Synonyms: Santuario, Sankuchuari
Published: 1990 to 1995
Serialization: Big Comic Superior
Score: 8.691 (scored by 2395 users)
1 indicates a weighted score
2 based on the top manga page.
Popular Tagsaction drama psychological seinen
Jun 6, 2008
Hojo and Asami seek to change Japan, to rock it to its very core. They share a dark past, and both have vowed to stick to the path they chose together, to keep rising up the ranks of society in order to make the changes needed to create a new Japan. One lives the life of a yakuza; the other the life of politics. What this manga follows is the path of these two extraordinary men as they machinate and manoeuvre their way up to the top of their respective fields, and it’s magnificent.
The story reads like a Takashi Miike or Takeshi Kitano film put on page. It’s a political thriller, a yakuza crime flick; it’s ambitious in every way. Its a rare breed, a mature manga. Mature for its depiction of adults making realistic choices amid difficult situations. Mature is relatable characteristics and personalities in a familiar-looking world. Mature doesn’t mean swords slicing limbs, it doesn’t mean aliens raping humans; it doesn’t mean super powers destroying puppies. Mature is dealing with topics and themes in a realistic manner, it means restraint, subtlety. Yes there is violence and nudity in this manga, but they are the result of adults with real motives, real conflicts; real human reactions to actions. Every single character in this story has a real consistent personality and reason for why they do the things they do.
The story twists and turns unpredictably as the two characters navigate their way through their respective worlds, continually coming across roadblocks and blindsides, whether it’s in the form of political scheming or yakuza thugs with attitude. Hojo and Asami continually have to figure out inspired solutions to ever-increasingly difficult problems, and their separate journeys are regularly mirrored with each other, and sometimes interweaved dramatically. Fumimura's saga is so full of depth its mind boggling. With dozens and dozens of storylines and hundreds of characters all plotting against each other, Sanctuary is addictive and compelling stuff that stays in your mind long after you've finished the last satisfying chapter.
The political issues at stake and focused on in this manga can also be of great interest to non-Japanese readers. Americans, for example, know all too well that unless you're a democrat or republican you have no chance at gaining power of the White House. More recently in the 21st century we've seen crusty old Japanese Prime Ministers resign one after another. The two main characters of Sanctuary seek to usurp the current system of Japan; that of politics being controlled by old men who oversee a system that will never allow anyone under 40 to gain any real power, and to even clean up the yakuza gangs constantly at war with each other, and their ambition is as great as everything else within these 105 chapters.
The quality of writing is at the level of novelist James Clavell in terms of handling a great number of characters and conflicts. The quality of the art is like a defiant middle finger at the state of mainstream manga plagued by cutesy crap and unending Super Deformed faces ruining every chapter. Women in this manga are actually drawn like women. Every set-up has a pay-off. Every chapter ends with you wanting more.
Sanctuary is a sanctuary from mainstream manga. If you want to be entertained from a work that never speaks down to you and demands you keep up with its pace while dealing with topics and themes that are relevant; then find this manga, read it, and spread the word. Turns out there’s a sanctuary out there for all of us. read more
May 26, 2013
So begins the tale of glorification of organised crime and laughably immature approach to politics. The yakuza is where men with honour fight for their turf. They don’t get involved with drugs or protection money. We just catch out people who are being unfaithful to their wives. And then we fuck their wives. Because we are so irresistible what with all this power and fancy suits we have. Meanwhile getting elected to a political office is easy. All you need to do is yell really loudly about how Japan needs CHANGE and the people inside are WRONG and we’re young and handsome and never mind that we literally have no policies whatsoever, we’re DIFFERENT and that will get us elected…actually maybe that’s not so far from the truth.
All right fine, I’ll drop the spitting sarcasm for a second. Sanctuary is sort of a cross between Legend of the Galactic Heroes, James Bond and The Godfather. The main appeal of the manga comes from the mind games and twists as Asami and Hojo try to claw their way to the top of their respective fields. The political battle is mostly about getting the right people on your side, uncovering scandals and proving your mettle when it really counts. The yakuza story is largely the same except with more killing. Getting people on your side, forming alliances and making speeches and shows of force to get the right people to follow you. Sanctuary is at its most fun when it embraces its more over-the-top characters and dramatic facial expressions. My favourite is the mind games between Asami and the big boss politician dude Isaoka, because there’s so much hand-wringing over every action and each twist is greeted by someone bursting into a room yelling “OMG OMG OMG DID U C WUT ASAMI/ISAOKA DID!?!?”.
The artstyle goes for a very photo-realistic approach with an incredible attention to detail on shading. Don’t let this trick you into thinking this makes the artwork great though. Because the manga is all politics, each chapter is usually just pages and pages of talking heads, with the occasional shot of someone opening a door or wielding a gun dramatically, or maybe some hot lady sucking one of the yakuza’s dicks because that happens an awful lot. After a while you start to notice that the facial expressions the characters pull don’t change a whole lot. Hojo in particular has this one pose of his head facing slightly downwards with a upturned corner of his mouth and a ‘come hither’ look on his face that I swear must be his exact same pose with exact same smile and exact same ‘come hither’ look in roughly 20% of his scenes. The art style does actually suit the story, with its masculine features enhanced and bedroom eyes, but it doesn’t have a whole lot of variety.
And then there’s the treatment of women. Whenever you see a woman, it’s because they’re prostitutes, or a sexy lady one of the main characters have picked up, or models the politicians are having sex with, or ladies the yakuza are raping. There are a grand total of 2 named female characters. One is the police officer who is supposed to be tracking Hojo but unfortunately Hojo is just so totemo sexushii desu~ that she abandons her job for him. The other is a female politician from America who’s over to tell Japan to drop their high import tax on American cars. Asami and his politician buddies are discussing how to deal with her, and one of them suggests giving her a good dicking and that solve everything because that’s how you deal with all women. And then THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT ASAMI DOES! He woos the American politician, has sex with her, and then she drops her demands and leaves the country because the sex was just that good.
The treatment of women is so baffling that it starts to create plot holes. If the police are really trying to get these yakuza on some charge, why don’t any of the women they rape press charges? Asami is trying to get the younger population to pay attention to politics, citing that they’re not connected because the diet is only full of old men. He’s gets half of the problem solved by being a young man, but what about the ‘men’ part of ‘old men’? Women consist of half of the voting public and yet nobody considers that maybe having a young woman running would get the younger female generation to pay attention? It’s here that I realised what the trick was: Sanctuary does not consider women as people. Once you realise that, everything falls into place. Girls to fuck are just part of the glorified yakuza lifestyle, along with good food, nice suits and fast cars. Women are simply not part of the political equation, and if they are you just need to give them a right hard shag amirite guys!
I read all of Sanctuary so I guess I did enjoy it on some level. The political mind games and plot twists were very entertaining in their own right, particularly because the story kept the pace fairly quick. Plus the politics got a bit better as the story went on. The policies became less ridiculous and more plausible, and when something ridiculous was suggested it was treated with the right amount of shock in-story. But it is a male power fantasy through and through. It’s the most sexist thing I have ever read, getting the otherwise completely dormant feminist side of me to go “ah come on now, this is just silly”. It also manages to cover plenty of other offensive bases like racism and glorification of violence. All those other wish-fulfilment harem, magical girlfriend, maid, super power, giant robot, chuunibyou fantasies shrivel in the wake of the amount of wish-fulfilment Sanctuary provides. read more
Jul 3, 2013
The two main characters are indistinguishable from each other in terms of personality. They are strong (and manly) charismatic geniuses who are perfect in every single way. One of them takes over a political party with a single short speech that was basically just him saying "fuck yeah, Japan.” He never really states too many policies, and we don't know what he really stands for, he just yells about change and the future. The other character is a yakuza that deals manliness rather than narcotics. A hitman sent to kill the yakuza guy was so influenced by his manliness that he did a complete 180 and he turned on his bosses. Dude's that good.
The themes are heavy handed and usually do not go beyond "old people suck" and "old people are not manly." This idea popped up more times than I can count. I'm not exaggerating, this is the biggest theme of the manga. I have no idea why this mangaka hates the elderly so much, but he could at least be subtle about it. He doesn't have to be like "hey grandpa, fuck you!!!" while waving his middle finger in the face of the over-60 population. Perhaps subtlety isn't manly enough.
One plot point is that the yakuza start getting a high school education and they want to make their syndicate a legitimate corporation. This alone should kill any kind of realism the manga tries to conjure up, with the art or otherwise. Most of the plot points made no sense, really. Politics is never that simple. It's never that easy for someone to rise to power. A complete reworking of the government never happens that quickly. A main antagonist of the series actually gets the chance to rise to power, but turns it down, which was a complete contradiction of everything we knew about his character before that. I have no idea how this change in his character took place and it’s not proper development. In the end, the manga wasn't resolved by intelligence or passion, it was resolved with an old guy deciding that young people were better suited for the job. Sheesh, I get that the young vs old thing is huge in Japanese culture and, by extension, politics, but it was just far too overdone.
The action, although sparse, was also unrealistic. At one point in the manga a man is fatally shot, but manages to get up, find a crowd of people, find a camera, and have a short monologue about who he is, who shot him, and how he's changed as a person due to the yakuza guy's manliness. Why didn't the guy who shot him finish him off? Why would he let the guy he shot hobble away? Who knows. He had a perfect opportunity, but it's never explained. I felt like this killed most of my enjoyment of the manga, because I've had enough of political thrillers and crime dramas that are completely unrealistic. The writing for this manga is often on par with the show Law and Order and that's one of the worst insults I can give.
The non-gun related violence (most of it) almost always consisted of somebody breaking a bottle over somebody else’s head. These people were always completely fine, which is incredibly unrealistic, but the dozens of bottle breaking incidents also make me wonder whether this mangaka has any creativity at all. Is there any other way to beat people? This manga isn’t about action, but if there has to be action scenes, they could at least make them a bit less boring and a bit more realistic.
Organized crime was glorified to a ridiculous degree. The manga hammered in the greatness of true yakuza over and over again, and when these true yakuza rape women it isn't really anything to split hairs over. The two main characters don’t have to bother with that though, as all women want them anyways.
Women are all objects in the world of sanctuary. Nothing more. They all just serve as fucktoys for the supremely masculine cast of characters. They all just need a nice dicking. Political opponents? Dicking. Police officer? Dicking. Employee? Dicking. There are only two recurring female characters, and they both abandon the duties entailed by their respective careers, just to get one of the main characters' dicks. I know, I couldn't believe it either. Did I mention how manly this manga is?
Sanctuary is extraordinarily superficial. The good guys are handsome (and manly) and the bad guys are ugly (and unmanly.) To me, this only accents the black and white morality, lessening the quality of the manga. I thought it would be interesting that the main characters are Japanese who grew up in Cambodia, but all of the Cambodians are portrayed as disgusting and funny looking. Sometimes they barely even looked human, and they were all portrayed as savages. There is a huge nationalistic sentiment to this manga in general, and it does its best to shit on everything that isn’t Japanese.
All of the characters' expressions are wooden and contrived (as the characters themselves are,) and they are recycled throughout the manga as the characters spout the cheesiest bullshit I've ever heard in my life. I swear to god the yakuza guy did that little upturn smile thing hundreds of times. Everyone had a couple of stock expressions and that was pretty much it.
This manga had many superficial aspects that tried desperately to conceal it, but at the core of Sanctuary is the wish-fulfillment found at the core of most harem manga. It's a much different take on wish-fulfillment, and I give it some credit for that, but it is poor writing nonetheless. I was also offended by the depiction of women and the depiction of Cambodians. Manga may not be the place to demand political correctness, but flat characters are a byproduct of these depictions and it really interferes with enjoyment of the manga anyway.
I enjoyed some aspects of this manga, but even when I did, it was mindless entertainment. Nothing with black and white morality can be a good political thriller or a good crime drama. I gave it a 3, rather than a 2 because it had potential, but it was ultimately a major disappointment. I wish I could say it was mediocre, but that would be too high of praise. I would say you should steer clear of it. If you hate it then there's no point, and if you like it then, congratulations, it's tricked you into becoming a misogynist. No good can come of it either way. Considering this, my score is a generous one. read more
Jul 17, 2013
This manga, is quite simply, a masterpiece. It's very rare that you will come across a piece of media that can be called that, but still to this day, Sanctuary holds that hefty crown still.
Written by Sho Fumimura, better known as Buronson, the creator of Fist of the North Star and other famous works, and illustrated by Ryoichi Ikegami. The two have collaberated many times since then with things like Heat and the still ongoing Lord. They do have a fondness for one word titles don't they?
I'll try not to spoil any of the story, but suffices to say it's a wonderful crime drama/political thriller that deals with complex characters and wonderfully charismatic leads.
If you want to broaden your horizens further than the typical shonen fixation on Nakama and enter into the deep and murky world of Seinen manga, this story is the perfect beginners step. I promise that you won't regret it. read more
Jul 10, 2013
This is a political strategic mind-battle manga dappled with intrigue, violence and provoking messages to the reader. It doesn’t mean this series is something overwhelming and stilted, though. The scope is indeed epic: from one’s dignity and pride to ideological inconsistencies and the world peace, - however downright realistic.
Just the right size and pace. No dragging on the plot development. Once the tempo is set in the beginning, it proceeds till the very end. Smooth storyline makes it really easy to read and comprehend.
Art is simply amazing.
The depth of manga. On political level Sanctuary covers two worlds at once – the yakuza underworld and politics environment. It depicts their similarities and differences to the fullest. Politics/politicians go around behind the curtains, and at the same time, yakuza people respect pride, dignity and truth. And though these are the lower and the upper worlds, they co-exist and entwine with each other. On the social level Sanctuary covers contemporary problems of youth nonchalance, lack of ambitions, and stagnation of older generations. Describing all you can get a glimpse of in this manga can go on for a couple of pages.
Scope. Once again I have to emphasize that Sanctuary has a wide range of aspects implemented and balanced properly in it: a dream, friendship, love; violence, lust, fear; dignity, loyalty, trust; ideological conflicts, corruption, manipulation, change of generations, etc. In the end all those serve as a background for the two men struggling to reach their goal.
They cry and pretty often it’s out of place and mood. Though maybe it has connection to the next disadvantage listed.
Some may find art lacking in facial expression dpt.. Although, the portrait art is mind-blowing, it is somewhat static. Maybe, the artist decided to use crying so that, at least, characters’ suffering emotions could be distinguished.
Weak representation of female characters in the manga. The female characters in this manga are simply useless and one can keep wondering, the whole purpose of introducing them in the first place. They contribute neither to the plot development, nor do their personas possess any distinctive features. read more
Aug 10, 2010
When I started reading Sanctuary I thought it would be a realistic story around politics, a much overlooked genre in anime and manga. And although I did get some, to the most part it was all so childish and ideal that it lost quickly all seriousness and became mostly lackluster. Lackluster is not bad but it’s not something I would expect in a story around politics. Anyways, besides the initial serious tone, it is nothing but a dark fairy tale around the dreams of two young men to build a strong nation where its people and leaders are not sheep. To all its basic themes and goals the scenario does a wonderful job at showing how a right politician and voter should think and act. It depicts depravity and exploitation in a very raw and almost inhuman way so at least in theory it does show how rotting the authority can get if left without a vision or goal.
The problem lies with how everything is implemented. It all happens in a very artificial way that there is no way you would believe it could really happen in real life as such. Without getting to details, I will just point out that real politicians or yakuza members are not cornered that easily. This may not seem as a problem for most but I happen to appreciate realism and in such stories the need for it is tenfold.
Another thing is the actual pacing of the story that is slow as hell and to the most part seems to repeat itself to the point of saturation. I believe that if the useless mute panels (read below) and the minor adversaries would to be taken out for the story, nothing much would change besides cutting the duration to half and exciting you double.
The art is fantastically realistic on first looks, as the mangaka literally used photographic realism to depict character body language and Japanese landmarks. Most large panels are like pictures you could hang on your wall and just stare at their beauty.
Unfortunately, relying too much on photographs does have its set-back.
For starters, it ain’t hard to find out that the mangaka uses around twenty photographs as reference to body stance and just recycles them throughout the story. It’s like people in the story can only take a few specific poses to the most part and act as if they carbon copy each other’s movements. That looks fake after awhile.
Also, the mangaka uses a huge amount of mute panels where a character will just stand frozen in an identical pose. At some points this works nice as tension building but most of the time it’s just wasted space.
Another minus is the over the top reaction when someone suddenly is shocked. To the most part, characters will look cynical and almost uncaring but when they get shocked, it looks so fake and fades away in just two frames before they revert to cynicism again that it ends up being plain laughable.
I could also add the dialogues themselves which end up being too silly, as characters will be stating the obvious all the time in a most immature way that does not fit their intelligence or status.
All that unfortunately take out a rather big chunk out of the fun and a work that could easily be a perfect 10 drops for simply being too repetitive and a waste of useful space.
Mostly cool that likable, the cast is made up of a huge number of selfish, arrogant, violent, and horny adults and old men who’s only goal in life is power, money and lots of pu**y. And yes, fitting the setting of the story you get lots of muscular yakuzas shooting each other by day and raping women in toilets by night, or lots of 80 year old politicians who scheme amongst each other by day and do deviant stuff to prostitutes by night. Yes, sex, drugs and… not rock and roll is what the cast is all about. And I must say that as far as attitude goes, they are all a very interesting bunch.
Their downfall actually is their behavior. It just doesn’t make any sense. I know it has a lot to do with honor and respect to the superiors but eventually the characters act in such retarded ways that even elite assassins and seasoned politicians seem to fall for the easiest tricks in the book. Not to mention the gasps they all make, lol, it’s ridiculous. It’s like they are told they have cancer when in reality it’s just someone famous passing by.
But motives aside, there are hundreds of characters in the story, most of which have a very minor part, despite all appearances that they are important. So the story ends up being about 5 people and an army of cannon fodder. Makes it all feel like a waste of time getting to know them after awhile.
A thing that reall annoyed me is the complete absence of active female characters. All women in the story exist only to be raped or fall in love and have their brains scr*ed over by some bijin dude. Not even one is able to have a voice or an opinion of her own. And even if theat is supposed to reflect the tremendous sexism found in Japanese society, it still does not excuse it when the same thing happens to the female American representative, who had balls of steel yet in half an hour of chatting yearned for the cock of the protagonist and became his underling. Same thing for all the rest of the women who are to the most part exploited for their talents through the reward of sex rather than being cherished as human beings. Got too annoying after awhile.
Although the first few volumes were very exciting, the story began to drag more and more thereafter, repeating events or prolonging them before finally resolving them in a most simple manner. It started to get to my nerves. Although there is a likable cast and a complete storyline present, everything feels like they overstayed their welcome. So it felt almost like I was forcing myself to continue after the first half and very relieved when I finally finished reading it.
Politics are indeed rare in anime or manga and this work takes a rather realistic, albeit superficial, approach to a world full of crime and degenerated politicians. Still, the whole mess is mostly cheese and manly tears with a lot of sexism and macho men comparing who has the bigger cock. So be warned that it’s more about show than about substance and you will have a better chance of liking it more. read more
Apr 22, 2010
If anything this story is like a fine hardwood richly carved by hand.
It is like the perfume that's subtle scent attracts you to it like a fly to honey.
I don't even want to justify how great a story it is because the story would have much more justice if you read it.
As inspirational as light at the end of the tunnel, this story is a golden classic if there ever was one.
And anyone reading this review who doesn't want to read it, or isn't bothered to read it; it's like you're slapping yourself in the face because it doesn't get any better than this. read more