[Review] Soukou Akki Muramasa – Minagoroshi

MINAGOROSHI Cover3 IMG_20140416_111325

JP title: 装甲悪鬼村正 鏖

Note: My reviews for the other two Muramasa manga adaptations can be found here: Makai-henEiyuu-hen




So, Minagoroshi. Never have I seen a manga title that was so frighteningly accurate in describing the contents of its story. It might be short, it might be over before you realize it and as such, there’s little room for too much character development, hell it might be even a bit predictable if you’ve read the VN, but goddammit it’s still Muramasa through and through. The basic message and pitch black, “no happy end for anyone ever” tone of the original work has been quite skillfully adapted into this quick, 200-page-long one-off volume, and managed to tear out my already bleeding heart, chew it up to shreds and spit it out to the dogs.

Allow me to elaborate.

The Japanese quote I started the review with is actually the Tsurugi incantation of this manga-prequel’s main villain, and I find its words highly appropriate to describe the entire volume. Unlike the high-quality-but-somewhat-disappointing three-volume Eiyuu-hen (that didn’t blow me away simply because it did nothing but hastily re-tell a story I already knew the ins and outs of), Minagoroshi is actually a 100% original story starring Minato Kageaki and his trusty tsundere spider Muramasa, taking place sometime before the events of the VN, as I understood.

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The story is probably easier to follow and digest for non-fans compared to Eiyuu-hen, and some of the basics are once again very briefly explained for the uninitiated, such as the Silver Star and the function of its eggs, or the curse of Muramasa*. I would even go as far as to say that you could *probably* read this volume without having read the VN… if you do that, some of the developments will be more surprising, like when you read Chapter 1 of the VN for the first time (and the you-know-what scene). Or, at least, you can read it after finishing only Chapter 1 and having some vague knowledge of the characters and the setting. Then again, much like with Eiyuu-hen, if you’re going to read this (hell, if you’re even *aware* of the existence of this manga at all) you’re probably already a fan, so yeah.

*(Edit: Actually, the curse of Muramasa is only really explained in Chapter 5 of the VN’s common route, so keep that in mind.)

The stage is a peaceful island of peaceful villagers living their peaceful daily lives, when suddenly, four mysterious wanderers get shipwrecked on said island. Our female protagonist, Hirai Mana, finds them on the shore and takes them back to her home to her sister, little brother and father in order to nurse him back to health. The problem is, this guy, Takaki Kanbei, is actually quite the douchebag and in a foul mood because he was once beaten bad by Team KageMura before his arrival on the island (and his Tsurugi was destroyed in the process).

So the first chance he gets, he draws his sword and threatens the good family to hand over the legendary Tsurugi, Kusanagi, currently enshrined on the island. Kusanagi is held locked up because, as legend tells it, once it is released, terrible misfortune will fall upon the entire island. Kanbei, as you would expect, does not give a single fuck since, as it was earlier established, he’s already dying from a lethal illness and has nothing to lose. So he dons Kusanagi (again, see incantation above) and decides to unleash hell upon the island… basically for the lulz. Kageaki soon shows up on the island as well, having come this far to chase Kanbei because Muramasa sensed one of the Silver Star’s eggs in him — and if you’re read the VN you know why that’s bad news (and even if you didn’t, the manga explains it briefly). So this is the basic premise, more or less.

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Right off the bat you can kinda tell this story is going to end in tears. And yet it’s still fairly powerful. One of the best parts of the manga is that it actually treats Kageaki as a protagonist, unlike Eiyuu-hen which was more about Ichijou and had Rokuhara-Kageaki serving as sort of a side character. Since this is a prequel, he acts pretty much like in the game’s common route, always polite and courteous, his actions easily misunderstood for those of a hero. Except, you know:

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Yeah, uh, that. In any case, he does act the dreamboat from time to time, stopping Mana’s sister Mina (don’t get confused now) from committing suicide by thrusting his hand before the blade about the strike her throat. Such a nice guy, this Kageaki fellow. As we all know. Kidding aside, I do greatly prefer this side of him (let’s call it regular Kageaki) as opposed to his Janen Hen self, badass black coat and charming “gonna kill your family” grin notwithstanding. Near the end of the manga he even utters some of his familiar lines from the VN’s Chapter 1, such as this, which made the fanboy in me cheer with anticipation.

Anyway, after being weakened by a poisonous attack he had suffered during a previous Tsurugi fight, Kageaki spends most of the manga coughing up his lungs and resting in bed, but still manages to shine in the end and has a few fight scenes of his own, so don’t worry. Mana is there to nurse him back to health, a naive young girl who idolizes him as a hero (where have I heard this before…) for coming to save her in the nick of time from Kanbei and his lackeys. The interactions of the two serve as the brief comic relief moments of the volume, with Mana being 100% infatuated with his black prince as poor Muramasa jealously huffs and puffs in the background.

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So yeah, Mana is a pretty cute heroine overall and gives off the general vibe of a more energetic Ichijou in certain aspects, with parts of Kanae in there as well. Don’t get the wrong idea though, comic relief is a fairly minor part of the manga, but nonetheless they provide a decent change of pace from the blood and gore and action, much like — to me, at least — Ichijou and Kanae swooning over Kageaki was hilarious in its own way, the few times it happened.

On the antagonist front, we have four truly evil bastards who really do some sick shit during the story. Young maidens, children, elderly folk, without exception, all meet horrible ends, very much reflecting the cruelty of the Rokuhara from the game.

And this is where I have to mention the gore. Because this has quite a bit of graphic violence — where the VN was mostly off-screen bloodshed described through narrative, the manga shows everything, from severed limbs to bashed-in brains and leaking intestines. Still, it’s not as graphic as, say, Gantz, or anything by Junji Ito, and it’s not gonna make you throw up if you’re used to this stuff, but it’s definitely more brutal than your average shounen manga or PG13 flick. Honestly, I think it fits Muramasa perfectly, and always found it strange how the VN didn’t really show this sort of stuff. Anyway, as for the villains, they have barely any screen time, sadly. They pretty much just appear a few times, quickly use their Shinogi, then get killed off. Some of them look pretty cool though, so it’s a shame we didn’t see more of them:

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On the other hand, the story really belongs to Mana and Kageaki, so I guess I’m happy the narrative mostly focused on them.

As I implied before, some of the themes of Muramasa are most definitely in here as well. Murder is a sin. Revenge births tragedy. Murderers never go unpunished and must carry their sin till the end of their lives. There is no hero riding in to save the day. Honestly, I would’ve loved to see this story expanded and elaborated on in more detail. I think it should’ve had its own chapter in the VN, with enough time given to all of its aspects and characters, because those 200 pages go by real quick. This time, however, unlike with Eiyuu-hen, I can give a much more solid, less uncertain recommendation. If you’ve enjoyed the VN, or at least parts of the VN, you will definitely have fun reading this, and even if you haven’t, it’s still a fairly solid — albeit depressing — tale that might push you to give the game a try.

Also, my god that ending. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a manga based on Muramasa, but that doesn’t lessen the impact and is a perfect way to end a volume with so much despair and bloodshed. It’s スラッシュダーク to the max, it’s heartwrenching, and would’ve been even better if all the characters involved were given more time to be developed, but such is the fate of a single volume spinoff. Honestly, that is my one major gripe. It’s too bloody short. The ending and the events leading up to it pretty much made me go “WHY IS THIS HAPPENING” but at the same time, I had to accept that Muramasa is always gonna be like this.

Because sometimes horrible things happen to good people.


6 thoughts on “[Review] Soukou Akki Muramasa – Minagoroshi

  1. I read this thing in one go yesterday, and even though it does feel like a Muramasa story, it still feels like something is wrong about it. It might be the lack of sympathetic antagonists (the only one in the VN who had absolutely no redeeming qualities was, what, Aoe?), it might be the lack of Kageaki (which is not that unreasonable, since he’s bedridden, but then he goes around Railgunning things anyways, which makes it feel like he stayed put just to give a chance for Mana to shine), or it might even be the lack of a deeper message that wasn’t already covered by the VN (but that would probably be too much for a single volume). As this was the first of the Muramasa manga spin-offs, it only makes sense for it to be a bit less ambitious, so I don’t regret reading it, but it’s just that I should’ve lowered my expectations a bit. I’m very happy to own a copy, especially since it took me a while to find one, but if anyone else is looking for it, don’t worry too much about it if you never get it.

    • Aw, sorry to see you were a bit disappointed. But I totally get what you mean, it’s just that those things didn’t bother me all that much personally. I suppose one more thing that could make Muramasa fans go “huh?” (I think I’ve seen other reviewers bring this up) is how a sickly, pre-VN Kageaki slices off the hand of a Tsurugi-wielding villain with just his sword and no armor.

      I think the short length could be responsible for some the things you brought up. There was no time to really develop the villains too much or show another side of them. In any case, as I said in my review, I still had quite a bit of fun reading this, even if it’s clearly not on the same level as the VN, obviously. It had a bit of that Chapter 2 vibe about it (maybe because of the sisters and such), which was also nice.

      Btw, Makai Hen is generally considered to be the best / most faithful manga adaptation of Muramasa, or so I’ve heard.

      • I actually think that giving Mana the power to defeat Tsurugi all on her own was kinda necessary for the story they wanted to tell. Yeah, sure, if they had another volume or two to spread the story over, I’d have liked her to get her own Tsurugi, but she’d just turn into Ichijou 2.0 at that point. As it is, it serves exactly the same purpose, except that it can actually fit into a single volume and doesn’t really contradict the setting. Sometimes, less is more.

        It’s true that they had no time to develop the villains, but I do believe that it’d have been enough to at least give some love to Kanbei, the main antagonist. After all, as the leader of the group, he connects them all together, so by making him more sympathetic, they could’ve fleshed out the whole group without even a single word about the rest of them. What kind of man would make use of their services? Why do they consider him an authority? How exactly did he cross paths with Kageaki?

        If I were to compare it to a chapter from the original VN, I’d rather pick chapter 5. It has similar “Massacre out of nowhere” feeling, and the theme of 善悪相殺 is a bit closer to the surface, which is exactly where you want it to be in a short manga. There’s just nothing similar to the Yagenta-Ukyo dynamic here, though the overall rural atmosphere certainly is.

        And yeah, I’ve heard the same thing about Makai-hen, and I’m going to read it next (and probably Eiyuu-hen somewhere in between), so we’ll see how it goes. I even got the material collection of it pretty much by accident (“Oh, hey, nice cover, gotta buy it. Oh, hey, it’s about Muramasa. Oh, hey, it’s about the official manga. I should’ve asked for an autograph”).

      • Ah, you posted before my edit. I was actually thinking about Kageaki going up against a Tsurugi on his own, but my memories of the manga were a bit fuzzy when I wrote my post. I actually had to go back and check.

        But yeah, good point there. I was also feeling some of Chapter 5 as well with the wholesale massacre of innocent villagers and such. Well, what I thought about Eiyuu-hen is on the blog as well, so I won’t repeat myself here. It’s worth a read but doesn’t really contain anything drastically different/new compared to the VN.

      • Oh, yeah, Kageaki cutting the arm off falls within my qualms about his involvement in the story. On one hand, he’s supposed to stay in the sidelines, and that’s not something he does too often, so it had potential of showing a side of his that we rarely see. But on the other hand, he still defeats every single antagonist, at which point you start doubting the power of Kusanagi’s poison. I guess he’s simply just that overpowered.

        I’ve already seen your Eiyuu-hen post, I’ll leave my comment on it when I finish reading the manga.

  2. Pingback: [Manga Review] Full Metal Daemon Muramasa – Makai-hen (Vol. 1-5) | VN Reviews Hub

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