Ryuko: Hard Crime

Story and art by Eldo Yoshimizu

Published by Titan Comics (2019)

Length: 2 Volumes

Even the term “frenzy” wouldn’t suffice in describing the turbulence of Eldo Yoshimizu’s Ryuko. The first manga in Titan Comics’ “Hard Crime Series”, Yoshimizu’s tale of tragedy, betrayal and redemption is filled to the brim with abstract motion and unnerving violence. You’ll find yourself immersed in these well constructed battle sequences, even if its story teetered on the convoluted side. Irrespective of its faults, we are presented with a highly entertaining series, one in which multiple read-throughs seems inevitable.

Ryuko is the heiress of the Black Dragon, a yakuza crime syndicate situated in the Middle-East. We follow her as she attempts to confront her past, control her future, and rescue her captured mother. War, poverty and legend are weaved within her story, all of which are inexplicably linked to the individuals surrounding her. 

Nothing can impede on Yoshimizu’s artistry. The use of a sketchy aesthetic complimented his gritty story, and even added to the constant motion being depicted. It wasn’t one particular style that added substance to this series, but Yoshimizu’s ability to transition seamlessly between multiple in order to jar the audience. During stationary moments, realistic drawings appear in Yoshimoto’s sketchy backgrounds, yet the focal character in each panel remains clear, and unabashedly manga-like. Reality is never disregarded, but intelligently bent to create sensations. Yoshimizu not only varies his illustrative style between chapters, but within panels. This becomes most apparent when depicting battles, where all sense of clarity is removed from the choreography of the characters. 

The large black blots splattered over the pages portrayed violent scenes of struggle with a layer of abstraction, intending to manifest the manic feelings emitted by its characters. At points this was exciting; you couldn’t really tell what was going on. But often it became too messy, and not only couldn’t you follow what was going on, but understand the events leading up to it. But even in those instances, you can’t help but feel exhilarated, even if the events portrayed are hard to interpret, the importance of these blotches are still understood. The skills needed to (somewhat) hit this balance is immense. Stylistically, the manga also resembles a series produced in the 80s, with slender figures and more rounded faces. The aesthetic benefitted the piece, as it implicitly added validity to its setting, which was situated in a similar time period.  

Ryuko as a character remained the focal point of this piece. As she was created before the conception of this manga, appearing in many of Yoshimizo’s art pieces, there are times where the purpose of the story seems nothing more than an opportunity to flesh out her character. As an action manga, development isn’t a primary focus outside of battles, but there was an inconsistency between the importance of certain characters and their actual presence in the piece. The prior establishment of certain story elements before mapping out the entire series is also apparent in its pacing. The speed of the fight scenes never let up, adding an anxious edge throughout the entire manga. But there was far too much content to be explored within two volumes. The fun was never spoiled, because overdramatic twists are a staple within the genre, but if you were to slow down, multiple cracks could be found in the narrative.

In terms of female empowerment, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, Yoshimizu presents a cast of strong, independent women that thrive off of their own substance. The respect they emit isn’t presented with a condescending tone, and, in terms of body design none are overtly sexualised. However, particularly in the first volume, there are an unnecessary amount of skimpy outfits given to these characters, some of which had to be consciously implemented (e.g. having a character be captured in the middle of changing). This was somewhat phased out by the second volume, and Ryuko’s iconic leopard print one-piece presented a perfect balance between sexuality and tastefulness, though I couldn’t help but question the motives of the fan service.

Despite the weaknesses of this piece (which can also be attributed to the confines of its genre), Ryuko is a highly entertaining and flashy story about a mob heiress and her tale of redemption. When a piece can transcend its faults and provide an enjoyable experience, it must be commended, and so recommended. While Yoshimizu’s narrative techniques may require refinement, his artistic vision is no joke, and should be explored on its own merit. Ryuko volume 1 is currently available from Titan Comics, with volume 2 set for release in October.

This product was provided to the reviewer in the form of a review copy. Irrespective of this fact, the article remains completely unbiased, and contains the reviewer’s thoughts only.

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