Feb 28, 2014
Po_and_Dong (All reviews)
Holyland is a martial arts manga about a first year high school student Kamishirou Yuu. When Kamishirou is introduced to the reader, he looks like an extremely beta and timid main character who is about to be beat up and robbed by some thug on the street. Interestingly enough, Kamishirou quickly beats the shit out of him using a one-two punch, all the while looking extremely scared and about to cry, while a suave man voices conveniently timed information about the one-two punch. Kamishirou is introduced to the man, whose name is Masaki Iwaya (known as the charisma of the streets), who makes an impression on him. After that we start to be introudeced to the character of Kamishirou. He is a boy with a history of being bullied and recently pitied with his parents. Depressed and alone, Kamishirou stops going to school and almost kills himself. Returning to his drull lifestyle, Kamishirou happens to check out a book on boxing. Kamishirou practices a boxing jab to an incredulous degree, doing it in shadow boxing 5000 times a day for who knows how long, leading him to have the ridiculous, yet severely unconfident power he shows in the introduction. After that, Kamishirou gets involved in street fighting through a series of circumstances, and meets a bunch of characters along the way. Most people have seen this kind of scenario before in manga, but don't let that detract you from the story thinking its cliche, as the news will show this happens all the time in real life. Small details are ever present in this story, paying close attention to the atmosphere and attempting to understand the characters on a deeper level rewards readers with a fantastic and realistic story about youth, violence, and finding a place for yourself.

The first thing I will review in depth is the most important part about this manga, which is the story aspect. The plot is full of small mini-arcs revolving around a particular foe to face in the first half of the manga, all the while the overarching themes come into play mainly through the main character Kamishirou, but also through several important side characters. Characters are where this manga really shine. Character writing does not get better than this, all characters are realistic portrayals of different personalities which shine in multiple different ways. All the characters have their own problems, all have their own views on the world, all have their own motivations. They have a dyanamic philosphy on the events around them, but they are never preachy. Their is a healthy dose of angst in this manga, almost exclusively from Kamishirou. Angst has become a buzzword for stereotypical teenage character development, but don't dismiss it. It's a realistic portrayal of a teenager constantly being surrounded by pity, shame, and bloody violence. Howver, the manga is certainly not just about him. The deurtagonists really stand out and are argueably more in-depth than Kamishirou himself, particularly Masaki Iwaya and Shougo. But not all characters need to have a complicated past and personal issues to be great, Iwado and Tsuchiya particularlly are funny and give quirks to this manga to keep the energy. The charisma of the whole thing is perfect, it never feels out of place and the pacing runs true throughout. The ending left me surprised yet satisfied, thinking about the characters afterwards even more so. The bottom line is this story is a great introspect on violence, youth in society, and confronting realistic personal demons.

The martial arts in this manga is very COOL. I use the word cool on purpose, as its an accurate way to describe it all. These fights are not ridiculously over-the-top like the ones in Sun Ken Rock, and they aren't creative fantasy battles like the ones in Shin Angyo Onshi, this is a very down to earth martial arts manga. In fact, its so down to earth, that this manga constantly explains the mechanics of real martial arts and street fighting. Needless to say, the fights themselves are realistic because of that. Kamishirou is mainly a boxer, but throughout the manga you see details on not only boxing and street fighting as a whole, but also karate, judo, kenpo, kendo, and werestling, as well as their competitive aspects. The author frequently breaks the 4th wall in context by explaining these martial arts and their techniques in a personal way, sometimes with his own little anecdotes. While I am not an aspiring street fighter, if you happen to be, you might want to take some notes as its pretty interesting. Art is nice considering this manga's age of 10 years or so, there are really no particular issues with it that ruin the experience. It has a unique style and is able to convey the energy and expression of any situation, which is all thats needed to enjoy the story and the fights.Coming off of this, it is definitely one of my favorites. I'm sure this isn't too convincing as I tend to say that about all the things I review here, but don't let that discourage you. This is an amazingly well written martial arts drama, with a great atmosphere and significant tweest to make you want to read more. It under no circumstance, drags on or goes to slow. It's hard to label Holyland as anything besides underrated, it's truly fantastic and I'm sure you would think so too.