Becoming a ninja is just a childhood dream for sixteen-year-old Rekka, until a fateful encounter reveals he has inherited ninja powers, including the ability to wield fire! As Rekka learns to master the ancient ways of his ancestors, he is drawn to protect a mysterious girl named Yanagi...
The 1990's saw the rise of many of the kind of anime that people classify as your "tournament" shounen anime. Where you have your ragtag group of fighters - usually kids still in their mid-teens - that acquire supernatural powers and must enter a tournament to essentially save a precious friend, destory a certain evil, or just simply to save humanity. This style of anime, if you would choose to call it that, was prominently owned by the Dragon Ball series, and to a lesser extent, Yu Yu Hakusho. There were several "under the radar" animes that followed this style of presentation,
but fizzled out in the popularity department. Enter Flame of Recca. Although not as popular as the aforementioned series, one could arguably categorize it into a second tier as far as what people will instantly think of when they hear the tournament-style anime in the '90s. Although Flame of Recca did have its own few wrinkles to add to the mix, ultimately, what is seen in the final product is your standard shounen anime where your high school kids gain the powers to defeat the evil, but is still highly enjoyable to read.
The story of Recca actually had a lot of originality for the time (first published in 1995). However, it was lacking complexity. The storyline could simply be broken up into two separate arcs. The first arc with your tournament and the second arc containing your save the world theme. Backtracking a bit, Flame of Recca is a story about a kid named Recca, whose dream is to become a ninja. He quickly saves Sakoshita Yanagi, who he ends up swearing his allegiance to and throughout the story, refers to as hime, meaning princess.
However, little did Recca know that he is actually from a ninja clan that existed some 400 years ago and because of his ties to this clan, it starts a chain of events that will test his mettle against many kinds of enemies - most prominently Kurei (main enemy of the first arc) and Kurei's adoptive father (the main enemy of the second arc). Generally, the plot can be summed into the following: Kurei's adoptive father wants to attain immortality and Yanagi - our princess who happens to have healing powers - is the object of his insane dream and he will stop at nothing to kidnap her and assimilate her powers.
The art in Flame of Recca is good. There is a good amount of detail given to all of the fights, environments, characters, etc. For the most part, it is easy to follow, with the exception being some of the later fights in the second arc, which get a little crazy. Otherwise, I personally didn't have too much problem with it.
This story's characters are a prime example of a manga-ka choosing quantity over quality. He introduces a plethora of different characters that he spends approximately a half a chapter to at the most two, explaining their past. And what's even worse is that the manga-ka ends up using the a bunch of the same characters over and over again in the fights throughout the entire story. Though it is still offset with the introduction of new characters within each mini-arc as well, so it prevents it from becoming too repetitive. The main "good" characters are your typical ones that you encounter - a silent, cold-hearted swordsman, a bully rival of Recca's who has more brawn than brains, a female childhood friend and a 13-year old genius kid. However, each of these characters are developed extremely well over the course of the manga and they complement Recca and Yanagi nicely and really help bring alive the story.
As I alluded to earlier, the manga-ka does recycle a lot of the old villains and uses them for later battles, which ends up getting repetitive. They get beaten the same way both times, but just by different people or slightly different circumstances. Otherwise, the manga is really enjoyable as the author was able to throw in enough comedy to balance out the seriousness of the story. You can't help but to absolutely fall in love with Yanagi's cuteness and admire Recca's bravery. A lot of the powers unveiled are really interesting and unique, although a bit on the freaky side. The freakiness is especially apparent in the second arc, where you'll be encountering more of the supernatural aspect of the story, as the villain uses genetic altering to create insane looking monsters.
In the end, Flame of Recca is more of an old-school manga, but completed in 2002. Given that it is 300+ chapters long, you would hope to see the plot have some kind of complexity - or thinking situations, but they are sorely lacking, as the story is pretty straightforward from start to finish. Despite the fact that this story doesn't involves many complex situations and plot lines, and doesn't delve too deep in many of the character's pasts, the plethora of characters and character developments help offsets those weaknesses. If you're looking for that tournament style shounen, superpower anime that is coupled with a "saving the world theme," and in addition, are looking for some good quality comedy and romance, Flame of Recca is something you should consider on undertaking.
-- [ Flame of Recca Manga - 33 volumes / 329 chapters ] --
One line: "Good art. Good story. Ok characters. What more to ask?"
Flame of Recca (FoR) is one manga where you will see the evolution of a mangaka's style clearly. It has a good plot, interesting characters, and a good bit of ecchiness. It definitely makes a good read.
- [ Art - 9/10 ] -
In the first volumes, the art was no good. The eyes were exaggerated, as well as the various body parts. It was plain old-style manga drawings. However, as the volumes move on, you see the style of the mangaka
changing. The drawings, toning, shading and everything else becomes better. The level of detail increases from almost nothing to extremely detailed scenes. Nobuyuki Anzai's style is now among my favs. Even at the end, it's still exaggerated (hairstyles!), but the drawings are just great, specially in detail-level.
- [ Story - 8/10 ] -
FoR has a good plot, and a good flow. The story is about a boy named Recca who has the ability to produce flame from his arm. He is a ninja in a modern world, and has sworn to protect Yanagi, his "hime" (princess). There is also Recca's friends and rivals in fights, Domon and Fuuko.
At the other end, we have Kurei and his Uruha band of bad guys, led by Mori Kouran, the head of the bad-guys.
As you might expect, there will be a clash between the two groups, centered around weapons named Madogou which have special powers each. Like there is a wind-controlling madogou.
The flow is great, with almost no plot-holes. The details are conveniently explained to the reader, so there is not much mind-work to do. There are also some unexpected twists, and revelations that really make you like the characters and want you to read on and on.
Some complaints now. Sometimes, we are not well told the reasons why the fights are actually taking place. Next, we are not told the backgrounds of some of the characters at all. This is understandable, considering the sheer number of characters, but just 1-2 bubbles would have been enough. Example? Fuuko's background is never mentioned.
The story is divided in 2 parts: the ura butou satsujin tournament and the "Recca saves the world" part. The themes from one arc tends to get repeated in the other arc. Even in the world-saving arc, there is a semblence of a tournament going on. Definite deja-vu, earning story 8 from me, instead of 9.
- [ Characters - 8/10 ] -
The characters are definitely likeable, and really funny at times, even making you laugh. The character development is slowly, but well made. I did notice the lack of elaboration for some of the characters, specially the main ones. We readers could have used some more details, particularly about Domon, Fuko, Mikagami and even some of the bad guys. Unfortunately, it's not there. Not enough, at least.
Each character has its own individuality and behavior, which makes discovering each of them interesting. From the muscular toughie to the cute tomboy, from the pretty boy to the anti-hero, they are all there. Also, each has a definite role to play over the course of the plot and the value of none of them is to be under-estimated.
The Flame Dragons which appear later on are even more interesting, specially their back stories. Or even Kurei's story is impressively detailed.
The problem is that the bad guys are a bit generic, and tend to get defeated by the same ways. It's a bit repetitive after a while. Also, the presence of recurrent minor characters is sometimes annoying.
- [ Enjoyment - 9/10 ] -
If I had to name one thing I enjoyed most, it was the exaggerated expressions, and the unexpected humour. In the middle of a fight, you might see some exaggerated expressions, like bulging eyes and jaw-dropping. BIG jaw-droppings. Or teeth pictured as very sharp. I liked that exaggeration, specially with Joker (character).
The art in the later volumes is great too, and I enjoyed that. I tend to liked detailed scenes. Recca cannot beat Berserk's level of detail, but it's great nevertheless.
The fights were well illustrated, but a bit too short sometimes.
- [ Conclusions ] -
FoR makes a good read, with well-made art and a good cast of characters. You might want to check it out if you want an adventure/epic/fighting genre. It's old, but still holds some value.
Flame of Recca is what I'd call a comfort food of shonen combat manga, with the closest comparison I can think of to be Yoshihiro Togashi's Yuuyu Hakusho. There's nothing particularly original in it, but it's still well-executed enough to potentially be really enjoyable.
Every shonen combat manga needs a cool conceit, and for Recca it's ninja. The titular main character Recca Hanabishi is a ninja superfan to the extent that he's trying to live the ninja lifestyle in modern era, which in his mind necessitates looking for a master to serve. Said master ends up being Yanagi Sakoshita, a timid girl he bonded
over their mutual secret power; Recca can conjure flame from his hand, and Yanagi can heal wounds. There's also an extinct ninja clan who played an important role in the backstory, but as a whole, don't really expect anything resembling authentic ninja experience from FoR. Instead of kunai, shuriken, and stealthing around, you'd be seeing a lot more of superpowered people, superpowered weapons (made by the aforementioned ninja clan), underground assassin group, underground tournament, genetic abominations, time travel shenanigan, etc. You know, the good ol' tropes that I and (presumably) you love.
FoR pretty much nailed the characters. I like Nobuyuki Anzai's design, as he is equally capable in drawing appealing characters who are easy on the eyes, cute chibi-fied effect, AND things that literally looked like they just crawled out from Hell itself (the latter would be increasingly prominent toward the end of series, as Anzai's art gets darker and more detailed). Personality-wise, the main cast is based on types that you've probably seen before; Recca is the hot-blooded leader, Yanagi is the pure-hearted girl and designated damsel in distress, Tokiya is the icy rival, Fuuko is the tomboyish action girl, and Domon is the boneheaded brawler. Thing is, this group has a genuinely strong dynamics and even if their character arcs might be very predictable, they're well-fleshed enough to invoke some emotional investment whether they're struggling against an opponent, trying to master their weapon/skill, or simply bantering with each other. The same thing also applies to the antagonists and supporting characters, to the extent that even a high number of one-and-done mooks has decent amount of personality and backstory. Impressively, while the cast of allies, enemies, and enemies turned allies (if you enjoy this particular trope, you're definitely in for a treat) steadily grows, it never gets out of control and neither does the main spotlight stray too much from the core group of characters; something that other combat series with bloated cast often don't get to say (*coughbleachcough*).
The plot structure is very straightforward: more or less, it consisted of an obligatory introduction arc, a tournament arc, and three dungeon arcs (one before the tournament, two afterward). By 'dungeon arc', I mostly refer to a particular set-up where our heroes have to advance through a series of one-on-one and occasional tag fights before they reached the big bad guy waiting at the end of a certain labyrinthine structure. Again, there's nothing imaginative or realistic about those (*you have to think the bad guys would've had way more success by just ganging up on our heroes from the start instead of going through all the trouble of setting up a video game-y set of challenges), but they're ultimately just an excuse to showcase the individual battles. It's a good thing then that Anzai's battle scenes are arguably where the series shined the most, as they're well-paced, easy to follow, and feature cool & varied abilities, weapons, and resolutions. The tournament arc (*an aspect most similar to Yuuyu Hakusho, due to the team-based nature), which takes up slightly more than one-third of the entire story, deserves particular mention for being one of the most exciting tournament arcs I've ever read.
I may have nostalgic bias considering it is one of my favorites during my formative years, but I strongly recommend Flame of Recca to those looking for a fun, balanced combat series that doesn't take an eternity to finish. Consider the final grade to be more like an 8 if you're a genre fan who doesn't mind familiar character archetypes and plotting, or a 6 if you're not.
I forgot exactly when I finished this...but here goes.
Hmmm, well I am such a fan of Joker now, and am so pissed at the anime for not showing more of him...damn you animators! *shakes fist threateningly* (but eh, let's face it, what anime has translated everything from the manga it was based on into the screen with 100% fidelity?) it's all the differences in manga and anime's medium...staff (often, the author of the manga has little to none to say about the anime...)
But enough about me comparing apples with oranges(even if the oranges are genetically modified to resemble the apples :P) haha!
Well, what I first
noticed it that the manga's drawing slowly evolves (not a complaint, just observing), and although Recca is, like a lot of characters in shonen genres, idiotic and bullheaded, I can forgive how he is.
As for Kurei, I am just thankful that he wasn't exactly all "black"= evil because he was born that way. The anime painted him to be the bad guy just because, and didn't exactly tell us the hows and whys of the Kurei that made Recca & co.'s life a series of bloody battles...
Well, in the end, I felt really sorry for him, with Kurenai and all..(go read why).
All in all, I'd say more or less a typical shonen? One of the archetypes for shonen of more recent times, anyway.
I like it because of the the idea of Madogu (those Hokage weapons), plus also the deeper story as to just why Recca is the bearer of a "special type of flame...