Yuu is a high school kid who doesn't really fit anywhere. To find a place he can belong, be accepted, he will do anything. However one thing leads to another and he is forced to fight to keep his place, his holyland.
Ever wondered what it's like to have no place to belong? Having no place where one is recognized as a human being? Having no one who actually cares for you? That is what Holyland explores first and foremost. It is the story of Kamishiro Yuu who has no place in society and is forced to come out to the night streets. This is where he makes a place for himself. A place where he belongs. A world of violence and lenient law.
Kamishiro Yuu was bullied at school and taken to the brink. This resulted in him shutting himself from the outside world and simply staying cooped up in his room. Even his family had given up on him and branded him as a failure. For what purpose was he to live then? For who's sake? He came to the conclusion that it's all worthless and just gave it all up. He wanted to end his life but, just as he was about to do so, he stopped. He did not have it in him to end his own life. He was too weak. He decided that it was an aimless struggle and came to terms with his worthlessness. He thought he would continue to live out his worthless life.
Then as fate would have it, circumstance leads him to pick up a book on boxing and he realizes that the reason that he was unable to stand up to the people who bullied him was due to his lack of strength. He starts to train and practice punches day in and day out. Strangely enough it gives him a sense of satisfaction. It gives him something to work at. Some semblance of purpose i.e. to become stronger. After he does this for over a year, he wanders into the streets at night and again due to circumstance, he defends himself from thugs who try to extort him. He builds a reputation for himself as the "Thug Hunter". As his reputation grows, he attracts bigger and stronger members of the street. They all want a piece of him.
This is where the story begins. It all starts here and things escalate. It's a battle against the world and more importantly, himself. Yuu strives to protect his precious place and those precious to him. His Holyland. A coming of age story where he is influenced and influences his Holyland. Where he becomes the fulcrum of attention. Where he fights the darkness welling up within him as he tries to discover the purpose and effects of his violent ways. As he meets more people who he respects, gains more people who he trusts, makes friends and enemies, he finds the meaning and value of strength. This is the basic gist of how the story sets itself up.
Having said all this, is that all the story is about? Not at all. This series' strength is without a shadow of doubt, its characters and how each and every one of them have a significant role to play. Judging by what I said earlier, it may seem like a one man story but thankfully, that isn't the case. Pretty much the entire core cast develops as a whole. It's not just Yuu. They all affect each other's growth. They act as foils to each other. They all have a common reason that has brought them out to the streets. It's because they have all been shunned by society and are battling for a reason to survive however twisted they may be.
I'll just briefly outline the main characters:-
Take Izawa Masaki for example. He literally mirrors Yuu. He is an expert fighter who used to be a boxing genius growing up and a character who Yuu looks upto. He's someone who acts as a guiding light to Yuu as he surges forth. Likewise, Yuu has as much of an impact on Masaki as the other way around.
Shougo Midorikawa is a Karate Fighter who duels Yuu multiple times. He goes on to become one of his very best friends and has incredible depth to his character. He is a multifaceted character however and throughout the story, we see many sides to him. By the end of it all, he is a changed man. One who is to be respected.
Shin is the best friend who anyone could ever have and it ain't an understatement. He is just a normal person with no fighting abilities whatsoever. He acts as a faithful friend to Yuu and he is his best friend. He knows all there is to know about Yuu. He accepts Yuu for who he is. He is always there for Yuu when Yuu needs a shoulder to lean on. They could go through brick walls together. It's not just Yuu either, he is there to support anyone close to him. He'll do everything in his power to act as a pillar of support to those close to him. I have nothing but respect for his character. Even when his life is in danger, he never shies away from making a stand. He is always there to offer advice to Yuu or Shougo or Mai. A true best friend character.
Finally the last of the Main Characters, Izawa Mai. She's Masaki's Sister, Yuu's love interest and friend to Shin. She sees her Older Brother in Yuu and cannot look away. She is inadvertently drawn to him. She initially meets him at school and does not know Yuu's other side. Her role lies in the fact that she comes to terms with who Yuu really is and thus acts as yet another important person to Yuu. She too grows significantly as the story goes on. As far as she's concerned, no stone is left unturned.
These are merely character outlines and I did not even get to mentioning a single character from the supporting cast. That being said, the supporting cast is excellent in their own right. Basically, it's a glorious character cast with diverse personalities, meaningful roles, development and growth as human beings.
A unique feature of this manga is how the mangaka, Mori Kouji has personal experience in martial arts and street fights to bank upon while inputting the same in his work. There are a variety of Martial Arts such as Karate, Judo, Kenpo, Kendo, Boxing, Kick-Boxing, Mixed Marital Arts, etc that are used in the series. There's ample amount of research that has gone into this and it can be seen and felt. Not a single action scene or sequence is just mindless. There's so much thought and subtlety to every single scene. The art is simply gorgeous when it come to action scenes and they all flow very very smoothly. Given that Martial Arts, Duels and Street Fights are the basic tools that the manga uses to tell its story, it is of utmost importance that it is well done. Every single fight is exciting, unpredictable, tactical, utilizes skill, technique and power. There are occasions where each and every move is analyzed as well. An explanation by the author is present to aid readers either in his own words or through the characters in the story. What impressed me the most is the unpredictability. One can't read what's going to happen the majority of the time and it keeps you on the edge to provide a thrilling experience. There's a diverse range of duels and characters which results in a different set of moves each time. The character designs are mature and realistic for the most part. There's nothing wrong with the backgrounds either. They are detailed and well drawn. The pacing is near perfect. Things are never too overblown. There's always adequate restraint shown, while presenting any action sequence or character moment. The ending also gives adequate closure and satisfaction. In fact, it comes full circle and I personally could not ask for much more.
Saying all this, does that mean that the story is without flaws? Nope. It has its fair share of misgivings too. Some of the explanations given by the author during the fight scenes may feel jarring at times and stop the flow of the action sequence. The way the fights are staged is repetitive at times (I say this but it's only nitpicking) and finally, it requires the reader to be interested in fights and action sequences if only a little. While there are numerous downtime moments as well, fundamentally the story revolves around duels and street fights. There's no going around this fact. It may actually affect the reader's enjoyment.
However, it's a superb work that deserves recognition and respect for the way it handles itself, grand execution, and characters that drive the story in brilliant fashion. It's more character-driven than it seems. It offers consistent enjoyment throughout its duration. It's a long manga but a very worthwhile investment provided you value anything that I described. It's mature in the way it handles itself as well. So it should strike a chord with the Seinen audience.
I'll end it there. It was a grand and fulfilling experience for me. I did not have high expectations going in but boy was I given something to savor. read more
My first review for a manga, it was just so great that I had to whip out a review for it. I stumbled onto this manga completely by accident and I never regretted it. The entire storyline was so addictive and captivating that I stayed up from 1 am to 3 am to finish the 43 chapters that were hosted on a site. Though I have not completed the manga, it has already left a very deep impression on me.
"Between the world of boys and men,
there lies holy land.
Where laws don't matter and the strongest rule
In that world, "he" roamed Kamishiro Yuu, he was there"
Basically, the story is about a high school student who was bullied throughout his middle school life. The manga clearly depicts the suffering and pain that he went through and how he struggled to overcome it; which is by becoming stronger. His journey to find and protect a place where he could belong and grappling with his identity is realistic and not over the top. He eventually realizes that by getting stronger, he is able to belong in the night streets. But at the same time more people try to challenge him, threatening to take away his "holy land", the night streets.
Holy Land is somewhat like Kenichi, but has a much darker atmosphere and takes things more seriously. The main character Yuu is very well portrayed, and his growth throughout is remarkable. The manga also goes in depth about the inner demons in Yuu, that he actually feels a sense of euphoria when he knocks down anyone in his way though he tries to deny it.It is much more believable than Kenichi, where he just gets stronger and stronger because of just training. Holy land focuses on the psychological effects of bullying extremely well, allowing you to symphatize with the character.
The fighting scenes are also well drawn and fast paced, making shivers go down my spine each time I read them. I even went back and forth 2 or 3 pages sometimes to reread some particular parts over and over again. Yes, it's just that awesome. Sadly, this series is neglected, scans take forever to come out and it is also EXTREMELY underrated in my opinion.
Also, note that this series is NOT for everyone. It differs from people to people. Some people love it, while some hated it. It just depends on yourself.
Like many of you, I'd been searching for a good MA(martial arts) manga for years now. Only found one, Hajime no Ippo. Along the way, it's been a long road strewn with chi blasts, wire-fu and moves that would get you killed in a real fight(Kenichi I'm looking at you). That's not even going into the retarded story lines of so many MA series.
Finally found this little gem and it's just great. Blood, violence, realism and all the consequences that come with it. The characterizations are just so realistic, despite the massive vein of nakama-ness that runs through. The story isn't all that complex, it's more of an exploration of the characters as they clash, not that there's anything wrong with it. The art might not be what many are used to, but please, give it a shot.
And yeah, the moves actually work, which makes the MAist in me real happy.
~Like a whole lot of people who read Holyland, I too was looking for a different kind of MA (martial arts) manga to discover and read. Quite frankly when I first came across Holyland, I thought it was ordinary and probably like any MA manga to read. (e.g. The main character is weak and wants to get stronger OR the main character learns to fight in order to protect those he cares about. Then the main character gets stronger, meets rivals, and blah blah blah...) Still I was curious to see where it would go, which turned out to be something pulling ME to the very end. It really is a great story.
Holyland offers something like all MA mangas do, the main character Yuu Kamishiro is bullied at school and doesn't have the strength to protect himself, until he gets the idea that as long as he can do a simple punch and get away, he'll be ok. However as he beats one thug after another things start to get out of hand. This leds to many rumors and more people go after him. Eventually he wanders the streets trying to find a way out of it, yet he quickly learns that maybe the streets is the only place he can be accepted. Fight after fight he searches for his answer.
That's just the start of the manga! With this particular one, I'm happy to know that it doesn't necessarily focus on a specific martial arts style, but elaborates on the broad term of street fighting. Anything goes when you're in the streets, including the type of fighting style you use and your weapons. It's dirty and you only win by the amount of damage you do to your enemy, not when the bell rings for the match to be over nor when the enemy admits defeat. (well, sometimes...)
And to me, the author does a terrific job of implementing various fighting styles and explaining their strengths and weaknesses in depth. It almost feels like he's teaching you. The explanations are very realistic and inspiring to any person who's interested in martial arts or in self-defense. The characters Yuu meets in the streets are very well made to fit their assigned role. His friends, his enemies, and even the ones who were his enemies before but became his friends afterward. Each person he fought taught Yuu something about himself. Talk about great character development. This drive is what brought the story forward and unfold a great lesson to all who want to fit in somewhere. Just like Yuu. (haha...Yuu or you!)
Story is a 10, being very outstanding and captivating. It's original and is great to anyone who likes MA mangas. A story like no other. Art is a 9, but when you first look at it, you'll think otherwise. The manga is indeed old, therefore I'd like to say the art style is its very own and the fighting scenes are very well made. There's blood and gore made very well to depict the fighting scenes. Characters I give a 10, reason being that they all have their flaws which make them seem more human and ones we can relate to. Like Yuu, who started out as an antisocial teenager who had nothing to do with no one, but he wasn't a cold character. Just lonely and wanted to be normal. I think some of us can relate to that loneliness. Enjoyment and overall view is a 10, because I utterly enjoyed getting into this manga. Like I said, I judged it too much at the beginning but as you go along you'll find it great too AND it's lesson in the end.
~Thanks for reading my reedited review!
***Fun fact to anyone who finished this manga, there's a drama made for it both in Japanese and Korean. Not sure how good it is, but if you're interested look them up. See if they did it right. :P