspiracy, and thanks to this improbable turn of events she gets to blow up an aircraft carrier or two in the finale. In other words, it's not so much a new layer of story as it is a new layer of clichés, and ultimately, the real impetus for finishing the series is not because the story gets better, but because you're already halfway there and you might as well see it to the bitter end. After all, what's another 20 to 30 minutes of preposterous demon battles and even more preposterous plot twists?
Still, nothing can be as preposterous as the artwork in this series, which showcases the very worst excesses of "mature" comics—mature in the sense of "make sure your parents don't see this." Takeru's full Witchblade armor is a pseudo-pornographic, gravity-defying joke, the monsters she fights against are about as memorable as doing one's daily chores, and even during the series' more mundane moments, it seems that the female characters can't help but expose their underwear in ridiculously contrived positions. If there's anything the action scenes are notable for, it's the high level of bloodshed and gruesomeness, but cheap shock tactics can't cover up the obvious shortcomings in pacing and layout: the fights are always a mess, it's impossible to tell who's piercing whom in the gut, and some of the most climactic scenes fizzle out due to poor planning. It's a shame to see Kou's shining heroic moment reduced to one very confusing panel because they suddenly have to wrap up the series within the next five pages.
This lack of visual sophistication is matched only by the dialogue, which relies on pretentious supernatural-fantasy babble to explain what's going on, and then reduces to formulaic good-versus-evil one-liners during the fight scenes. Even worse are some of the speaking mannerisms assigned to certain characters, like the American military leader who shows up in the second half. (Here's a tip: if you have to come up with a weird speech pattern to define a character, the character isn't well-defined enough.) And yet, with such generic and predictable dialogue, the translation team still manages to let a couple of typos sneak past. At least they're thorough enough to explain Japanese honorifics in the footnotes, as well as translating the various signs and sound effects on each page, but clearly language is not a major concern when the violence speaks for itself.
The real question about Witchblade: Takeru is not whether it's worth getting a two-volume omnibus that costs the same as both volumes individually, but whether it's worth getting at all. Let's say you buy Volume 1 and decide that the series is terrible—in that situation, you've only lost ten dollars. On the other hand, this omnibus is twenty dollars spent on gratuitous fanservice and violence, juvenile shock imagery, and a plot cobbled together from the deformed limbs of other action-supernatural potboilers. For that kind of money, one might as well buy the real American Witchblade, or even the Witchblade anime, which at least offers polished, well-produced fanservice and violence. In the end, there's only one reason to pick up this omnibus: because the store had Volume 1 in stock but not Volume 2, or vice versa. And that still makes more sense than most of what happens in this book.
Overall : D
Story : D
Art : C-
+ It's only two volumes long, thankfully. And the second half is a little better than the first.
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