At the age of sixteen Ryo Narushima was a genius and looked to have no trouble of getting into Tokyo University and joining the elite of society. However, that summer something cracked inside Ryo's head. With a small knife he brutally murdered both of his parents only leaving his sister alive and cowering in a corner. It is at this grotesque incident that our story begins.
In 2004 the series moved from Weekly Manga Action to Evening, resetting the chapter count starting at volume 20. It was discontinued in 2007 due to creative differences but returned in 2011.
Starting from volume 26, the first volume from when the series returned from a long hiatus, the series has been completely written and drawn by Akio Tanaka. While Izou Hashimoto did write the series in the beginning, he had been doing less and less work starting from volume 4. Tanaka and Hashimoto reached a settlement and Shamo continued.
The series' first thirteen volumes were published in Spanish by Otakuland between 2003 and 2005 as Shamo Gallo de pelea.
Over the last month or so I've seen a ton of praise for the manga "Shamo" and recently I just read the whole thing and I feel very let down.
Overall the characterization of Ryu just felt like really all over the place and I didn't feel like it was because he was crazy, it just felt like the author didn't know what he was doing exactly with the character and experimented a lot more than he should have.
Then there's the whole constant perspective swaps that end up taking up nearly half of the chapters in the series. Ryu is the protagonist, he's the "interesting"
character yet many other characters half the time characters who have just been introduced get the spotlight namely Toma and the retarded brothers at the end.
Also Ryu was constantly learning new things throughout the series then in the next part he would completely forget it. There was the whole arc (which I thought was a large part of the downturn of the series) where he learned to use ki. I guess the author thought that addition was as pointless and stupid as I did because Ryu never used that shit again. Then there was the whole "left-handed" concept where Ryu swapped to southpaw in the middle of the fight between him and the Heavyweight champ that was also never used again. Basically anything he learned to do for a fight, any training regimend, any new technique, he would forget by the next time a new fighting opportunity came up.
Overall the whole "arcing" concept and the pacing in general was really poor and disjointed. The author once again felt like he was just experimenting with what he wanted to do with Shamo and some of the arcs could have been different series in themselves because of how different they were. Like the ki arc and the end one with the retard brothers, so off from the overall feel of the series. The ki arc felt like freaking dbz, he just defeated the strongest opponent then all of a sudden he gets stomped by a completely unknown dude and he has to power up his ki to freaking win. The latest arc is practically a gag manga in it's stupidity.
Maybe I went into the manga with too high of expectations from all of the people praising it in this sub but damn I definitely stopped enjoying the manga when his conflict with the karate champ ended and it's not like it was the perfect manga up to that point I would say like 8.5/10 but the quality after that point was crap.
Well, it's pretty difficult to give this series an overall rating since it had a change in authors.
The series starts off really well, I'd even go as far as calling it a masterpiece up to a certain point. But well... as I mentioned this series had a change in authors. The potential masterpiece turns into a cliche fighting manga, it's hard to even call it a seinen manga. The story lost its edge, the characters stopped being interesting, only the art was still well done.
I'd say the first 13 volumes are very well done they are probably around a 9-10/10. You could just
stop reading the manga after those.
Volume 14 to 28 it's more like 7.5/10. It's still somewhat interesting, but at the same time lost some of the excitement. This is kinda where the manga turns cliche. There is a really long arc in there which had some potential, but kinda went nowhere in the end.
And then, Volume 29 to Volume 34 is for me a 2/10.
The ending was so bad, it's hard to even talk about it without trying to make it sound like a joke. The main character, the guy who's known as a devil, who's killed, raped and crippled multiple people, who has learned martial arts for years from different masters is fighting against a guy who doesn't have any martial arts experience, swings a big sword around and looks like a grown man with a girl's haircut....
Oh yea, for some reason the main character also picks up a homeless girl and a dog during these volumes which totally doesn't fit into the theme of the manga and the personality of the main character.
I have heard a great deal about Shamo prior to reading it and it left me with the impression that it’s supposed to be one of the most unique manga around. Furthermore, the synopsis certainly did much to cement that impression.
Well, Shamo is a great and unique manga, but readers may find it is also very familiar.
To begin, the synopsis is misleading. Everything it says does happen, but it gives the impression that what it says is the primary focus of the manga when I would easily argue that it is a fairly unimportant detail that only serves as an explanatory backstory. Seems crazy to
call parricide an unimportant detail, but aside from serving as a MacGuffin for why the MC is so hated, it doesn’t really do much else in the story. Honestly, it seems to me the MC pretty much forgets it altogether at times.
No, instead, if I were to rewrite the synopsis, I would write out one describing a pretty standard martial arts manga – you know, the whole weak guy gets trained by a martial arts master, trains hard, and gradually faces challenges improving along the way. However, there would be one difference and it is basically the whole theme of the manga: the POV of view is from that of the villain.
Imagine every martial arts manga you’ve ever read. Know that villain the good guy MC typically faces who fights dirty, mistreats women, bullies everyone, and basically act like an all-around asshole? Well, he is the MC in Shamo.
And it is a unique and interesting premise. It basically explains how the martial arts villain becomes the way he is, how he succeeds, what he generally does, and etc. In a lot of cases, he basically does the same things as a good guy MC, except, obviously, there’s a lot more darkness and Shamo really revel in that aspect. The MC, Narushima Ryo, is basically a gangster and his life reflects that.
Ignoring the whole martial arts journey – which is common and standard – and the fact that Narushima is essentially your classic villain, what makes Shamo such a great read? I think the strongest compliment I can give it is the sobering and realistic portrayal of a common street thug. This is something most manga does very poorly.
It’s not the fault of most manga. Most of them focus around the good guy MC and can’t give much time to the side characters, thus they can’t really do a portrayal justice. Instead, they eschew subtlety in exchange for blazon portrayals, e.g. the street thugs you see seem to spend all their time robbing others, molesting random women, committing crimes, and all while bellowing evil laughter.
Shamo is, again, all about the villain so the author has a rare opportunity to do the portrayal justice and he does it magnificently. Narushima is a street thug and it shows. His life is sometimes glamorous, but, in most cases, it’s ugly. He commits crimes easily, but, in fact, he does things legitimately most of the time. He is surrounded by shady people who hates him and gladly takes advantage of him, but he can’t do much about it because normal society despise him so he has to survive by being tough.
When he needs money, he turns to doing ugly things. Most often that involves getting into a life-threatening fight, but he survives by backhanded means every step of the way. He knows he is not honorable or fair and he doesn’t give a damn. He intends to live.
He has only a few friends and most of them are outcasts like him. Being around them tends to bring him harm and, likewise, his presence causes them harm too. Any normal people or ‘good guys’ who comes into contact with him or his crew quickly comes to regret it and, in fact, a great deal of the manga has readers cheering for his defeat because the people he fights and cheats against are often such great guys unlike him.
So in short, Narushima’s life sucks because he sucks and everybody hates him knowing how much he sucks. The manga contains little romanticism and things like destiny/fate/good karma/redemption are laughed at. From beginning to end, the mang depicts an utterly sobering life in Narushima Ryo and all those around him.
All in all, the manga is a fantastic read for that reason alone. The art is pretty good and it can get highly suspenseful at times, but all in all, the character exploration of Narushima Ryo is the primary motivator. The author has created a genuinely amazing manga and it should be read for that purpose alone.
Shamo is one series that is difficult to write a simple review for, but I'll try to keep it brief. I may as well get it out of the way - Shamo has one of the worst endings to a manga series that I've ever seen, There's no resolution, no ultimate lesson, just a strong feeling that the author wanted the series over and done with. Now, there are plenty of mediocre manga series but it is particularly distressing here because of the way Shamo started out. The first several volumes or so were cerebral, dark and well-paced. It took a lot of risks, giving
us a main character that was clearly a villain, but who the reader is compelled to root for. This is done by giving the reader a clear look at how he got to be where he is and how he feels during the whole process. It gives us a look at the less savory elements of Japanese culture, but the themes are fairly universal. One of the central themes is how society can never really forgive a criminal and often perpetuates their unlawful behavior because of it. What we get is a character study of a person completely shunned by society. While he is intelligent and talented and desires recognition, his experiences and bad decisions continue to haunt him and prevent him living a rewarding or even a normal life.
That's why I need to give this manga a good rating despite its glaring flaws. The latter half of the series really begins to lose track of what the story is about. The last few volumes are a complete waste of time. Those that have followed the series know about the long hiatus it experienced. It was stuck in a long, messy lawsuit where the creators fought over ownership. In the end, it's understandable how the series ended up but no less disappointing.
I still recommend giving it a read. Just don't bother reading after the first half or so.