The Koukoku world is quite a "fantasy"; it has dragons, telepathy and saver tigers, but its "reallity" of war and soldiers struck me so much that I choose this title as the BEST military manga for decades.
The technique background of this manga is equivalent to that in 18-19th century: the main gun arms are matchlocks and the cavalry charge is the strongest attack in the close combat. This restrictied background makes the battle tactically exciting. Shinjo wisely takes advantage of the telepathy soldiers and saver tigers and fights against Teikoku army 50 times larger than his ballation. The situation of the Shinjo's battalion is desperately
bad. But no "miracle" helps them, rather it worsen the situation. That's makes this manga "real".
The arts by Ito Yuu is lively and energetic. I got overwhelmed by the breathtaking description of the hand-to-hand battle and the head-on collision of the cavalry soldiers and the saver tigers. I also feel some tenderness from her design of characters. I think the combination of the violent military manga and a female artist has brought forth a new sensation.
The exciting combat is not the only attraction of this manga. The character sketch is also impressive. Shinjo is not a "Superman". His teeth chatters with fright when he confronts the enemy. But once the battle begins, he becomes a brave and sadistic soldier. The duality in Shinjo's personality deepen his character. He receives good reputation from his subordinate for his generous behavior, but he realizes it's hypocricy. He lay bare his distress when a teenage telepathy soldier died from overwork: "I don't beg for your mercy, but I won't let
you regret..." and he questioned to himself. "Is that true? Are you surely think so, Shinjo Naoe?"
The duality of character is not only true for Shinjo. The backgrounds of the Teikoku officers are also depicted in detail. Kaminski is appears to be an elite officer with good looking, but his past as a male prostitute accounts for his innate ambition for authority. Barkhorn is a warmhearted person of a noble birth, but his tough looking led him to become a dauntless cavalryman.
In the intense battles, this manga deeply drawn the emotion of the soldiers: hope for survival, fear for death, and dilemma between the duty and the humanity. I strongly recommend this manga to people who hesitate to read a military title.