HOSHIN ENGI (Hôshin Engi, “Creation of the Gods”) ?????) • Ryu Fujisaki • VIZ (2007-ongoing) • Shueisha (Weekly Shônen Jump, 1996-2000) • 23 volumes • Shônen Fantasy Action-Adventure • 13+ (violence, brief nudity, mild sexual situations)
Loosely historical fantasy manga based on novels by Tsutomu Ano, themselves loosely based on the ancient Chinese novel Fengshen Yangyi (the original Chinese pronunciation of Houshin Engi). In ancient China, the Yin dynasty is falling, thanks to the demoness Dakki who has bewitched the emperor and oppresses the people with her cruel punishments and expensive follies. The sennin–immortal sages who dwell high in the sky atop floating mountains–send Taikobo, a sennin-in-training, to hinder Dakki’s plans by defeating evil sennin and collecting their souls for the mysterious “Hoshin Project.” An engaging blend of mythology and science fiction, Hoshin Engi absorbs the reader in its animistic world of spirits, humans and high-tech magic. Unusually for a Shônen Jump manga, Taikobo achieves most of his goals through deceit and smarts rather than fighting; there’s a huge cast of characters and the fight scenes, with characters zooming through the air blasting each other, are overshadowed by courtly plots of diplomacy and betrayal. The art is attractive, with lavishly screentoned skyscapes and detailed anime-style characters in elaborate costumes, a bit like mid-1990s Kazushi Hagiwara. A slightly tongue-in-cheek spirit infuses the entire manga; an atypically shocking scene in which a character is butchered and served in a banquet is alluded to rather than shown, by a sudden cutaway to two bad guys doing a comedic two-page “how to cook” lesson. This self-aware humor at times makes it difficult to emotionally connect to the action, and the many subplots and characters makes for a dense read, but it’s an interesting and unique manga. The anime was released in English under the title Soul Hunter.
Today’s winner is Brittany F. of Arizona. Congratulations, Brittany!
What defines a good guy vs. a bad guy in manga? If comics like “Watchmen” broke through the moral assumptions of superhero comics, what are the corresponding manga which break through the morality of stories like, say, Naruto? Check out my article To Protect and Kill: Power and Morality in Action Manga. Did I mention it’s also got giant robots?