Author: Yoshinori Natsume
Publisher: Viz Media (Shonen Sunday)
Volume: Volumes 5 and 6 (of 7), $9.99 each
Vintage: 2004 by Shogakukan in Japan, July and September 2011 by Viz Media
Genre: Supernatural, adventure
Spoiler Alert: These two volumes reveal a lot of secrets about the hunter organization as well as the truth behind Zakuro’s imprisonment. If you’re not keeping up with the series, or you want to keep these things a secret until you read them for yourself, you may want to skip these reviews, though I’ll do what I can to keep the major stuff secret.
Gogyo, and several members of the White Claw elite ogre hunter group, upon seeing Mikito’s incredible power and return to his human form, decided in the previous volume to travel with Mikito and Kugai as they attempt to discover the truth about ogres. While Kugai, Gogyo, Seri, and Nazuna went to infiltrate the hunter headquarters, Mikito was left behind at an old hunter training ground, with Suzuna and Suzushiro to protect him. While Suzuna and Suzushiro ran Mikito through old hunter tests to keep him occupied, the others made their way into the underground chambers of the hunter headquarters, where they were stopped by members of the Black Thorn, headquarter’s team of assassins. That leads us right into volume 5, as Gogyo is wrapping up his battle with the powerful Black Thorn member Hagi, and Kugai and Nazuna are struggling to hold their own against Hagi’s partner, Susuki. With their weapons broken by they Black Thorn members, they are mercifully granted a reprieve as Hagi and Susuki are called away. When they come together again, they find themselves in a room with a large, aggressive tree that tries to absorb them. They are rescued by a young boy, who saves them by throwing an ogre seed at the tree, which it quickly devours. They are then led to a secret room where the boy lives with his master, the tree’s guardian and hunter weapon maker, Haze. At their adamant request, Haze starts pouring out the secrets of the organization, which have a fairly sinister side. It’s a little on the confusing side, but what it boils down to is that they fight fire with fire, ogre power with ogre power. It also means that using their ogre fighting weapons is a lot more dangerous than they were led to believe. Meanwhile, Hagi and Susuki have tracked down Mikito and intend to bring him to headquarters. Unfortunately, one of the powerful ogre creators, Lacey, finds Mikito first and plans to release Zakuro, in a fashion. Lacey tries to strike a deal with Zakuro, but he refuses to cooperate, and Mikito isn’t having it either. To try and rattle Mikito, Lacey explains the true purpose of the ogres, and gives Mikito a glimpse into Zakuro’s past, revealing his true nature. Zakuro and his compatriots exist to keep the world in balance (it’s kind of weird…they use the ogres to devour humans to return them to the Flow; it doesn’t make a lot of sense to be honest), but Zakuro, fed up with the destructive nature of humanity, thinks the best thing to do is to destroy all the humans before they destroy the world’s balance with their wars and increasingly powerful weapons. In an attempt to contain his power and destructive nature, they sealed Zakuro away, though for some reason left him a single seed. Mikito, fed up with Lacey ignoring his presence, and believing that there is some good that exists within Zakuro, decides to take action.
In volume 6, things get a little crazy. Lacey, torn between his inner light and darkness, literally splits in half, becoming two separate beings. Lacey’s dark side wants to free Zakuro and destroy the world with him, while his light side wishes to protect Mikito and use Zakuro’s power to protect the order of the universe. Mikito, sensing his friends in danger, decides to fight against Dark Lacey, claiming that he must act like a human being and protect his friends, otherwise he’d be a monster both inside and out. As the two Lacey’s battle each other, they end up drawing out Zakuro from Mikito, but he has no desire to help either of them. However, as Light Lacey attempts to destroy himself along with his dark side, Zakuro steps in to lend his power to destroy them both, an incredible power he shouldn’t have access to that he draws from the strength of Mikito’s heart. With some cryptic final words, Lacey instructs Zakuro to track down Akebi next, and then Zakuro goes back to sleep inside Mikito’s body. As Hagi leaves them behind to report to headquarters, the others must decide if they will continue their battle now that they have some new knowledge about how humans, ogres, and the beings that create the ogres are all mysteriously connected. They decide to continue their efforts, but the rise of ogres, who are growing in intelligence, in the area is impeding their progress. Mikito, who realizes that he is the only one with the power to fight the higher beings, decides that he should continue the journey on his own. When the building they are hiding in is suddenly surrounded by a large group of advanced ogres, Mikito uses the distraction to slip away to find Akebi. He finds Akebi easily enough, as well as one of Zakuro’s missing horns (cut off when he was sealed away), which he’ll need to restore Zakuro’s power. When the others realize what’s happened, they leave Seri behind to handle the ogres and head off to help Mikito. Back with Akebi, the higher being explains that he has a relationship of love with his ogres (which is kind of weird), which, along with Zakuro’s horn, will help him build a new order of the universe. Mikito draws on more and more of Zakuro’s power, which has been flowing into him as Zakuro’s seals have been broken (one breaks when he defeats one who sealed him away), in his fight against Akebi, although he says he isn’t falling back on Zakuro’s power…. Which doesn’t make sense, but whatever. With the barrier weakening, Zakuro opens a portal on Mikito’s stomach and draws the power from his horn directly into himself. As Akebi falls, he spouts more cryptic words, similar to Lacey’s, about the Flow of the universe, and the fate of Zakuro’s power which can create a new era in the hands of the one who possesses it. And so the plot thickens….
I was a little surprised when I realized there’s only one more volume in this series. With the information in these two volumes, I expected a bit more. Not a long series, but if the idea is for Zakuro/Mikito to defeat the ogre creators, well, that seems like it would take more than one volume as only three (of six, unless Zakuro is included as one) of them have been defeated. A lot of things are revealed in these two volumes, but there still seems to be a good bit unanswered. I’m curious as to how it will all be crammed into one more volume. Well, I say curious, but honestly, I don’t particularly care. The story just isn’t pulling me in at all. It’s overly complex, as if it’s trying to push out of its typical genre and be something more, and despite its action and assortment of unique (though a little flat) characters, it’s kind of boring. The art is also a bit sloppy, though the shading and inking is well done. Yoshinori Natsume’s basic line work is amateur looking, even for someone with a previous eight volume series under his belt before starting Kurozakuro. I do quite like the painted look of the covers, however. I don’t have a lot more to say about these two volumes, because there isn’t much to say. Despite it’s complicated set up, the main character, Mikito, has remarkably simple motivations and emotions. In the end, his power (and therefore Zakuro’s power) comes from the strength of his hearts. Mikito wants to protect his friends, and that is what drives him to hold onto his humanity even while he uses his ogre powers in battle. Actually…that’s a trait pretty common in most shonen heroes, isn’t it? They get power boosts based on wanting to protect someone. There’s just something very simple about Mikito, somehow. Maybe because his background is so basic, or the fact that these “friends” are people he pretty much just met. It’s amazing that he draws so much power just to be able to protect people who might as well be strangers, although in volume 6 he’s on a quest to save all of humanity, which I suppose speaks to a great inner strength. The problem is the root of his motivation, or rather, the reasons for who he is or why he holds certain beliefs. Now, I did miss the first two volumes of this series, so maybe there’s more to that effect within those pages, but there’s been no evidence of it since I started reading with volume 3. As for the people around him, they’re tired of the conspiracy and are fighting back against their organization, fed up with the secrets and how they are treated. We know some bits of their pasts through flashbacks here and there, though it mostly serves to develop relationships between themselves. What I find strange in the story is how Mikito is pursuing getting Zakuro’s power back to him. He’s been shown that Zakuro was sealed away for wanting to wipe all humans from existence; I’m not sure why Mikito wants to help someone like that, even if he believes there’s some goodness within Zakuro. Zakuro is still largely a mystery, even if we do know the truth about his past. It’s not really clear what he’ll do once he’s freed and has regained all of his power. By living in Mikito, he has certainly seen some of the better things humanity has to offer, so it’s possible that his bond with the human has altered his feelings about them. We know that Zakuro wanted to destroy humans because he believed they would grow more powerful than the higher beings (the only thing Zakuro and his compatriots have so far been called) and harm the Earth, destroying the balance that they work so hard to maintain (by…creating ogres that eat humans…), but his desire to simply wipe them all out completely and immediately is a clear villain trait, and his visual depiction during that particular flashback sequence is one of a crazed monster. And now we’re back to me not caring enough about the story or characters to try and sort all that shit out, though you’re welcome to pick this series up and attempt that yourself.
Review copies provided by Viz Media.