In Shinjuku Kabukichou, the biggest sin town in Japan, there are two crazy guys. Ichi is a coward and a wimp, but once he breaks into tears, he turns into a human weapon. With great martial arts skill and a blade hidden in his boots, he butchers a bunch of enemies into mincemeat in the blink of an eye. His arch enemy is Kakihara, a yakuza boss who's tired of everything, including himself. Only when he pierces, cuts, and burns his own and other people's bodies does he feel that he is alive.
Ichi the Killer is a Seinen, Psychological, Thriller about a twisted yakuza warfare involving psychological mind games. The story itself is about excommunicated gangsters seeking revenge however this isn’t made clear until later on in the manga.
For the most part the story follows a fearsome killer known by his codename (Ichi) and the orders he undertakes from his so-called uncle. The main story may lack some depth but it tries to add some by revealing the past bullying experiences of Ichi, which led to his current state of mind. Although it doesn’t seem to do a good job at relating it to the present, it
manages to tie it in with Ichi’s current target. In the end the story does have a repetitive cycle but there are plenty of exciting twists to spice things up.
The artwork is unusually great because there’s lot of detail put every panel and character designs, however most of the character designs are quite unsettling. Also this manga is pretty creative in its depiction of extreme gore and horrific violence, so expect to see the most nauseating thing you can imagine.
Overall Ichi the Killer proved to be one of the most disturbing and gruesome manga ever created, with a twisted story that didn’t make much sense until you get deep into the story. This manga really only served the purpose as a vaccination for extremely, bloody, violent manga because after reading this you’ll never feel a thing when you see like a guy being tortured or decapitated in any other manga. So in the end, this manga is a decent read, but you’ll have to be a violence lover to enjoy this.
Okay first things first, having read through Ichi the Killer I feel obligated to say - nay warn - you that this series does NOT pull any punches. The imagery used is both graphic and perverse, many of the characters possess varying degrees of sadism/masochism and the implications that are brought up are quite disturbing all in all.
Now with all of this said it's important to note that it is because of these aspects that the story works; because Ichi the Killer does not filter content it can show the darkest part of the criminal underbelly in the least flattering light possible, a light a
great many of us prefer not to acknowledge exists. Thus Ichi the Killer is constantly walking a thin line between alienating the audience and drawing them in deeper into the story.
The setting, as mentioned above, takes place in the criminal underbelly (in this case the Japanese red light district) and for the most part has an apartment complex occupied by multiple Yakuza gangs act as the key location. The complex serves a few functions, the most plot relevant one being that it's acts as a cease fire zone for the gangs, which allows for them to live side by side, interact with one another on a "business" level and sort out any problems the gangs may have with one another in a diplomatic manner.
This is where the plot kicks in. We are quickly introduced to four men sneaking into Yakuza holy ground who provide us with some exposition about events that have recently transpired. Through them we learn that their leader (simply referred to as Ji-Ji) arranged for the head of one such gang to be killed by the titular Ichi and that they are going up to clean up the crime scene before the other Yakuza learn of his death, and take whatever money there is in the groups vault. This of course sets off a chain reaction which brings in the underling of the deceased Yakuza boss, the sadomasochistic maniac Kakihara to discover the nature of his boss' disappearance, whilst punishing anyone who may be involved in a gruesome manner.
The story itself follows on the perspectives of Ichi, Kakihara, Ji-Ji and their respective associates throughout the story, giving you their perspectives of the events that have transpired so far. This allows the reader to have a certain level of familiarity with the plot, though it also purposefully withholds certain details to maintain a level of tension to balance this out. By the end of the series there are some unexplained points that could really use proper explanation and certain elements when the focus is squarely on Ichi do drag down plot progression early on, but neither of these stop the end of the series from having a certain kind of payoff.
The characters in general feel fleshed out (if a bit focused on a particular character trait) and play off each other well. As this is the kind of series where people are killed in particularly brutal ways characters will often get a bit of character development before they meet their maker, which helps them leave an impact on the reader even if they might not have particularly cared for the character that has just died.
A lot of the enjoyment from Ichi the Killer stems from the humour, which ranges from pitch black to comparatively light hearted, this helps balance out the pure sadism that is frequently displayed by several characters. It should be noted that if you're particularly sadistic yourself that you may get a kick from the over the top-ness of some of the violent scenes presented, though this becomes much harder to do as the scenes get increasingly bloodthirsty.
Finally, as the artwork is of particular mention, it has to be said that Ichi the Killer is superbly drawn. Both characters and background environments are consistently drawn on model and in high detail, with each character looking distinct enough that you'd be hard pressed mistaking a character from this Manga with a character from another one. Fittingly this also means that the torture scenes (all of which are downright sickening to think about) never miss a beat either so be sure to keep that in mind.
So if you're looking for a unique psychological Manga and can stomach themes of sadism/masochism, full frontal nudity, grotesque torture and violence that goes into overkill territory then I recommend giving this a read, though if you ever begin to get squeamish during or just by reading about it then give it a miss, if anything that's the sensible thing to do.
Wow, this manga will leave a lasting impression on you for a few days after reading it. The art in this book is incredibly detailed (Gekiga style), there are no cutting corners when drawing the characters or even the background scenery. The characters all have their own distinct personalities and they develop more and more as the story progresses. The art also gets better every volume.
This book is enjoyable, if you know what your going to be dealing with. I recommend watching the movie first just to see what your going to be reading. The amount of violence, sexual taboos,
and overall insanity displayed by the characters in this book is not for the casual reader. Some scenes in this book either made me say "What the hell?" or made me squirm in my seat...
This book regardless of its content, is an incredible manga. Great pacing, art, story and characters that make you want to read the next volume just to see what situation they get themselves into next.
Koroshiya 1, or Ichi the Killer as I will address the serie from now on, is the story of a group of excommunicated Yakuza members who try to achieve money and pursue their objectives by manipulating and killing other criminals, aided by their partner Ichi, a ruthless killer. Ichi is in fact a young man in his twenties, with a dramatic past which caused his mental instability. This manga is his story as well. The author tackles themes such as violence, power, crime and the likes, adds a whole bunch of extreme violence, vices and perversions and builds a complex story which continuosly surprises
the reader with twists and unexpected scenes. The plot is very intelligent and will surprise you if you think that Ichi the Killer has only violence to offer. Truth be told, the story has some flaws and something remains way too open to interpretations even in the finale; occasionally the dialogues are too ambiguous for the reader, even when they are not meant to be so by plot reasons.
ART: 9 - CHARACTERS: 8
Hideo Yamamoto's art is beautiful and an extremely strong point of the manga. The trait is rich and incredibly expressive: in fact, the best aspect is represented by the facial expression of the characters (who actually look Japanese! This can be a surprise for a casual manga reader), especially Ichi's and Kakihara's. Aside from the characters, the settings are also detailed and beautiful. Yamamoto's depiction of violence is extremely crude and brutal, exposing mutilations and strikingly painful situation with a clinic level of detail. Almost perfect, really.
As far as the characters go, the author decided to introduce a limited number of them (the relevant ones of course) and to make them as twisted as possible, all while retaining a strong realism. Even the most positive of the characters are not quite "good" if you look at the whole picture. But, aside from Ichi and Kakihara, the villain, who are the peak of the characterization (and develop during the story), we can remember Jiji to be particularly explored personality-wise, while the others are mostly "there" and we do not get to know them that deeply.
The tension of the story is always high, with dangerous manipulations occurring while you're never sure of their outcome, brutal torture scenes and ruthless assassinations. While the rythm increases when Ichi takes action, in general it is slower than you expect, and you'll have to read carefully in order not to lose anything important in the twisted mindgames between Kakihara and Jiji. If you are captured by the dark atmosphere and are not disturbed by massive gore and violence (be careful if you consider reading this manga, because you'll find a great deal of those), the intensity of the story will make sure that you continue reading until the ending (which is not as resolutive as I would have liked).
Overall, this is recommended to those who want a realistic, ultra-violent and dark thriller manga. It's not suitable for everyone, but for those who dig this kind of darkness and depravity it is one to read because of the complex story, engaging characters and superb art style. It has some flaws, but it's a little gem anyway.