Busou Renkin by Nobuhiro Watsuki

Not having read Watsuki’s more famous work, Rurouni Kenshin, I came into this first book with a clean slate. And I have to admit, I was fairly underwhelmed. The story fails to find any new ground: a bog standard ‘shounen’ type of power up story but without the worldbuilding that made series such as Bleach so enjoyable. The villain is kind of silly and Watsuki himself admits in the first chapter that he was going for a more ‘fun’ type of series with more humor. Unfortunately, the ‘humor’ here feels forced and there’s not many laughs to be found around a vapid airhead main character and some really silly ‘weapons’.

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Story: Kazuki is your standard happy go lucky kind of school kid who, when he sees a girl in a strange school uniform in trouble, rushes to her aid. He dies, wakes up the next day, and soon discovers that his heart has been replaced by that girl with a buso renkin – a weapon he can manifest. The girl, it turns out, is fighting those who use the technology for evil (they turn a person into man-eating monsters). They will team up to find papillon mask – a fellow student at Kazuki’s high school who is changing people who were mean to him.

Although this sounds like a horror manga, there really is very little about death or murders in here, despite the premise being about destroying creatures who are killing people. This first volume pretty much deals with ‘monster of the week’ as Kazuki has to learn his weapon (a spear) with the help of Tokiko – the mysterious girl who saved his life and gave him the buso renkin. Power ups ensue.

The cast is supposed to be quirky but unfortunately most feel like they were put there to set up an awkward or amusing situation to generate humor. I didn’t find any of it funny and it was hard to get into the story with so many 2-dimensional cliche types of characters running around.

I’d have to say that this skews pretty young. We’re used to much more sophisticated storytelling and much wilder world building than we’re given with Buso Renkin. As such, it just never captured my attention or made me want to read more.

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