Jun 30, 2008
Beatnik (All reviews)
Smuggler is a 4 chapter crime caper that rolls along with Tarantino-esque underworld hijinks and Korean gangster flick humour.

Think Pulp Fiction crossed with A Bittersweet Life and you get some idea of the vibe in Shohei Manabe's manga. Various groups of men collide violently together because of their hazardous occupations, whether it be assassins, gangsters or smugglers. There isn’t really a main character that we follow, but the new kid who joins the clean-up crew is the most obvious pick for the guy we're meant to relate to, and who we get a flashback of. The characters we're more likely to enjoy however are the assassins, and the leader of the clean-up smuggling crew, who naturally butt heads eventually.

The story follows the assassins doing their thing, which attracts the attention of yakuza, who ultimately hire the services of the smugglers, but things in life rarely ever go smoothly. The pleasure is in watching these characters; that carry gigantic chips on their shoulders, deal with ever increasingly out of control situations. Manabe inserts subtle humour into the proceedings which is what made me think of film director Tarantino or Kim Ji-woon, who would be perfect for adapting this onto the big screen, although they would then be accused of churning out the same old same old.

Smuggler's art is detailed and neat for background locations, like most seinen manga, but the character art is interesting indeed. Very striking facial structures for the quirky cast. It won’t be to many people's taste, but at least it's different, and in a way fits with the disturbing tale being told.

Smuggler’s a cool thriller that rolls along to a viciously brilliant climax and satisfying resolution.