Mar 2, 2015
FreddyTheMonkey (All reviews)
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.

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.