The story takes place 2300 years ago in China. The town of Ryo has requested the help of a clan called Bokk to aide them as their town is facing attack. The Bokk clan's representative, Kakuri, responds to their call for help and attempts to save Ryo from an almost inevitable defeat, from not only outer forces, but also from those who doubt him within. Is he up to the challenge?
"I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion."
-Alexander the Great
In the ancient Chinese country of En lies the city of Ryo, a small and somewhat poorly fortified city filled to the brim with poverty and injustice, ruled by a fat emperor who only cares about his own well being. The much larger and more powerful country of Tcho plans to attack and capture Ryo using their enormous and powerful army of well trained soldiers. With no hope of defending the city in it's current state king Ryokei calls
upon the clan of Bokk, a powerful clan known through China, made up of the strongest warriors and smartest tacticians to help protect their city. The men of Bokk detest war and are willing to offer their assistance to all who are under invasion. While the Bokk clan do offer Ryo their assistance, to everyone's surprise they only send one person, a short and bald man by the name of Kakuri. Despite their underwhelming odds of victory Kakuri promises the people of Ryo that he will do everything in his power to protect Ryo.
The first half of Bokko focuses on Kakuri doing everything in his power to prepare Ryo for war, and just getting the cooperation of the citizens alone proves to be quite an uphill battle as some of them have no desire to fight and would rather surrender. Kakuri informs the people of Ryo of the horrors of war, if they surrender or lose all the men will become slaves of Tcho and the woman will he raped, the children and elders will be put to death immediately. Once Kakuri obtains the trust of the people he must struggle against immeasurable odds to construct a powerful defense, each chapter offers another facet of this, whether it be looking for Tcho spies, burying the dead, or just giving the people of Ryo hope and motivation.
While covering the various facets of war Bokko manages to stay fresh and entertaining by constantly switching it up, each chapter brings something new to the table, at times these elements can even turn all of Kakuri's plans on their head, forcing him to really think and innovate. While Bokko's fast pacing does make it entertaining and easy to read it can at times prove to be a double edged sword as the implications of all the various events are not explored fully and the characters suffer a bit as well, other than Kakuri there are few characters that have any presence in the Ryo arc which can lead to deaths lacking much impact.
Luckily the arc that takes place after the Ryo arc, and focuses on the reason the Bokk clan only sent one man to protect Ryo, as well as a mysterious group of people sending hordes of locusts to devour the crops of various cities is much more character driven and slows down a bit to give supporting characters some time in the sun. This much stronger cast makes up for the shortcomings in the Ryo arc and makes the manga hold up much better as a whole.
Kakuri himself is a very strong character, he puts his ideals and the way of Bokko before everything else. He constantly puts his life at risk in order to protect foreign cities and people who at times hate him, or even dismiss him after his job is done. Due to his lifestyle Kakuri is a very lonely man, which is exemplified through his somewhat distant nature in some parts of the manga, no one else in the manga can truly relate to him and his strife. Despite everything Kakuri must face, on and off the battlefield he keeps enduring and doing what he must to protect the lives of those around him, he expects no reward and does not wish to be remembered, Kakuri is a truly selfless character to an extremely admirable degree.
The art for Bokko was done by Hideki Mori, well known for his work on Shin Kozure Ookami - Lone Wolf and he did a marvelous job, the detail in each panel is simple jaw dropping and add a lot of impact to a lot of the scenes. My favorite aspect of the art is Hideki's ability to convey various emotions without the use of dialogues, relying heavily on scenery and facial expressions to show what's going on. This is most heavily seen in parts of volume 7, specifically the 4th and 5th chapter of that volume, which depicts Kakuri and a few of his newly met companions travailing to the city of Sei. These chapters have some of the most beautiful scenery I have seen in any manga and are very ambient in nature, giving off a feeling similar to that of works such as Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou.
Bokko ends on a very powerful note with few unanswered questions, managing to not only tie up the work thematically but also give historical context to the events to the events of the manga, plus posing an important question to the reader. The finale of Bokko makes the reader think about his or her life, and how Kakuri would view the world today. The finale exceeded my expectations and left me rather satisfied.
All around I'd highly recommend Bokko to all fans of war dramas, historical settings, underdog stories, and well thought out tactical battles, it is a very unique manga but one that I feel has a very wide range of appeal. While the pace was a bit too fast for my taste at times the positive things this manga had to offer heavily outnumbered the negatives.
Bokku or Stratège is about the story of Kakuri a man of the Bokk clan who helps protect the village of Ryo. At first glance, knowing nothing about this manga when I started it, I thought this was going to be about martial arts but in reality it is about war strategy. The story takes place around 500 BC.
Story 7/10: It is fast paced without feeling rushed and lets Kakuri show off his prowess as a military strategist. After the first Arc the story begins to delve into the world of Bokk and the reasoning
behind their actions. The story has good progression however towards the end things started to get rushed like they knew they were going to be canceled and hurried to ending. While this did take away from it overall the story was one of the best aspects of the manga.
Art 6/10: The art is fair and it takes a little bit getting used to Kakuri especially after you see him in the first chapter but overall its well drawn. The fights are violent and are ok. Ive seen better but since this manga concentrated more on the strategy of war rather than the pure violence i thought it did I nice job.
Character 7/10: Character development is to a minimum which I don't think is a bad thing. You learn enough about the characters to enjoy them, but the manga I think did a nice job leaving a lot of it to the imagination. This manga isn't really about the characters sob stories. When your fighting a war who the hell cares about your back story (just kidding).
Enjoyment and Overall 7/10: This was quite an enjoyable manga to read. It starts off real strong and was a nice change of pace since the story was not as I imagined. If the ending didn't feel as rushed as it did it could of gotten a better score but overall this is still a good manga.