44 years old, single, working in a construction company for his entire life. All Kurosawa wants is a little respect from his co-workers. And a little popularity won't hurt. Unfortunately Kurosawa's plans fail miserably from time to time and one day, he finds himself right in the middle of a fight against...delinquent middle schoolers?
“At the crossroad in my life, I didn't know which way to go. I just mindlessly choose a random direction... then, after regretting my decision I tried to retrace my steps. However, without even realizing it the sun had already set.”
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa, or Legend of the Strongest Man Kurosawa (not to be mistaken for Onanie Master Kurosawa) is a masterful tragic comedy manga written by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, the original creator of well-known works such as Kaiji, Ten, and Akagi, which tells the magnificent tale of a middle age man going
through a midlife crisis, named Kurosawa.
When it came to life Kurosawa was dealt a bad hand, he was born with appalling looks, an enormous chin as well as an unsightly, crooked nose. Throughout his life Kurosawa made one bad decision after another, leading him to become an emotionally unstable, lonely, and unpopular middle aged construction worker with no friends or family. Kurosawa's legend begins when none of his coworkers remember that it is his 44th birthday. Kurosawa drowns his sorrows in booze and curses his fate until he has an epiphany. After 44 years of cheering for others Kurosawa wants to be able to applaud his own achievements, make friends, and find love.
After Kurosawa and his conflict are introduced the manga places its focus on Kurosawa attempting to become popular at his work place and collecting the remnants of his youth by pursuing various ambitions. Unfortunately, due to Kurosawa's socially awkward nature he makes very little progress to achieving his goals and his many attempts at recognition end in him only becoming loathed and rejected by his peers. Eventually through his antics Kurosawa begins to make some progress and gains respect from others, however in order to truly achieve his goals he must overcome his most tragic flaw, his age. Kurosawa's tragic flaw is what separates him and his story from that of others, in manga such as Welcome to the NHK, and Watamote the characters face similar problems to Kurosawa in the sense that they too are in some way socially awkward and are at times rejected by their peers, but unlike Kurosawa these characters have their whole life ahead of them, while Kurosawa is at the end of his rope.
In order to reach his goals Kurosawa must fight social norms and stand up against oppression from those who resent him, with nothing but his bare hands and strong will. Through his journey Kurosawa evolves from a depressed social misfit into something much more, an admirable man willing to face his problems head on with an assertive and fearless attitude. Due to his eventual fearlessness the manga draws a parallel between Kurosawa and samurai, when push comes to shove both are willing to fight to the death for what they believe. Kurosawa's gradual progression as a person is enduring to say the least and invokes very strong emotions from the reader, giving them a reason to root for Kurosawa in spite of his flaws as a person.
Speaking of flaws, Kurosawa is a very flawed human being, he constantly gets drunk, gets into fits of rage, has lustful fantasies, and gets into fights. These short comings only add a layer of complexity to Kurosawa's character, making him vulnerable despite his muscular body. Kurosawa drinks to run away from his problems, he gets into fits of rage because he can't properly communicate with others, he has lustful fantasies because he is a 44 year old man who has not been in a romantic relationship, and he gets into fights with punks because they pick on the weak, something that Kurosawa can't stand.
Through it's masterful storytelling Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa manages to blend elements of comedy and tragedy effortlessly as the manga constantly throws around jokes that revolve around Kurosawa's condition as well as his attempts at popularity, normally adding humor to a work like this would not bear fruitful results and disengage the reader, but in the case of Kurosawa the comedy not only fails to take anything away from the emotional aspects of the story, but also offers a large dose of wit and personality to the work as a whole.
As I previously mentioned Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa was written by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, and from a visual standpoint he did a fantastic job, Nobuyuki Fukumoto has a very distinct art style and if you have read or watched any of his other works you should be very familiar with what I'm referring to. Fukumoto's characters are typically very unattractive with distinct features such as large noses and long faces. This art style strongly resonates with Kurosawa's story more so than any of Fukumoto's other works as Kurosawa as a character embodies Fukumoto's visual style. Just like in his other works Fukumoto does at times break away from this style when either presenting a visual metaphor or making a joke, these scenes in which the art style changes a bit are a breath of fresh air and at times even add to the comical elements.
Nobuyuki Fukumoto is also well known for his ability to evoke heavy emotions through his character monologues, In Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa Fukumoto delivers some of his most powerful speeches, filling panel after panel with the raw and passionate feeling of Kurosawa. These monologues are one of the strongest points of this manga and bring Kurosawa's struggle down to a personal level, it’s very clear to the reader that Fukumoto could strongly relate to Kurosawa and perhaps went through some of the experiences he did.
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa is one of the most powerful and inspirational manga I have ever read and is my favorite work of fiction, so there is a level of bias behind some of my words, but in spite of that I feel as though Kurosawa is masterful in almost every way and deserves more praise than it gets.
And now it’s time for another amazing (half ass) review from the world renowned and now famous (in his head) Daimyo. In our last segment we reviewed blank. Indeed blank and blank’s characters will always hold a pace in my heart. This time around we’ll be reviewing a personal favorite of mine Fukumoto Nobuyuki’s Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa (Legend of the strongest Man, Kurosawa). And now I know they’ll be those among you who will ask what’s the occasion? Why is the elusive and super rare Pokémon Daimyo making such an appearance? A review even!? Well I can calmly say that it
is for absolutely no good reason. (That and I saw that nobody else did a review so I might as well steal some spotlight) And without further ado let’s start this catastrophe!
Miserable, alone and overall just plain pathetic Kurosawa seeks purpose in his life. He constantly tries to fit into society but is equally rejected. His colleagues don’t respect him and his best friend is a traffic robot. Yes, Kurosawa is just like you, the unlucky reader who happens to be reading this review (just substitute traffic robot with your collection of anime and/or gaming material). And that’s just what makes the story of Kurosawa so great, it’s so believable so realistic. The story places us in the shoes of a middle-aged loser. Fukumoto’s amazing storytelling ability greatly executed. Through out the story there are many twists, unexpected events and hardships that those of you accustomed to his other works such as Kaiji and Akagi will recognize and appreciate. This story will definitely take you on an emotional rollercoaster with many ups and downs before it comes to a dramatic stop.
As mentioned earlier the strength of Fukumoto’s writing is what truly makes the story unique. In the character of Kurosawa we see him progress from a loser with no ambition and no goals, to a man who knows that while he may not have won at life will not stop to protect the values he believes in. Kurosawa is definitely manri. A modern samurai if you will, even when crying in tears like a small child Kurosawa’s manriness will make you shit in your pants. The side characters while definitely not as amazing as kurosawa do a good job as Kurosawa’s support. First and foremost we have super tall and hormonally abused middle schooler Nakane (people are this big in japan?). The first important person Kurosawa goes apeshit on and also the first person to call Kurosawa his bro. Next we have Ono former delinquent and hater of Kurosawa who comes to respect Kurosawa as a manri man and pretty much turns him into the banchou of the workplace. Finally the last side character that deserves a name in my review is that pathetic kid weird kid ugh what’s his name again… oh yea Asai was his name. He’s kind of out of place in the theme of this manga but somehow he fits well. Or maybe it’s the fact he did almost absolutely nothing the entire manga I have nothing negative or positive to write about him. Throw in a trail mix of side characters and enemies and this manga really has a solid cast to it. We’re not going to see much evolution in terms of the other characters, but who cares we’re here for Kurosawa.
Boy did I have fun with this one. Kurosawa’s crazy and over the top tactics for defeating his opponents had me either standing in awe with my mouth dropped like a scream replica or laughing my ass off. Honorable mention goes to the chapter titled Biological Warfare… it was definitely biological. There was just the right amount of despair and satisfaction between each arc and problem Kurosawa had to face. Thankfully this is Fukumoto we’re dealing with so he was successful in keeping this feeling all the way to the end of the manga. That being said I have seen some people complain about the story’s pacing, especially in the beginning. They claim it was either too depressing or slow and they would be correct. Indeed it takes about 20/25 or so chapters in before this one really takes off. I do however feel the intro did a great job of getting us into the mind of Kurosawa.
Great series. What more can be said?(And I am sure by now you want me to stop talking). If you are a fan of Fukumoto’s work or are just a fan of psychological thrillers with just the right amount of action you’ll love this one. And to finish this long review I shall leave you all with a thought provoking quote from the manga. (Wearing my fancy hat) « Panties are the best! »
Notes 2.0 Now in 2D!
Daimyo is crazy and therefore his opinions are not to be taken seriously.
Daimyo does not re-read his sentences.
Daimyo is not Japanese, he is a weaboo… and proud.
Daimyo is not liable for any brain aneurysms obtained while reading his reviews.
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa is an outstanding manga by Nokuyuki Fukumoto of Kaiji and Akagi fame, telling a story about a man named Kurosawa and his quest to find his place in the world. Throughout its 70 something chapters it gives some of the most touching and bizarre moments, all revolving around the titular strongest man. I begin the review by saying that this Legend of the Strongest Man is one of the best manga I've ever read.
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa, or as its known in English as The Legend of the Strongest Man Kurosawa, tells the story of Mr. Kurosawa, a 44 year old single, overweight
man who has been working the majority of his life as a construction worker. One day while feigning interest in a soccer game with coworkers, Kurosawa has an epiphany that people should be able to cheer for their own success, not just that of other people, which he finds he has been unable to do. Depressed over his underachievement throughout his life and depressed simply about being depressed, Kurosawa sets it upon himself to find his success, though he does not know exactly how to do so himself. He begins his journey by attempting to make friends with the coworkers at work, yet his forced attempts only bring about disastrously cringe worthy consequences. From there on, Kurosawa finds himself in one bizarre situation after another, all while trying to find his place in the world. While I don't want to spoil the story, I can say that Kurosawa's adventure covers everything from finding a new philosophy in life, to achieving his own personal success, to an all out war with the young punks in the area.
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa's story is a myriad of genres, although most notably is drama and comedy, and both affect the plot. Underneath it however is a story packed with realistic expectations and doubts, with some of the best development of its main character, Kurosawa. Kurosawa himself is fantastic, he is, unlike many protagonists, extremely stupidly normal. Kurosawa has nothing special about him at all, literally, he is overweight, not very good to look at, and has no talents or quirks about him. He is a complete anti-thesis to a myriad of other manga protagonists, for better or worse. Of course, whether or not this necessarily makes his character superior, doesn't matter because he is a fantastic character beyond that. Kurosawa's personality has no real abnormalities to it, in fact his simple desires to make friends among other things, are boring objectives! Yet his unwavering determination throughout all of the depressing circumstances drive this manga to never before seen locations. The story of Kuroawa is unique, unique because it takes things that are taken for granted not just in other manga but in real life as well, and puts them to measure. Kurosawa is a depressing character, because he is depressed himself. Depressed that he has barely any money, no success, no family. But he sets himself to change it all, and it is a fantastic quest indeed. Development of Kurosawa in this manga is of course exceptional. Character development is to put it simply, a flimsy and especially subjective standard, but Kurosawa's changes are both noticeable and real. They are very real, they feel natural to an amazing degree. Kurosawa comes to his own realizations in his life, and about his circumstances, something that becomes admirable through the manga pages themselves and into the hearts and mind of the reader. For this and among other things, he is just extremely likable, this is the first thing that comes to mind when reading his exploits. He is just fantastic, and a perfect lead to the story. There are of course, some other characters, but none of them share the same length of development as Kurosawa. Kurosawa's journey is for the most part solitary, and thus he is the star of all events one way or another. Through this great story we are able to see all the facets of his personality, and the rigors of his quest. The realism of it all, and I use this term with good measure, is very noticeable. To put it in more detail, Kurosawa takes the little things other manga may touch on, like people's place in society and zooms on it completely. It is never pretentious in the slightest, in fact it is so dramatically crazy on something so seemingly insignificant that it can be called the opposite of pretentious. Kurosawa doesn't preach, he shows his resolve through his blood and samurai spirit, his fear and emotions run through the reader. One cannot help but cheer the pitiful Kurosawa on, with his good meaning nature and admirable conclusions, he reaches a synergy with the reader and the story that many manga can only dream of, same genre or not. Kurosawa learns his lessons through vigor, and is far from perfect. If he makes a mistake and reaches a conclusion, he will make the mistake again! And yet even a third time, Kurosawa is a fool, but that is why he is fantastic. It's so difficult to express just how written the entire thing is. Beyond the story itself, there is also alot of comedy, however its not quite the goofball shenigans that the premise may at times suggest. Unlike a manga like Watamote, which Kurosawa has mutual circumstances with in the beginning, Kurosawa has conclusion to its facets. If one said that Watamote was a monster of the week type of comedy when it came to social situations, Kurosawa would be the Illiad of them. But most importantly, this does not drive the entire manga, it reaches conclusions. These conclusions are the driving part of the story, they are pivots to keep the momentum. More on the comedy though, this manga is truly hilarious. Frequently I found a smile on my face of the bizarre situations that occurred to Kurosawa, linked to a haphazard decision. There are times when you can just laugh at it, its great. It mostly comes from how likable Kurosawa is as a character, in addition to the situations he comes into. It just all works out very well. The themes of this manga frequesntly deal with place in society, something that this manga shares with Fukomoto's many gambling works. But with this theme comes real conclusiveness, an ending and meaning that is unparalleled. There is weight to this manga, it is not to be underestimated for any reason. If I hear how someone doesn't read this because of the art style, I want to kill them and flush them down the toilet, please don't let that stop you from reading this. This is a personal 10/10 and something I would recommend to any fan of any kind of genre of manga. It is a fantastic outlook on aspects of depression in life and real situations. It is hilarious, touching, and at times, tragic. The determination of this Strongest Man knows no bounds, and neither does the excellence of it's manga. I implore you to read it.
Fukumoto Nobuyuki’s work has a strange appeal. It is so bizarre, yet buried within the self-deprecating eccentricity is a boundless love and understanding for humanity in all its ugliest forms. He gets people. His writing is wild and somewhat unrefined, but his capacity for creating relatable, engaging characters is impressive, to say the least. And so it is with Legend of the Strongest Man Kurosawa, where in spite of a few pitfalls, great characterization blends with powerful, sweeping statements about society and life to create an unorthodox, volatile, yet ultimately touching story.
Kurosawa is a construction worker and alcoholic in his 40s, living alone in his
small, beat-up apartment. Lonely, depressed, unshaved, and wanting desperately for more in life, he repeatedly tries to scheme and plot his way into friendships, lovers, and achievements – most of which end in hilariously disastrous failure. One of the strengths of this manga is its ability to mix its depressing subject matter with dark humor. Fukumoto constantly puts Kurosawa into awkward situations made even more humiliating by Kurosawa’s ridiculous and naïve plans to curry favor with his coworkers or other strangers. The humor is balanced very well with the heavier messages that arise from these scenes. I will say that this style occasionally annoyed me in the middle of the manga, however. The drawback of Fukumoto’s style is that some of the characters can come off as purposeless caricatures, and this line is frequently crossed when the plot is at its most weakest and most unfocused.
This is the manga’s biggest problem; it meanders from one event to the next with only the characters holding it all together. In some ways this is a mixed blessing; while it allows for greater thematic focus (especially towards the end of the manga), as I said earlier it can get tiresome trudging through some of the middle chapters, where some of the happenings make very little sense from a logical standpoint. For example, the entirety of volume 4 is incredibly contrived and out-of-place given the trauma he should have been suffering from events in the prior volumes. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with plotless, character-driven stories (indeed most of my favorite anime and manga are character-driven), but in this case the story itself doesn’t have a flow, because the events aren’t well-connected and the journey sometimes feels pointless. Honestly, several of the middle volumes could just be taken out entirely and the story wouldn't suffer that much. There is a loooooot of padding and randomness that almost turns the manga from a poignant, existentialist, character-driven story into a dull slice of life with old guys instead of prepubescent moe chicks.
Still, to Fukumoto’s credit, he lampshades all of this in the manga’s thematic development. (One line in particular from of the later chapters comes to mind, when Kurosawa literally says “My life doesn’t have a plot”.) This is where the manga shines – its themes of depression, alienation, failure, and redemption create a backdrop against which the impact of the story’s seemingly random and chaotic structure is minimized. His hopelessness, his melancholy, his frustration at life, and his existential anxiety mirror what many of us have felt at some point in our lives, regardless of age. And it’s towards the end where the manga hits its stride thematically, as Kurosawa’s journey draws to a close and culminates in an incredibly poignant finale.
As a result of this thematic emphasis, Kurosawa’s characterization and development in this manga borders on exceptional. While the side characters are a bit lacking – many serve as plot devices or dimensionless foils – Kurosawa himself is unforgettable; making a likeable protagonist out of a loser and a deadbeat is no easy task, but Fukumoto is able to do just that. Each step of Kurosawa’s journey reveals another dimension to his character: the various fights and skirmishes that he involves himself in, along with his slowly increasing social circle and standing at work, highlight the growth of his courage and assertiveness as a character, in addition to developing his sense of morality. The most substantial change, though, is in the way his outlook on life evolves from one of depression-borne nihilism, as his experiences slowly but surely start to give his life meaning and purpose. As the manga winds down to its heartbreaking conclusion, Kurosawa begins to realize that perhaps even a lost cause like himself can derive value and significance from life simply by being human and living.
The side characters do suffer, though. Virtually all of them are left woefully underdeveloped and don't really do much outside of guiding the story in a specific direction. Nakane is probably one of the few supporting characters that does get some development, but it's still lacking.
The artwork is definitely a point of contention, but personally I think it’s quite good, although as I mentioned earlier, it comes with its risks. Fukumoto loves to portray people in their most repulsive state; ridiculously rectangular jawlines, slanted and angry eyebrows, missing teeth, massive lips, and my favorite – the TEARS, the constant stream of tears and snot and sweat running down their faces in even remotely stressful situations, populate this work. It’s very similar to Kaiji in that regard. It’s funny, but it’s also remarkable in the sense that it conveys Fukumoto’s characterization with vivid authenticity. The downside to such a style is that – again, as I said before – there is a danger of caricaturizing characters and divorcing the reader from a sense of realism, something that happens semi-frequently during the middle of the manga. The panel layout is fairly neat and backgrounds are detailed – although Fukumoto loves to draw speed lines to emphasize climactic moments, but it’s not a big deal.
While I had my issues with some parts of the manga, the finished product was more than satisfactory. With an intriguing premise, a bizarre narrative style, an indelible protagonist, great thematic delivery, and an evocative ending, the Legend of the Strongest Man Kurosawa is definitely worth a read.