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.
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.
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.
~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
Holyland is the first real long manga that I have ever completed. I normally prefer anime to manga but I definitely enjoy reading manga even though I read very slowly. Well in simple terms Holyland completely blew me away from start to finish. The story is very relatable and the characters are memorable. The entire thing is just so fantastically put together that I can't help but love it.
Holyland is a 182 chapter martial arts psychological manga that is written by the mangaka Mori Kouji. This manga was published for 8 years. The running time was 2000-2008. The actual manga was serialized
in Young Animal.
At first glance the story of Holyland isn't really that special. So we have the kid with really low self esteem and he gets bullied a lot. He proceeds to learn martial arts so he can get stronger and to protect himself. Don't be fooled though, the execution of this story is the closest thing I've seen when it comes to perfection. One thing that sets the story apart is how the manga ka implements his own experiences into the heart of the manga.
Street fighting and martial arts are such a massive part of this story. The mangaka really helps with providing explanations and diagrams to try to make sense of the action that is actually happening in the story. The action is also quality with a great amount of realism and martial arts with street fight grit being implemented.
The story is also very relatable, Yuu's dilemmas are something we can probably all relate to in one way or another. And many of the situations in this story are real life issues such as bullying and drugs. The raw emotions that are projected are extremely well done. Another notable point is how this anime portrayed the streets. This is done in a raw and realistic fashion that I thoroughly enjoyed.
The characters in this are fantastic. All of them have their own flaws and strengths and they play off each other perfectly. The main hero is Kamishiro Yuu who isn't really a hero after all. He got bullied and kind of shut himself away from the world. He finds his home on the streets and meets many new people. Yuu's whole mind set of fitting in and finding a place to belong is something many people can resonate with including myself. He has a very steady rate of change throughout the story.
Shin is yuu's first friend and ends up becoming his best friend in high school. He isn't really a strong fighter but he is always there to remind yuu that he isn't alone through all of the hell he faces. Shougo is also a friend of kamishiro but he has a major psychological complex that damages his relationship with Yuu in the story.
Possibly the most interesting character is Masaki. He is the overseer of the streets and faced hell like yuu did. He managed to rise from the ashes to become a new person. There are also many interesting side characters in this story
All of the psychological attributes of this story are smartly implemented and something the reader can thoroughly understand. Many of the themes present are also great and something everyone can relate to. There was also a old dash of romance but I wish it could have been developed more.
The art in holyland is pretty well done. The grit really bulges through and is very noticeable and I appreciated the gritty realistic style.
So overall this manga was amazing. I lived nearly everything about it and this manga is something that everyone should experience especially if you love manga in the seinen demographic. So overall this manga is great and you should read it.
Sometimes phenomenal manga series get passed over and don't become a TV series. This is a list of the top 10 martial arts manga that should've been made into an anime. Prepare yourself. These stories kick hard.