Broken Blade Volume 1
By Yunosuke Yoshinaga
Publisher: CMX/Flex Comics
Rating: T+ (Older Teens)
Rygart Arrow is a man with a problem. He’s one of the tiny minority, perhaps one in a million, who cannot charge the quartz crystals that power all of the machines in his world. He cannot drive vehicles, he cannot use machinery, he’s what is known as an “unsorcerer”. However, he is well educated and old college friends with the King and Queen of Krisna, who are facing an incursion from their neighboring nation of Athens. When they learn that the Athen army is led by Zess, the final part of their college foursome and he’s marching on their borders, they call on Rygart in their time of need. Can he figure out how to operate the Under-Golem, an ancient magic-less machine in time to save his friends?
At first blush, this isn’t the kind of manga I really go for. Mecha, yes. Magic, absolutely not. Finding hard sci-fi manga coming out of Japan is extremely difficult so there are times that I’ll take a look at what is effectively sci-fantasy and this certainly qualifies. Secondly, they do another thing I hate, they try to stick giant robots into essentially feudal societies. I’ve seen it happen far too often that they present technology as an anachronism, but technology inherently changes societies beyond it’s own existence. Thirdly, and this is the clincher, they play the “ancient people were far smarter than any of you fools” card. Ancient man built far more advanced machines that can save the day, if only you modern folk can wrap your tiny minds around their operation. Three strikes and conceptually, Broken Blade is out as far as I’m concerned.
Artistically, it’s not bad. Certainly it’s not great, but I’ve seen much worse art in manga so I can’t be too down on it, but it’s nothing to write home about either. Where some mecha manga gives you a much more cinematic feel, this makes you feel like you’re reading a comic book. There’s just nothing particularly interesting about it. The only thing you will notice is how unoriginal the mecha designs are. The Athens mecha gives a very strong Five Star Stories vibe, but the panel where the Under-Golem goes leaping out of it’s subterranean lair made me scream “Look! An anorexic Zaku!” It’s blatant and ridiculous.
Storywise though, it’s pretty generic. If you’ve read shonen manga before, you’ve already seen everything here and there aren’t any twists or turns that will surprise you. After a bit, you’re left wondering when the next cliche will make it’s appearance. I’ve seen some people suggest that perhaps CMX censored profanity throughout the title and I agree that their chosen replacement of “dung” really makes little sense most of the time. CMX got in trouble before for censoring manga with Tengho Tenge, you’d think they’d learn their lesson.
The characters aren’t horrible, they just aren’t particularly believable. Rygart, after arriving at the capitol and learning that Krisna is going to be attacked, tries to high-tail it back home to save his brother, completely ignoring his friends. Sure, he can’t use magic-based technology, but only a complete idiot would think the King and Queen would call him all the way to their palace to tell him something their messenger could have relayed back at the farm. At the core, there is a kernel of a love triangle, it’s clear that Queen Sigyn still has feelings for Rygart, but it feels forced, especially when she’s already married to the King. It’s like Yoshinaga is just checking off yet another box in his checklist of things you do in these kinds of stories.
One other thing we have to look at is value for the money. Ignoring the quality of the story for a moment, Broken Blade Vol. 1 is extremely thin, especially compared to other manga that cost the same amount of money. Just pulling a random $9.99 manga from the shelf for comparison, Broken Blade clocks in at 160 pages and Missing Vol. 3 has 224. It feels like Broken Blade either needs to be thicker for the money they’re charging or needs to be a $7.99 price point. I don’t feel good about paying this much and receiving this little for it.
Given all the problems, there just isn’t anything to really recommend this title. It’s generic action, generic story, generic art and a price that’s simply too high for what you’re getting. Find a better manga that gives you something interesting to experience and you’ll be happier.