At first glance Ryuzaki Ikuo, a detective in the Shinjuku Police Department's 2nd detective unit, and Danno Tatsuya, a high ranking member of the Matsuo yakuza clan have nothing in common. However, they both are working themselves up the ladder in their respective careers for one reason which deals with a murder case that happened 15 years earlier of which both men were witnesses to.
I went into this series having no idea what I was getting into... let me tell you what a surprise I got.
The bulk of the story is about 2 people, Ikuo Ryuzaki and Danno Tatsuya which 15 years ago they saw their precious teacher killed, but to add to that a certain detective with a golden watch (you just hope it's a got to be a Rolex) covered the whole thing up.
So what do you normally do in a situation like this, that's right Ikuo joins the police force to become a detective while Danno joins the Yakuza. Sounds similar to "The Departed" which
ripped off "Infernal Affairs", but with a twist.
Now the beauty about this is that both Ikuo and Danno work together with their main goal to find out who the detective is with the golden watch. You can bet that if one can't get the information that's needed for a case, then the other can easily acquire it.
The series may start out with this bumbling detective Ikuo but once you see his true colours and the relationship he has with Danno, that's where the series shines. The series has it funny moments to lighten the mood when needed but it can be quite serious too, since you know Ikuo is dealing with criminals and murders.
The art work is fantastic with a more humane look then the over the top anime designs out there. It's certainly not the best out there but certainly pile drivers most series out there.
Now the series is still on-going and there are currently 28 chapters that have been translated as I write this review. The story has really picked up since we've had a good look into Danno's past in the latest arc.
My final score is 8/10, an interesting look into a mostly corrupt police system. It mainly focuses on the main characters and not much about the world itself, still early days and the story certainly looks like it will develop more as it goes.
One of the most underappreciated police/mystery manga in my opinion, despite being of very high quality and adding so much to this genre. Here is why.
It may be essentially a police manga, but two main characters have serious connections to the underground business, one ranking high in the yakuza. Their motives are not strictly pure and innocent, what drives them is hatred and revenge. As a result, the borders of what is just and legal are explored and played with. Problematic aspects of our society are attacked at the sidelines: unfair company hierarchies, corruption, abuse of power, sexism... you name it. Who exactly is the
bad person? Police are good and criminals are bad? Oh, you can never quite know.
Plus, in the end there also is plenty of action, epic scenes and suspence for those willing to show some patience for the more dialogue-focused chapters.
The plot can losely be divided into the seperate crime cases that the main character Ryuzaki takes on. These cases are usually not connected to each other, but they span over various chapters and are complex. More often than not they take unexpected turns. What spices them up in particular is getting an insight into the minds of the criminals and the involvement of Danno, Ryuzaki's partner from the yakuza, with whom he solves the cases together. The plot is not difficult to follow but still interesting, no case so far was boring at all.
What connects these cases and gives purpose to the story is the main objective of our protagonist: to find the culprit who was responsible for the loss of their mother figure, and who is hiding somewhere among the police force: "Gold Watch". This is arguably the best part of the story, as it proves to be a very dangerous and risky process and leads them deep into police corruption. Their constant drive to uncover this crime and the identity of Gold Watch gives all other plotlines meaning and provides its own plotline that follows throughout the entire manga.
The art leans more towards a realistic style and is definitely not bad. In the end it comes down to preference. I personally did not love it, but I also don't have any complaints and once in a while a panel really impresses me. Characters are all distinct from one another, not only through different hair but also different facial features. Action shots are kept realistic, but they don't take away from the excitement and it is pretty clear what happens. Backgrounds are detailed.
The protagonist Ryuzaki seems honest, naive and a good person down to the core. The young, successful detective also comes across as a bit of an airhead, so it is a pleasant surprise when you get to see how he can change when the situation requires it. He tries to stay true to himself, but above everything he wants to find Gold Watch, and when you have a strong ambition like that it's not always possible to restrain your actions to what is good and just. All in all a very interesting character.
Danno is his long-time partner and friend, although it is never explicitly shown to what extent this friendship goes. You see them joking around, teasing each other but also share dead serious moments. Their interactions never get boring. He is the exact opposite of Ryuzaki: calm, collected and you can immediately tell he is sharp; he secured a high position in the mafia with incredible speed. But he is really something of a mystery. Uncovering more about him is one of the greatest joys of this series.
Thirdly, Hibino-san plays a central role as Ryuzaki's female partner. She is certainly the character who so far received most character development. Her father is a high horse in the police and she is a woman in a workforce dominated by men, two reasons why she doesn't have it easy. As the series progresses, she becomes less willing to accept defeat and increasingly badass. Look forward to it. Her relationship with Ryuzaki also has its ups and downs, as they both learn from each other.
It is safe to say I grew to love all three main characters, gradually becoming more interested in them as they became more and more developed. Secondly, I have to praise this mangaka for how they handled side characters, there is a limited number of recurring side characters, mostly in the police force, so that it's easier to remember them. There is a good mix of likeable and detesteable characters, and those where you just can't tell. One-off characters, often the criminals and victims, are also developed nicely, memorable and intriguing. Despite the amount of cases there have been I can remember a couple of side characters after only having read the manga once.
Plus points for the awesome action, some clever crime set ups, insight into the underworld as well as the police force, and exciting interactions.
Minus points for sometimes being too heavy on dialogues, although they are also necessary for the plot and keeping it realistic. Minus points also for the slightly repetitive nature of the manga, due to the case-by-case structure. A lot of things are thrown in to changing things up, which creates excitement and surprises, but occasionally you notice patterns. It did not take away much from the manga for me, however I know it might for some people.
I overall give this manga 9 out of 10, great recommendation for all fans of police, mystery, mafia, action and shounen manga. I would however not recommend it if you're looking for action before anything else. The action scenes absolutely deliver, however they don't make up the majority of the manga. Thanks for reading, and maybe give this manga a chance, I'm glad I did.
Ouroboros, a snake eating its own tail. Most Ouroboros i've seen are depicted as a single snake, but perhaps in Japanese derpology there are two. And this series uses the twin Ouroboros to spin a fine yarn and it masters the use of duality throughout its pages.
This manga, like my score and review, is squarely aimed at readers who enjoy detective stories. If you don't like the catch and repeat, episodic nature of some of this, then you may as well hop of the paddy wagon. Ouroboros is a little different than many of the detective stories i've read before, it
uses a very clever but surprisingly refreshing hook. Two main characters, essentially (although it largely revolves around the detective), one is ofc a detective, the other is yakuza. Together they seek to find clues to solve a murder of their sensei 15 years ago.
But that's not where the duality ends, the manga swings from extremely cruel and dark to lighthearted and fun. They don't censor much, nor do they pull punches on the crimes. It can get quite disturbing, but the realism is appreciated and fuels the ability to engage with the story, characters and setting.
As i mentioned earlier, the story is largely episodic but its always going in the right direction towards the main story and it does so at a slow but steady pace, which i really like. They don't give much away too early and give you just enough for it to stay relevant and fresh while keeping you engaged.
The art is very good but not amazing. It's got a nice consistency that you expect and hasn't dropped in quality yet. It's not stark and empty but also not too busy. The character designs are not typical shounen tropes, but goes for a mix of manga/realism that i dig.
The two main characters are the best part imo, both are extremely badass but not Gary Stu's. Going for the realiism angle creates limitations, and these can be seen when things don't always go according to plan. Ryuzaki, the Detective, is a goofball one minute, and ultra violent badass who won't hesitate for a second to pull the trigger and blow some scumbag's head clean off. Danno Tatsuya aka tat-chan, is the Yakuza who's far more calm cool and collected. His character is quite cold and distant, and ofc he's not afraid to pull the trigger either. You would probably expect the characters, at some level, to be better fitted to the other's occupation, but this yin yang harmony just plays out even more interestingly the way it is.
Overall, this is by far one of the most engaging manga i've read that doesn't stoop to ridiculous tropes or powerups. There fantastical elements within it, but they are scattered amongst the cold hard reality of crime and the grittiness of the underworld these characters play in. I don't think it's fair to say it does everything perfectly, but I think it excels in sheer enjoyment because it delivers what you want, when you want it. Some human scum gets caught doing some form of evil, he's getting raped by the legal system or getting put in a body bag. The correct and proper response. They aren't making friends with trash.
It’s really strange and unfair that you hear so little about this manga. Sure, it’s not particularly high-brow, but it’s madly entertaining, even addictive, has sympathetic cast, and the main mystery is intriguing.
The story is told in separate police cases (maybe I could call it procedural) and the storytelling stays at the level of, say, a fine TV-series. As I’ve mentioned, there are some silly moments, when mangaka tries to show off the characters, makes them cry or overdoes the evil face trope, but the core of the story is… healthy? solid? I like that in the end when it comes to the killing, they
kill without much ado. Killing earns this series a 7. The main characters are slaves to their goal to the end, properly, and it helps to ignore the occasional “handsome yakuza in a good suit poses” moments. Oh, and also from the description it’s easy to think that this series is woman-targeted, but it isn't, at least not in the usual way. (Btw, I suspect that the cheesiness is due to the legacy of Sanctuary, but I don’t know for sure.)
The main twist here is that the story is focused on battling corruption in the higher echelons of the police itself. The protagonists try to look for the mysterious figure who wronged them, but they clean off smaller fries in the process. The author puts a lot of effort in explaining the complex structure of Japanese police and makes a good use of it in building the intrigue.
The worst thing about the plot I can say is that it becomes a bit too dense and slow-moving, since the author makes a lot of detours to extend the chapter count. It's not a series, where you can drop in and drop out easily.
What holds your attention even through the weakest moments is, of course, the dynamic duo of the protagonists. They are very different and complement each other well, their ties run deep, and both have complex personalities.
The story focuses more on Ikuo the detective, the younger and the more innocent one of the two. Among his police peers Ikuo plays the amiable klutz part, yet he is not liked - it's said he is too introverted. Ikuo offers most of the comedic relief, but the highlight of the series is when he shows his true serious colors or fights – he is very strong physically and good at a brawl.
His counterpart is older and colder Danno, a high-level yakuza, who rose due to his strong personality and talent in accumulating dirty money. Danno is not a fighter and is referred as “yakuza intelligentsia”, outwardly he is a young entrepreneur, you’d see at a prestigious company. Danno is an interesting mix of good heart, coldness, that runs deeper than him playing the part of a thug, and dangerously strong fixation on revenge. Danno has class, which Ikuo lacks in any of his forms, exactly in the double the normal person’s amount. Unfortunately, Danno is always shown off, which gets annoying (the art is not quite there), and he plays fairy godmother to Ikuo – it’s like he has no other things to do. What Danno does for the yakuza is skimmed over too, but, well, at least, there is no glorification of the criminal lifestyle, or not much.
The other notable characters are the female prodigy partner of Inuo – Hibino, with her own set of troubles (second generation, a girl, partnered with the supposed idiot), though, unfortunately she gets sidelined a bit lately, and Chono, a detective so good, that he starts to suspect the two protags.
The art is decent. Some shots are “off-model”, Danno is unintentionally funny at times, and the female detective loses her nose a lot, but in the end the art carries the story well, it is detailed as it is necessary for a detective story, the characters are recognizable at all times. The quality doesn’t drop anywhere, and some panels are imaginative, I especially like it when silhouettes are superimposed on the scenery, as if in a night-time window – this gives off a tasty noire vibe.
(I should also point out the good quality of the available fan translation and the amazing margins comments by the team – guys, you’re good reader partners, thanks!)
To sum it up – if anything I’ve mentioned clicked with you, I advise to read this. There’re no serious downsides (like excessive violence, sexism or fanservice), and what I’ve described as silliness is nowhere near the level of what we see in many popular manga. And you know what? Awesome Danno is awesome, can’t do anything with it. Even if you’re not swayed by his or Ikuo’s charisma, deep underneath in Ouroboros you’ll find the heart of a proper police drama – questions of duty, justice, crossing the line, power and loneliness. The plot may start to drown in politics and over the top relationships, my current worry is that it is becoming too melodramatic, but it will get to another high-stakes high-tension shootout in the rainy night, there is no doubt. The pros severely outweigh the cons, seriously, so – hands up, this is grab and read.