Bakuon Rettou is a story filled with anguish, existential dread and beauty, a young boy growing from a disgruntled geek to a renowned bosozoku is faced with the realities of becoming an adult and the regrets of missed opportunities due to his erratic younger days. This manga perfectly presents the rebellious stages of adolescence and the consequences behind this stage, but it also depicts the beauty of not giving a damn about the future living only in the moment.
We follow Takashi through his journey of ups and downs and my god is it beautiful, we cry with him and we laugh with him making you
feel as if we're just another underling crashing through the streets of Tokyo with hundreds of our brothers all doing the same, listening to the roaring engines fill the vast night sky.
I must say the art is a bit questionable at first, but after 10 chapters or so you soon start to appreciate it, especially at the gatherings. It sure made me jealous of our Takashi
Our man Kazei, Takeshi is a new transfer student to a school (which honestly doesn’t look so inviting) since the poor guy got kicked out of his last one because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong ‘friends’. So anyway, he gets picked up by the delinquents of the school because his ‘bad’ reputation followed him around like a stray hungry dog. And so the curtains rise on Kazei’s new school life that just so happens to involve a lot of roaring motorbikes.
Firstly, the art is a very cut-and-slash type of affair.
If you know what I mean…
Of course you
don’t; since I barely understand it myself.
It’s weird in a way but the illustrator literally personifies the characters personalities, you won’t get it until you see it. The art's really shocking and makes you think that it’s rough around the edges but that's the foundation for the actual characters, just like us, we're all rough around the edges. Best of all, you get to see expert shading skills used to enhance atmosphere and emotions, what more can I say?
But the thing that I hate MOST is the fact that there is only one chapter floating around.
WHERE ARE THE REST!!!!!!!!!!!! ??
The plot and characters are pretty solid, and you connect with Kazei’s emotions: you honestly feel sorry for him. I felt sorry for him. The guy was stereotyped, peer-pressured into doing stuff and it’s so realistic that your heart strings pull a bit for him and you can tell by the end of the first chapter that he’s going to grow as a character and I just hope we can see it as soon as possible, if someone picks the project up.
I can’t fully give you readers a blow-by-blow review because I wouldn’t even call this first chapter a taster, it was more of a glance than a fling. But, man, was it worth it. The stage is just set for something great to happen and I’d just feel sad if no one picks the project up because it’s a loss for everyone to get the chance to enjoy this book.
This is a work of unbelievable quality: a proper confessionary bildungsroman in plot, a masterpiece in art, blossoming with loving depiction of Japanese motorcycles – in motion, no less, at night, in city lights, running, growling, flowing. Personally, I think Tsutomu Takahashi usually bites more than he can chew with his concepts, but in Bakuon Rettou he truly overdelivers. It’s a mature work of a mature mangaka, who draws from years lived and pages drawn – and emerges in unimaginable power.
The story is autobiographic. The author himself was a part of a biker gang, of bosozoku – a subculture drawing its last breaths in 80-s
when the events of the manga take place, and outlived it. In the ending notes he says that he wanted to write this story before he hit 44, after which he thought he would lack the energy to write about teenage experience, he even discarded another promising concept for it. But you start to suspect the personal nature of the story much earlier. It has the qualities of best childhood novels – it’s raw, painful and doesn’t pull punches, it lends them all in fact. The early mushy and embarrassing foundations of life are mercilessly examined.
The main character, Takashi, at that point of his life is a lowlife shitty kid, who may or may not grow. Reared in a broken home, an early school dropout, he protests and seeks and fails as he can through his boyhood. And at the very precipice of it, he encounters his biker gang, drawn in by the idea of comradery and purpose. He meets other similar boys and girls, mostly boys. They gather at evenings and ride together.
I would have never imagined it is possible to draw a mass of moving motorcycles so well. The light beams, the shapes, the machine details – you practically feel the warm wind of Tokyo night blowing in your face, you hear the roar, feel the exhilaration. Takashi starts the engine of his bike, leans in and smiles tenderly, and you understand why. Bakuon Rettou revels in these moments of freedom. After all, according to the author, it’s also a manga about young boys feeling invincible.
The gang connects several generations of young men. Their life trajectories are very different. Not everyone has the luck to survive, not all choices are good choices. The manga starts as a historical piece with a heavy dose of psychology – Takashi is directionless, alienated as forming brains usually feel, we observe the epoch, the last stands of bosuzoku, the people of this gap in the society. But as their time to be reckless runs out, it’s a race of who survives, who graduates into adulthood. The stakes are high, it’s genuinely gripping. The ending is a bit didactic – but why exactly not?
Bakuon Rettou roughly translates as Detonation Islands, and you can’t build on light, sound or emotion. It’s about transient, but also formative time, a beautiful, but costly freedom, available only once. It has this sense of duality, of good and bad forming a unique life. The comments of the author are positive – he speaks about fun times and the surviving friends, but it often reads rather heavy, to be honest. Contrary to his notes, I think he should’ve been at 40+ to be able to analyze that messy age with such a mature balance.
He is and he can tho. Bakuon Rettou is so overly, excitingly good it’s almost scary. The usual overambitiousness of the author is finally replaced with something warm and living, true to psychology and the time period, thanks to the autobiographical roots.
The art is majestic too, displaying expressionism and plasticity rarely seen in manga, with a wealth of detail, of human types, of places. With the addition of the incredible motorcycle drawings, neither simplified nor overly technical. These drawn motorcycles would alone have gotten my recommendation for this manga on the worst of my days. The two pages spreads depicting bosozoku night rides are what comics has been invented for, it’s a loss not to see them.
The same can be said about Bakuon Rettou as a whole. If you wanted a strong psychological manga – here you go. A bildungs-manga – even better, for its depiction of the growing pains puts Bakuon Rettou on the level of Punpun. You like Tsutomu Takahashi as an author? The thing in front of you may be his masterpiece. And if you are interested in motorcycles and biker subcultures – go no further. Bakuon Rettou is honestly major. Big manga, big heart, big drawings, big skill, a big chunk of life gifted to a reader. It breathes and it beats and it roars like a powerful engine. It's a loss for a manga fan not to read it. It was a fantastic ride.