Starting this week in the digital comics magazine Shonen Jump Alpha, is the newest “fresh from Japan” manga ( literally fresh, it’s new and came out in Japan two weeks ago), Takama-Ga-Hara!
The title Takama-Ga-Hara, which roughly translates as “The Field of High Heaven,” refers to a place in Japanese mythology where gods dwelled. Author Kawai has decided to craft a story that takes the concept and powers of these gods, and transfers them into present day Japan’s people, who would’ve descended from them. The story follows Yamato Yamada, one of the middle brothers of the legendary Five Yamada Brothers, who are known for their martial arts strength and championships. Unlike his other four brothers, though, Yamato wants nothing to do with fighting and wants to become a manga artist. Unfortunately for Yamato, he is an incredibly bad manga artist. From his brothers to classmates, whenever anyone reads his manga, they fall over and ask if Yamato is trying to kill them with the worst comics ever created! This doesn’t keep Yamato away from his goal, though, and he keeps drawing. One day he gets a note to meet on the roof after school. Thinking it’s a love letter, he goes, but it turns out it is a delinquent trying to fight him for being one of the Five Yamada Brothers! Yamato is pulled into the fight, and tries not to use his drawing hand because he doesn’t want to damage it, but when he is finally forced to use that hand it unleashes an explosive power, knocking the delinquent onto another building’s roof! Yamato is amazed, and in the distance a figure watches him as Yamato’s kamiwaza, a power inherited from the gods (humans are direct descendants of gods in Japanese mythology), has awakened.
The first chapter by Kawai has set up the basic concept pretty lock and key. As can be expected, and as stated in his note to North American readers, this is going to develop into even more of a fighting manga, with fights being between folks who have had their kamiwaza powers awaken. For a fighting manga, the tone is fairly friendly in the first issue, with a Bakuman meets Street Fighter kind of vibe, and no heavy battling going on just yet, with Yamato only just discovering his powers. That said, the light fight scenes that are drawn are drawn well, and hopefully as this turns into a more heavy handed fighting manga, it’ll continue to look good. Although not as strong of a premiere as the manga Barrage, which was added to Shonen Jump Alpha a few weeks back, there is enough of a set-up at least with a hook here to keep your eye on this one and see where it goes, as well as a steady martial arts title that feels at home in the Jump line-up.
Takama-Ga-Hara is now running weekly in Shonen Jump Alpha. Note, there was a shoujo manga also called Takama-Ga-Hara a few years back [Editor’s note: I think Drew is referring to Mugen Densetsu Takamagahara, known as Dream Saga here in the states, as published by Tokyopop.], and this is not related to that series.