Nov 14, 2020
Funnily enough, Yuria Gaiden does not revolve so much around Yuria than it does around Juuza and Shin. In fact it even serves as a better Juuza Gaiden than the original Juuza Gaiden.
Hokuto no Ken is masterful in the way Hara and Buronson are able to walk this very thin line between asinine and emotionally engaging. Characters, dialogues and plot in the orignal manga are among the stupidest I've seen in any work of fiction... but the art, the scenography and the overall narration manages to make most of the scenes strangely poignant. The presentation is so unapologetic, so casual in its ridiculousness, so serious
and yet so ironic it strikes the perfect balance of idiocy and solemnity. Despite appearances it is a subtle craft that both takes skill and talent. Both Jagi's and Juuza's gaidens failed to maintan this balance and slipped into the abyss of inanity but Yuria's managed to capture a little of Hokuto no Ken's magic. Its narration is not as good as the original's but its characters are also not as dumb (though they still are) so the balance is somewhat preserved.
The main gripe I have with this spin-off is that it is kind of bland. In fact, I'm a bit sad that Yuria is such a minor character in her own story. I think a lot more could have been done here. Though criminally underdeveloped in the main story, Yuria is still an interesting character as she answers Ken's so well. Everybody adores Yuria (for some unfortunately unexplored reason), and this adoration is often mistaken for love. They both are messianic figures, and if Ken is "Kung Fu Jesus", Yuria is "post-apocalyptic Sophia". Even in their diegesis, Yuria and Ken are not people; they represent ideals ("The Incarnation of Indra" cf chapter 24) and that's why Lin realises she cannot be with Ken in the end.
After defeating the demiurgal figure that is Raoh, Ken decides to go back to the desert and let Hokuto Shinken die with him: Hokuto no Ken is the Twillight of the Gods and the beginning of the Age of Man. That's why I enjoy this Elysium-like depiction of the world before the nuclear catastrophe this spin-off adopts, and the premises it sets. But the one-shot format sadly does not leave much space for character development and symbolism. To make matters worse it lacks focus... and as much as I appreciate seeing Juuza and Shin I cannot help but thnk they led to wasted potential.
Kasai's art is great and features astute shoujo style reinterpretations of iconic 80s shonen characters, adding to this "Eden before the fall" feeling. I find this approach both bold and clever, it's a pity that backgrounds feel so empty... and the fight choreography is fairly poor as well.
This Yuria Gaiden is filled with interesting ideas but fails to elevate itself to more than average by lack of a better execution.
Reviewer’s Rating: 5
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