Manga you will definitely want to catch up on!
- Has everything - violence, mythology, aspects of fantasy...
- Willingness to explore the deep corners of the human mind
- Willingness to utilize the disturbed as a means of storytelling
- Juni Taisen novel allows you to complete a story without the need to commit to future volumes
- Media is similar to one you may normally consume (i.e., traditional books)
- Easily digested content!
- Content is visualized uninterrupted
- Included chapter introductions of each warrior's stats & a short background paragraph are a nice addition!
- Juni Taisen volume 1 includes a beautiful, fold-out color poster of all twelve warriors, etc.
- Light novel and manga series compliment each other
Juni Taisen: Zodiac Wars (“12 Wars”)
Continuing with my review of some of the newest manga titles, one of the most interesting titles to make the jump to manga is “Juni Taisen: Zodiac War.” If the name rings a bell, it’s because this was actually an anime released in Fall 2017 and was originally published as a light novel in 2015. The manga was originally distributed by Viz Media in North America via their Weekly Shounen Jump digital anthology; however, Viz is distributing the “Juni Taisen” manga volumes (Volume 2 is available in print, online through Amazon, through Viz Media website and through the Viz Media app for Apple and Android).
Let me tell you, dear reader, that “Juni Taisen” was one of THE anime to watch for 2017; it had everything – violence, mythology, aspects of fantasy, and it did a wonderful job of diverting expectations along the entire length of the series. One of the things that sets Japanese media apart from other countries in my perspective is their willingness to really explore the deep corners of the human mind and to utilize the disturbed as a means of storytelling. While there will be those who denounce the use of gore and violence in media as glorifying those aspects, I find that it takes a discerning reader to understand that these are meant to be used as a tool for the author to tell a compelling and interesting story. Many of us in the field of writing know that once a story takes hold, it is almost a form of possession. The need to tell a story is a writer’s gift and carries us through writer’s block, exhaustion, and feelings of failure. It is in this series that I find the violence and the stark treatment of a competition based on killing to be a means to really drive the ending home.
To provide some background information, the series focuses on the “Juni Taisen” (or “12 Wars”), a battle royal that occurs every twelve years between twelve families, each representing an animal within the Chinese Zodiac (fans of Fruits Basket – exercise caution!). The twelve families send their chosen warrior as the warrior of their animal into the battle, where each warrior must fight until one is left standing alive. Each warrior displays a unique gift, often times related to their animal, that they utilize in combat. However, the stakes are even higher when the Warrior of the Rabbit emerges with a psychotic taste for murder.
As part of my review, I looked to examine the light novel versus the first volume of the manga, both released by Viz. I typically try to avoid comparisons such as these because – as many may or may not know – light novels and manga volumes are so different it’s often pointless to compare. A light novel is published identically to a traditional English novel and is comprised entirely of text while manga reads from right to left, maintaining the format of the traditional Japanese. The manga is also, of course, a collection of individual comic chapters and is art and dialogue-centric. Even the design of the individual copies are stylistically different – this copy of the light novel is a hardback copy with a beautifully-designed dust jacket featuring eye-catching artwork of all twelve warriors. The manga is more traditional with artwork featuring more detailed, up-close artwork of a few characters per volume, and a paperback body.
After reading each copy, I can say that the light novel was actually a very nice break in my laundry list of manga to catch up on. It may seem silly, but one of the “problems” (I use that phrase VERY loosely) that comes with being an anime/manga fan is that new titles are often released in monthly or seasonal batches, meaning that while you may have your eye on one title, others may spring up that become very hyped very quickly. You then feel like you need to watch four or five different series at a time in order to stay up-to-date with the rest of the community – this, in fact, happened to me over last summer, and added to my extensive list. My manga list is just as bad, if not worse, because it can take several years to finish a series. Take Nisekoi: False Love by Naoshi Komi – I started that title in the fall of 2011 (my first semester in college) and it concluded in the summer of 2016. As I began that series, a million other titles began or concluded in the five years I was committed to Nisekoi; by the time it concluded, I had about six or seven different titles under my belt in addition to incomplete series or anime I had watched or was watching. My point in illustrating this is that, in this case, the “Juni Taisen” novel allowed me to:
- Complete a story without the need to commit to future volumes
- A media that is more similar to one I normally consume (traditional books)
- Allowed for easier “digestion” – What I mean by this is that I didn’t have to process up to five or six panels per page to understand the scene. It was all laid out for me in the writing and allowed me to visualize it uninterrupted
I also really enjoyed the included chapter introductions where each warrior’s stats (name, age, blood type, animal, etc.) and a short background paragraph were included. I’ve always enjoyed this type of information being included and the light novel included in a way that was more palatable. They weren’t all collected back-to-back, nor were they all at the front or back of the book; it is very accurately mirrored by the anime in how the story focus per episode shifts and allows you to mentally reset between chapters so you can shift your perspective to another character’s POV. However, the manga does have its own strong points! Among the many I listed in part I of this series, “Juni Taisen” volume 1 also includes a fold-out color poster of all twelve warriors and has beautiful visuals for characters, including introductory graphics of the 12 fighters and sketches of Inonoshishi (The Fighter of the Boar), Dotsuku (The Fighter of the Dog), Niwatori (The Fighter of the Chicken), and Sharyu (The Fighter of the Monkey) at the back. Personally, I feel that any fan could include both the light novel AND the manga series without feeling overloaded, plus they compliment each other, as the art enhances the story told in the light novel while the light novel provides clearer information that may have been missed by someone reading the manga.
“Juni Taisen: Zodiac War” (Light Novel) by Nisioisin and art by Hikaru Nakamura is available in print through Viz Media and Amazon and digitally through the Viz Media app and Kindle.
“Juni Taisen: Zodiac War” Volume 1 (Manga) by Akira Akatsuki is available in print through Viz Media and Amazon and digitally through the Viz Media app and Comixology.
“Juni Taisen: Zodiac War” Volume 2 is Available!