Haruka is a young girl who is able to predict the future with incredible accuracy–an ability that has made her a target. When she is kidnapped, Haruka uses her power to seek out someone who can help her, fixing upon a blind man amid the crowded streets of Tokyo. Though seemingly odd choice, Haruka’s powers have not led her wrong, as her chosen protector draws a sword from his walking stick and deftly takes out her captors. Knowing she will always be pursued for her gift, Haruka begs the mystery swordsman to keep her safe… “Until Death Do Us Part.”
I was interested in Until Death Do Us Part when it was first announced at NYCC/NYAF last year, though now that I think back, I can’t seem to remember why. That is unfortunately a common theme with this title. It isn’t very memorable in story or characters. The best thing it’s had going for it is its similarity to other stories that I did enjoy.
Blind Swordsmen are nothing in Japanese story telling. Zatoichi, a character created by novelist Kan Shimozawa is probably the best known, with a series of 26 films and a tv series that ran for 100 episodes. In the US, Blind Fury is the closest we get, a film starring Rutger Hauer and was also based on Zatoichi. So our anti-hero, Mamoru Hijikata, is in good company. Though Mamoru does get to cheat a little, as he has technology on his side with special glasses that allow him to see the world in computer-rendered wire frames. Like most anti-heroes, Mamoru is gruff, keeps to himself, but still has a soft spot as he decides to help Haruka. It goes without saying that his past is a mystery, as is how he became blind and got the scars on his face. Mamoru is the most interesting character in the cast, and for this group that isn’t saying much.
No one stands out beyond their stereo type. Mamuro’s partner Igawa is the tech guy who comes up with all kinds of gadgets and does the hacking for Mamuro. Haruka is the “damsel-in-distress” with precognition that the creators try to dress up with some techno-babble. Sierra is the well-endowed foreigner with a tragic past that makes her more sympathetic and a mother figure to Haruka. Even Mamuro is a manga standard of the blind man with amazing abilities. They are all characters we’ve seen before with no outstanding characteristics to differentiate them from the crowd.
The organization they work for, The Element Network, immediately brought to mind Global Frequency, specifically the TV pilot that tragically, criminally, never got green light for a series. Global Frequency is about a secret organization that uses private funding and ordinary people to stop crimes. The Element Network is a privately funded organization, and their goal to keep more people from becoming victims of crime. They use both ordinary people and hire mercenaries to stop the bad guys before they hurt more innocent people. I liked this element of the story, because I had enjoyed Global Frequency so much, it was nice to see the similar elements used in another story.
Overall, I feel ambivalent about Until Death Do Us Part. The characters aren’t very memorable, though I do like parts of the story. And the whole twist, which explains the title of the series felt more like a M. Night Shyamalan twist. I will check out the next volume though, to see if the writer can turn some of these problems around, as well as to see more about the Element Network.