“At the crossroad in my life, I didn't know which way to go. I just mindlessly choose a random direction... then, after regretting my decision I tried to retrace my steps. However, without even realizing it the sun had already set.”
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa, or Legend of the Strongest Man Kurosawa (not to be mistaken for Onanie Master Kurosawa) is a masterful tragic comedy manga written by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, the original creator of well-known works such as Kaiji, Ten, and Akagi, which tells the magnificent tale of a middle age man going
through a midlife crisis, named Kurosawa.
When it came to life Kurosawa was dealt a bad hand, he was born with appalling looks, an enormous chin as well as an unsightly, crooked nose. Throughout his life Kurosawa made one bad decision after another, leading him to become an emotionally unstable, lonely, and unpopular middle aged construction worker with no friends or family. Kurosawa's legend begins when none of his coworkers remember that it is his 44th birthday. Kurosawa drowns his sorrows in booze and curses his fate until he has an epiphany. After 44 years of cheering for others Kurosawa wants to be able to applaud his own achievements, make friends, and find love.
After Kurosawa and his conflict are introduced the manga places its focus on Kurosawa attempting to become popular at his work place and collecting the remnants of his youth by pursuing various ambitions. Unfortunately, due to Kurosawa's socially awkward nature he makes very little progress to achieving his goals and his many attempts at recognition end in him only becoming loathed and rejected by his peers. Eventually through his antics Kurosawa begins to make some progress and gains respect from others, however in order to truly achieve his goals he must overcome his most tragic flaw, his age. Kurosawa's tragic flaw is what separates him and his story from that of others, in manga such as Welcome to the NHK, and Watamote the characters face similar problems to Kurosawa in the sense that they too are in some way socially awkward and are at times rejected by their peers, but unlike Kurosawa these characters have their whole life ahead of them, while Kurosawa is at the end of his rope.
In order to reach his goals Kurosawa must fight social norms and stand up against oppression from those who resent him, with nothing but his bare hands and strong will. Through his journey Kurosawa evolves from a depressed social misfit into something much more, an admirable man willing to face his problems head on with an assertive and fearless attitude. Due to his eventual fearlessness the manga draws a parallel between Kurosawa and samurai, when push comes to shove both are willing to fight to the death for what they believe. Kurosawa's gradual progression as a person is enduring to say the least and invokes very strong emotions from the reader, giving them a reason to root for Kurosawa in spite of his flaws as a person.
Speaking of flaws, Kurosawa is a very flawed human being, he constantly gets drunk, gets into fits of rage, has lustful fantasies, and gets into fights. These short comings only add a layer of complexity to Kurosawa's character, making him vulnerable despite his muscular body. Kurosawa drinks to run away from his problems, he gets into fits of rage because he can't properly communicate with others, he has lustful fantasies because he is a 44 year old man who has not been in a romantic relationship, and he gets into fights with punks because they pick on the weak, something that Kurosawa can't stand.
Through it's masterful storytelling Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa manages to blend elements of comedy and tragedy effortlessly as the manga constantly throws around jokes that revolve around Kurosawa's condition as well as his attempts at popularity, normally adding humor to a work like this would not bear fruitful results and disengage the reader, but in the case of Kurosawa the comedy not only fails to take anything away from the emotional aspects of the story, but also offers a large dose of wit and personality to the work as a whole.
As I previously mentioned Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa was written by Nobuyuki Fukumoto, and from a visual standpoint he did a fantastic job, Nobuyuki Fukumoto has a very distinct art style and if you have read or watched any of his other works you should be very familiar with what I'm referring to. Fukumoto's characters are typically very unattractive with distinct features such as large noses and long faces. This art style strongly resonates with Kurosawa's story more so than any of Fukumoto's other works as Kurosawa as a character embodies Fukumoto's visual style. Just like in his other works Fukumoto does at times break away from this style when either presenting a visual metaphor or making a joke, these scenes in which the art style changes a bit are a breath of fresh air and at times even add to the comical elements.
Nobuyuki Fukumoto is also well known for his ability to evoke heavy emotions through his character monologues, In Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa Fukumoto delivers some of his most powerful speeches, filling panel after panel with the raw and passionate feeling of Kurosawa. These monologues are one of the strongest points of this manga and bring Kurosawa's struggle down to a personal level, it’s very clear to the reader that Fukumoto could strongly relate to Kurosawa and perhaps went through some of the experiences he did.
Saikyou Densetsu Kurosawa is one of the most powerful and inspirational manga I have ever read and is my favorite work of fiction, so there is a level of bias behind some of my words, but in spite of that I feel as though Kurosawa is masterful in almost every way and deserves more praise than it gets.
UPDATED: 4/26/2015 after first reread