Ryuu stows away on a space vessel, only to be found by the crew when it's far to late to return to Earth. So they stick him in a spare sleep capsule instead. Things take a turn for the unexpected, however, when Ryuu wakes up to find himself the sole survivor of the expedition, the spaceship having crash landed on a grossly mutated and wholly unfamiliar Earth.
Joining forces with fellow survivors from a different crash, Ryuu and his comrades fight to survive on this new and deadly Earth as they search for any humans that might have made it through the mysterious apocalypse.
Shotaro Ishinomori, creator of the Kamen rider and Cyborg 009 franchises, is one of the most influential and prolific manga artists of all time. Unfortunately, most of his manga has never seen official publication outside of Japan, unlike the works of famed Osamu Tezuka. They’re pretty difficult to find. That’s a shame since many of Ishinomori manga are great. The Way of Ryu is one of such examples.
First warning, don’t be fooled by the cartoonish character design or the seemingly silly and cliché storyline at the beginning. This manga is Berserk-level in term violence and dark story. You will see people, plant, insects, animals, robot get cut down, chopped up, burned, and dismembered in various creatively horrifying ways. That’s not to mention all the psychologically scaring events. The mutated Earth here makes most post-apocalyptic world look like Disney theme park. The art is Berserk-level of greatness as well, with incredible sceneries and extremely detailed background art. The buildings, creatures, machinery design are all exceptionally creative and wonderfully strange, drawing inspiration from old fantasy and sci-fi art. The action is tense and wonderfully drawn. The characters design look quite weird compare to the modern manga art style, but you will likely get used to it after few chapters.
Story-wise, all the horrible stuffs are sometimes hard to tolerate, but I still pressed on because this manga’s story is really good. Shotaro Ishinomori didn’t just draw violence for violence sake, he use it to convey his belief about moral, spiritualism and the meaning of human civilization. In a way, this manga is similar to Kino not Tabi, featuring a character who travels around a strange world. Each location the main character Ryuu visit portrays a different moral dilemma or a different aspect of humanity. As the story progressed, Ryuu learn more and more about himself and the world, leading to a spiritual evolution. It is quite though provoking.
However, the manga is hardly flawless. I have some beef with the story’s conclusion. Saying more is a spoiler, so let’s just says the conclusion is quite strange and doesn’t answer every the question satisfyingly, both theme-wise and story-wise. The journey is more important than the destination, I guess. Another problem is that this manga can be very heavy-handed. Written during the height of the cold war, the author has no hesitation in showing his anger regarding the development of civilization and world politics. His arguments in this manga are often emotionally charged, hammering home his criticism of everything from materialism to religion. As a side effect, characters occasionally act more like a device to deliver the messages than a real person. Thankfully, the cast are generally interesting and have good development.
Overall, this manga might not age well in some aspect, but it definitely worth a look if you want something exciting but still worth thinking about.