Before a certain orange jump suited ninja came onto the scene people were reading about a very different ninja in the pages of Shonen Sunday. I remember many years back one of my coworkers mentioning that Flame of Recca was his favorite anime but that is sort of just ends in the middle of a storyline after being canceled. He lamented the fact that from what he knew the manga had a proper ending but he knew of no plans to pick up the license in the US. Then about a year later came the Tokyopop revolution and the manga boom. Many titles that have been on wish lists for licensing for the longest time became realities and Flame of Recca was one of those titles. So I decided to read what had been recommended to me so long ago.
Recca Hanabishi is the son of a fireworks manufacturer who is a self-styled ninja that he mentions quite often in the least ninja way possible. He has made it known that anyone who defeats him in a fight will gain his services as a ninja. Despite this fact he totally breaks the rules when he pledges his loyalty to the cute Yanagi Sakoshita after saving her from a gang of molesters. The same gang of molesters that always roam the streets of Japan. He also learns that she has the magical abilities. So in the tradition of if you show me yours I will show you mine Recca reveals he has the ability to generate flame. This seemingly innocent exchange of secrets spark a chain of events that will draw in everyone that Recca knows.A mysterious woman wants the use of Recca’s powers and will do anything to make it so. When she can’t persuade Recca to voluntarily follow her she soon starts using Recca acquaintances to get at him.
Recca is your stereotypical genki variety of shonen hero. Not that bright but hardworking and kind-hearted. Yanagi is the space case healer. Kind and caring but a bit odd as clearly seen by her bizzaro children’s books she starts writing about Recca. She does try to protect Recca when he is in danger which is always nice dynamic to her character but I don’t think she will be anywhere close to a fighter. Domon Ishijima is a big bruiser that is Recca’s self-proclaimed rival that keeps trying to beat him. Fuko Kirisawa is a female ninja that has also vowed to defeat Recca but mostly as a cover for her affection for him. It’s clear by the end of the first book that they will be allied with him in the defeat equal friendship formula of shonen fighting. Kagehoshi our first villain is a good mixture of sexy and creepy.
The art is simple but cute. The characters are attractive but none of them are too complex. Anzai really loves his speed lines for fight sequences and uses them all the time. But the fight scenes are dynamic and so far Recca has been using his head to win battles more than sheer power which is always good to see. There is a bit on unexpected fan service and nudity and the end of the book. It was mostly for laughs but to go from almost no fan service to toplessness was odd.
As I implied earlier so far all the characters easily fall into stock roles so far. This is not a deal breaker. All the characters are entertaining variations of the shonen fighting formula. I don’t mind artists using the tropes of shonen as long as the characters are entertaining and the story has some snap to it.Also for some odd reason I tend to like ninja stories set in the present. People burnt out on shonen will have a been there done that feeling but everyone else should have fun with Flame of Recca. I did not love Flame of Recca as much as my coworker did but I did find it to be an enjoyable series so far.