Apr 23, 2016
As Polonius of Hamlet once said: Brevity is the soul of wit. Sometimes, all we want is a little pinch of something before we've had enough of it. For KOF: Kyo, a pinch is indeed all that we get and that pinch, as brief and as flawed as it is, it just enough...but only just.
The underlying conflict in KOF, centered on the struggle between Iori Yagami and Kyo Kusanagi, is odd in that characters always refer to the struggle, but the reader is never really given the scope of the conflict until later in the short series. Those who have played the games would probably
be the only ones who could understand the story, limiting the audience within the first few chapters.
The manga, with its grossly uneven pacing and extremely unsatisfying ending, does succeed in giving us a brief outline of what a shounen is all about: getting cocky, getting humbled, getting depressed, getting angry and then getting even. CHDAE...that acronym will probably never stick, but the point is that while Kyo's story is predictable, it is at least goes forward, albeit to lackluster ends.
Character designs are one of the key strengths in KOF:F. Fighting games rely on interesting characters to entice players, and for this spin off, with the character designs remain mostly the same, KOF is a visual treat. Furthermore, the artist knows his way around the 90s era of shounen. From him, we get an art style that keeps with the spirit of the 90s without trying too hard, complete with exaggerated emotions and tense confrontations between rivals. Each battle between Iori and Kyo serve as a example how the intensity of video game fights can be successfully transferred into the manga media.
The lack of originality is the issue I am least concerned about with this series, since it, like other 90s shounens, prioritizes style over substance. What bothers me are the lacking motivations of the characters, especially for Kyo himself. He lacks drive, and while the story tries to explain exactly why, readers are not given much to work with. All we get is a faceless love interest, a vague recap of the previous tournament and a general outline of his relationship with his rival, who is obsessed with killing Kyo because...he wants to? Kyo just loses his will to fight, but with the stakes unclear and/or worthless, I don't see a reason why he should fight either, which defeats the purpose of writing a shounen all about fighting. Other characters, like Benimaru, appear as cameos, while still others serve as simple tools for the main two fighters to use. Athena and Kensou are just wandering around, helping Kyo without developing themselves in any way. Vice and Mature come in later, their purpose only highlighting the fact that the story is incomplete. The only character who captures the passion and fulfills his designated role is Kyo's father, who challenges his son to be better like a good shounen dad should.
It's turn-off-brain entertainment of the worst kind: looks pretty, but has no soul. Reading it was never a chore, but I also never looked forward to it. It's almost worse that I'm ambivalent about this series overall. Odds are that I'll forget about this series after a few weeks. That's a failure of a whole other sort.
Great character designs and fights are weighed down by empty characters and a story that, while conducive to fighting, is not conducive to fiery passion. King of Fighters: Kyo is a series where the cons and the pros are perfectly balanced.
All I can say about this manga is this: it is anything but the King.
Reviewer’s Rating: 5
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