Manga Village

BTOOOM! Volume 1

April 14, 2013

By all counts, Ryouta Sakamoto is a loser when he’s not holed up in his room, bombing thing into oblivion in his favorite online action RPG. But his very own uneventful life is blown to pieces when he’s abducted and taken to an uninhabited island, where he soon learns the hard way that he’s being pitted against others just like him, in an explosive-riddled death match! how could this be happening? Who’s putting them up to this? And why!? The name, not to mention the objective, of this very real survival fame is eerily familiar to Ryouta, who has mastered its virtual counterpart–BTOOOM! Can Ryouta still come out on top when he’s playing for his life!?

BTOOMv1By Junya Inoue
Publisher: Yen Press
Age Rating: Mature
Genre: Game/Survival Horror
Price: $11.99

I had mixed feelings when I heard about BTOOOM! There were comparisons of this series to .hack going on in the mangasphere, which didn’t inspire me. Though having read the first volume, I think being stuck in a video game like BTOOOM! would have been better than the “Battle Royale”-esque “game-in-real-life” that the series has ended up being.

BTOOOM! doesn’t waste much time in throwing the reader into the action. After a short introduction to Ryouta and the video game BTOOOM, Ryouta finds himself on an island without any memory of how he got there, and having to fight for his life against a drugged-out punk. Over the course of the volume, Ryouta gets flashes of memory, and with the help of another abducted player, Kiyoshi Taira, he is able to piece how he got to the island, but not the why.

This question is about the only thing I really found interesting about BTOOOM! Ryouta Figures out that they are being forced to play a live action version of the game BTOOOM. That and the fact Ryouta recognized the person who explained the game makes his presence suspicious. Is he there become someone at Tyrannous Games wants to get rid of him? If he is, who or why is he hated so much? Or, since he is so skilled at BTOOOM, is he there to help “beta test” the LARP? These possibilities did intrigue me a bit.

The other thing I liked about BTOOOM! was the way Ryouta reacted to being placed in a real life version of his favorite video game. He wasn’t excited about it. He was sickened by the thought of killing real people. During the briefing, he even called out about telling the difference between the real world and virtual world. With so many attacks against video games being the cause of violence, it was nice to see a realistic reaction from a gamer over being asked to become a killer in real life. Ryouta’s reaction to his first kill, in self-defense, was well done as well. He questions himself if he is capable of becoming a killer, even if it’s to survive.

And here’s where the title loses me. I liked Battle Royale for its social commentary on Japanese school life. However, this whole “pitting average people against each other in a kill or be killed scenario” does not appeal to me in any way. I didn’t enjoy it in Battle Royale, or Hunger Games, so I know I won’t enjoy it here. I don’t like the idea of forcing people to go against their nature and make them killers. It’s not the natural state for humans. Yes, we can be forced into it in extreme situations such as these stories create, but I don’t find those stories to be entertaining. They are overly melodramatic as they play on our sympathies for the characters being put into this impossible situation.

I don’t have any objections to the art. It is competently done, but it’s nothing to write home about. This series is rated “M”, and deservedly so with its graphic depictions of body parts, and guts, and some things I don’t even know (or want to know) what they are. This is not a series for the faint of heart. It’s also going to be a series with some hard fanservice. The first girl we see on the island is shown with her blouse open and some lingering panels of what’s lower down. This didn’t endear me to the title either.

BTOOOM! shows some potential, and could grow as the title goes on. The interaction between characters and co-op versus pvp could make for some interesting drama. But the whole kill-or-be-kill aspect of the story will keep me from continuing to find out. If the story was reversed, with Ryouta trapped in a video game and having to fight his way out, I would be more inclined to stick around. As it is though, I’m going to have to give this title a pass. If you like titles like Battle Royale, check this title out.

About the author

Lori Henderson is the writer and reviewer for the manga blog, Manga Xanadu. She also keeps a personal blog at Fangirl Xanadu, and a writing blog at Muse of Xanadu. She contributes to the Good Comics for Kids blog at School Library Journal. As the mother of two teen daughters, she needs all the escape she can get, which reading and writing about manga gives her.

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