At the age of sixteen Ryo Narushima was a genius and looked to have no trouble of getting into Tokyo University and joining the elite of society. However, that summer something cracked inside Ryo's head. With a small knife he brutally murdered both of his parents only leaving his sister alive and cowering in a corner. It is at this grotesque incident that our story begins.
In 2004 the series moved from Weekly Manga Action to Evening, resetting the chapter count starting at volume 20. It was discontinued in 2007 due to creative differences but returned in 2011.
Starting from volume 26, the first volume from when the series returned from a long hiatus, the series has been completely written and drawn by Akio Tanaka. While Izou Hashimoto did write the series in the beginning, he had been doing less and less work starting from volume 4. Tanaka and Hashimoto reached a settlement and Shamo continued.
The series' first thirteen volumes were published in Spanish by Otakuland between 2003 and 2005 as Shamo Gallo de pelea.
Over the last month or so I've seen a ton of praise for the manga "Shamo" and recently I just read the whole thing and I feel very let down. I thought the first part up to where Ryu cripples the Karate champ in their second fight the story was pretty solid and interesting but after that it just was really lame overall.
Overall the characterization of Ryu just felt like really all over the place and I didn't feel like it was because he was crazy, it just felt like the author didn't know what he was doing exactly with the character and experimented a
lot more than he should have.
Then there's the whole constant perspective swaps that end up taking up nearly half of the chapters in the series. Ryu is the protagonist, he's the "interesting" character yet many other characters half the time characters who have just been introduced get the spotlight namely Toma and the retarded brothers at the end.
Also Ryu was constantly learning new things throughout the series then in the next part he would completely forget it. There was the whole arc (which I thought was a large part of the downturn of the series) where he learned to use ki. I guess the author thought that addition was as pointless and stupid as I did because Ryu never used that shit again. Then there was the whole "left-handed" concept where Ryu swapped to southpaw in the middle of the fight between him and the Heavyweight champ that was also never used again. Basically anything he learned to do for a fight, any training regimend, any new technique, he would forget by the next time a new fighting opportunity came up.
Overall the whole "arcing" concept and the pacing in general was really poor and disjointed. The author once again felt like he was just experimenting with what he wanted to do with Shamo and some of the arcs could have been different series in themselves because of how different they were. Like the ki arc and the end one with the retard brothers, so off from the overall feel of the series. The ki arc felt like freaking dbz, he just defeated the strongest opponent then all of a sudden he gets stomped by a completely unknown dude and he has to power up his ki to freaking win. The latest arc is practically a gag manga in it's stupidity.
Maybe I went into the manga with too high of expectations from all of the people praising it in this sub but damn I definitely stopped enjoying the manga when his conflict with the karate champ ended and it's not like it was the perfect manga up to that point I would say like 8.5/10 but the quality after that point was crap.
Well, it's pretty difficult to give this series an overall rating since it had a change in authors.
The series starts off really well, I'd even go as far as calling it a masterpiece up to a certain point. But well... as I mentioned this series had a change in authors. The potential masterpiece turns into a cliche fighting manga, it's hard to even call it a seinen manga. The story lost its edge, the characters stopped being interesting, only the art was still well done.
I'd say the first 13 volumes are very well done they are probably around a 9-10/10. You could just
stop reading the manga after those.
Volume 14 to 28 it's more like 7.5/10. It's still somewhat interesting, but at the same time lost some of the excitement. This is kinda where the manga turns cliche. There is a really long arc in there which had some potential, but kinda went nowhere in the end.
And then, Volume 29 to Volume 34 is for me a 2/10.
The ending was so bad, it's hard to even talk about it without trying to make it sound like a joke. The main character, the guy who's known as a devil, who's killed, raped and crippled multiple people, who has learned martial arts for years from different masters is fighting against a guy who doesn't have any martial arts experience, swings a big sword around and looks like a grown man with a girl's haircut....
Oh yea, for some reason the main character also picks up a homeless girl and a dog during these volumes which totally doesn't fit into the theme of the manga and the personality of the main character.
Shamo is one series that is difficult to write a simple review for, but I'll try to keep it brief. I may as well get it out of the way - Shamo has one of the worst endings to a manga series that I've ever seen, There's no resolution, no ultimate lesson, just a strong feeling that the author wanted the series over and done with. Now, there are plenty of mediocre manga series but it is particularly distressing here because of the way Shamo started out. The first several volumes or so were cerebral, dark and well-paced. It took a lot of risks, giving
us a main character that was clearly a villain, but who the reader is compelled to root for. This is done by giving the reader a clear look at how he got to be where he is and how he feels during the whole process. It gives us a look at the less savory elements of Japanese culture, but the themes are fairly universal. One of the central themes is how society can never really forgive a criminal and often perpetuates their unlawful behavior because of it. What we get is a character study of a person completely shunned by society. While he is intelligent and talented and desires recognition, his experiences and bad decisions continue to haunt him and prevent him living a rewarding or even a normal life.
That's why I need to give this manga a good rating despite its glaring flaws. The latter half of the series really begins to lose track of what the story is about. The last few volumes are a complete waste of time. Those that have followed the series know about the long hiatus it experienced. It was stuck in a long, messy lawsuit where the creators fought over ownership. In the end, it's understandable how the series ended up but no less disappointing.
I still recommend giving it a read. Just don't bother reading after the first half or so.
Shamo is one of the darkest themed and most graphic seinen manga I have ever read. That being said I wouldn't recommend this to the young or squeamish.
“Your light will never reach me!” –Ryo Narushima
Shamo starts with a gory scene of a young boy covered in blood after brutally murdering his parents. Thus we are introduced to the protagonist of the story Ryo Narushima, a boy that was destined to become the elite of his society but becomes a cold-blooded martial artist. After his crime Narushima is sent to Ajigasaki Reformatory,
where we see human nature in its rawest form. The prisoners and Narushima are stripped of their individuality as they have their hair cut and wear identical uniforms. The artist does a good job of showing this because the characters are very hard to tell apart and they all look the same. Narushima is constantly bullied and even gang raped during his time in the reformatory; Narushima later learns karate as self-defense and spends his time in solitary confinement training and becoming stronger. During his time training he learns how to use his body and fist to kill others, allowing Narushima to have power he never had before in his life. After two years of hell on earth Narushima is released, released to the world, reborn in the darkness from his traumatic experiences in Ajigasaki Reformatory. (Narushima only has a two year sentence because of a law that protects minors, in Japan.) This part of the manga can be seen also as a social commentary, as it is analyzing how Japan's reformatory system brings out the worst in human beings and allows someone like Narushima that was a weak pussy to turn into a cold-hearted criminal that doesn't take shit from anyone. But I digress; it is after the reformatory where the real story begins.
Shamo differs from any manga I've ever read because the main character that we are rooting for is an unsympathetic killer. (And not like Death Note this guy is really fucked up) Narushima is shown to be the classic Byronic hero; he is treated as an exile, has a distaste for social norms, is disrespectful of rank and privilege, is cynical, and highly self- destructive. Throughout Narushima is shown to have no remorse or regret for ever killing his parents or for any of the other morally loathsome acts he’s committed, such as assault, rape, and bare fist fights to the death. However the manga is unclear and is always questioning whether Narushima is evil by his very nature or is how society corrupted him the reason for his continual spiral into darkness. Despite all this we are always shown that there can still be some redemption for him, but in the end Narushima refuses and allows himself to go deeper into his own darkness.
In this way the manga is more like a Greek tragedy, Narushima falls from a path that would have made him elite in Japanese society and becomes a remorseless criminal. It is perhaps even more tragic that society or even Narushima won't allow his redemption. The odd part when reading Shamo is even being a parent killer and rapist we still root for Narushima; to win his fights, almost as we the readers have been consumed by his darkness. But the real reason we root for Narushima is because he is the ultimate underdog and because of society's treatment to Narushima, it condemns him for his actions, and forces Narushima to become a martial artist, where he kills for self-confirmation, or a male gigolo to make money. This makes any chance of redemption slip farther and farther away, as stated before.
Besides Narushima everyone is a side character, side characters have no development or depth to them they all exist to be an obstacles, foils, or are used to help farther Narushima’s character development. Although this isn't a flaw and is done so that Narushima is the only person you can root for and allows a lot of time to explore Narushima’s character making him one of the most complex characters I’ve ever seen in a manga or anime. Narushima’s development brings up many themes about human nature, redemption, and violence.
The artwork is amazing and very detailed. It shows a lot of perspective and is very graphic and is one of the best looking mangas I've read. The artwork is very dark and is often depicting the psychology of Narushima with rich symbolism. Plus the artwork gets better as the story goes along.
The only real problems with Shamo are the pacing problems, at times it is very rushed and others times the plot moves at a snail’s pace, and the different story arcs don't connect very well.
In conclusion, Shamo shows the darkness that resides in us humans; the story is humorless and nihilistic. The fights are graphic and intense making the reader squeak and sick to their stomach with over the top violence, but Shamo isn't trying to romanticize violence. The mangakas of Shamo aren't trying to make an entertaining story as much as using one character to explore many themes and criticizing modern society and Japan, and as a result Shamo is one of the better written manga out there. The manga is currently on a long hiatus and we are just waiting for more chapters to come out. But reading this manga was truly an enriching experience and a cold tale of what our nature is truly like when pushed to the fringe and underground of modern society. Perhaps there is a Ryo Narushima inside all of us, waiting to explode.