The militant kingdom of Amamikado is engaged in a violent and oppressive war of conquest. Their ultimate goal is the utter domination of a string of islands known as Oyashima. The only force left standing in their way is the forest nation of Jagara, defended by a contingent of female berserker warriors. But even they cannot stand in the way of Amamikado forever, and the secret behind their supernatural blood rage --- their last defense against the invaders --- is soon to be revealed.
Enter Izumo-no-Takeru, a happy-go-lucky warrior of fortune newly arrived from the mainland. He seeks a treasure that will lead him to the fabled Sword of Susanoh, a weapon of untold might said to have been forged by the gods. His quest soon leads him to chance encounters with two others, the burly Kumaso-no-Takeru and the mysterious Oguna-no-Takeru, and the three Takerus set out for Jagara, where all of the clues seem to be pointing. As it turns out, the warrior women of Jagara are indeed keepers of the secret of the Sword of Susanoh, but not even they could have guessed what foul curse is about to awaken on their watch. What pivotal role will the Takerus play in the fate of Oyashima?
A smart, not to mention slick, fantasy adventure with an unwieldy title originally based upon a hit play by Gurren Lagann scripter Kazuki Nakashima, Takeru: Opera Susanoh Sword of the Devil is everything a lover of high fantasy could want out of a manga series --- a high-stakes battle of good and evil in a richly imagined world of swords and spells. A cast of appealing characters and gorgeously detailed art by Karakara Kemuri are welcome bonuses. The TOKYOPOP edition also boasts a pleasingly adapted English script.
The series’ best asset by far is its artwork. It is Kemuri’s professional debut, but you would never in a million years imagine that she is a relative rookie on the scene. Drawing in a style reminiscent at times of Kazuya Minekura (Saiyuki, Wild Adapter) --- only better! --- her dynamic layouts, confident lines and painstaking eye for detail would be more than enough merit to sell Takeru all by itself. The story comes fully alive on her watch, from the secluded forest kingdom of Jagara to the graceful yet sinister costumes of Amamikado’s premier assassins to the many armaments the various characters bring into battle.
The characters are also quite appealing. From the scamp and protagonist Izumo to the proud Queen Miyazu, there are personalities to suit every conceivable reader. The bad guys are worthy opponents, likewise at least as interesting as those they seek to vanquish. Of course, you will not always know who is on whose side --- there are traitors and turncoats in both camps, as this manga is as much about politicking as it is about warmongering.
By the end of the second volume, the sword that the three Takerus had been seeking in Jagara has been found…but it is not at all what they thought they would find. Now, if anything, the Amamikado are closer than ever to total conquest of Oyashima, and those who have thus far been standing in opposition are scattered and demoralized. Will the heroes be able to regroup? And where is the real Sword of Susanoh? This is one manga series that is sure to leave you craving more. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by Casey Brienza on June 9, 2009
Takeru: Opera Susanoh Sword of the Devil, Volumes 1 and 2