Wolf, written and illustrated by Shige Nakamura
Publisher: GEN Manga Entertainment Inc.
|450 pgs|$12.95 USA| $12.91 CDN|
GEN Manga is a publisher that I have talked about before – discussing their digital anthology. As a digital product, the GEN Manga Anthology is one of three digital anthologies currently undergoing publication. One of the exciting developments of this year is the release of some of GEN’s initial series in paperback form – moving from the digital world exclusive to the tankobon audience. Previously this year, they released Vs. Aliens, a short rom-com mystery about aliens, Kamen, a super-powered battle manga in feudal Japan, and the volume I am reviewing today, Wolf, a seinen boxing drama.
Wolf is the story of Naoto, a young man from rural Japan who travels to Tokyo to confront his father, a champion boxer, who abandoned Naoto and his mother when Naoto was young. Naoto is set on bringing justice to his father for his own very personal reasons, and Naoto’s father, Kengo, agrees to fight him – inside the boxing ring. What follows is Naoto’s training and matches in order to become a pro, and then meet his father for their fight in the ring.
When I was reading Wolf as single chapters in the digital anthology, each one was a bit of a fun romp. There is a lot of great action in Wolf, and the characters are a bit extreme (in a good way), so it was really fun reading. When all the chapters come together for the tankoban product, things start to go south a bit. The individual chapters don’t really mesh well at times, and there are some inconsistencies with the pacing. I imagine this happens with other manga (most of it probably not published in English), but it’s pretty noticeable here. Additionally, some of the scenes of this manga, when taken in context of the whole, probably could be cut out. A great example is the scene where Naoto and the supposed love interest, Mayumi, brings Naoto a towel for a shower shortly after he reaches the gym that Kengo trains at. There’s a weird, misplaced sexual overtone in this scene that doesn’t match the content of Wolf, and could have easily been removed to the betterment of the story as a cohesive whole
The punishment for having such a unique and on the edge publishing system like Gen Manga is creating is that there isn’t a lot of time to do editing in the sense of the regular industry editing that is a main feature of manga. Scenes like this one slip through the cracks because the Japanese writer is not working with a full-time editor, and the English editor/translator only has so much time to get the work into print, so perhaps there is not time to rewrite or redraw content that is slated for any given issue. The end result is a product that is rough around the edges.
Another word about production – I normally don’t have much to say about a book’s construction, i.e. its layout, its binding, etc., except when something bothers me. Wolf as a story is pretty fun, but a little inconsistent. Wolf as a book fairs worse. Pages have bleed-through issues (the paper is thin enough that you can see the ink on the other side), and some of the images (at least in the edition I have) seem blurry, as if the match of the image to the page was disrupted somehow. This isn’t like an ink smear, but looks rather like a low resolution image printed on paper. The result is a little jarring at times. I do have to give major props for the cover design, which is striking with its bold yellow.
If you can ignore a few bad scenes, Wolf would be a pretty good boxing story with a lot of heart. Digitally, there is a lot to like about Wolf, and there’s enough good storytelling here to deliver, especially for the price point. Gen Manga will need to revamp their printing process in the future though, especially for people who demand higher quality paper. For me, I found that I liked the volume despite its problems, but recommend it only with the previous caveats.
For Fans Of: Rocky, sports manga, father-son conflict
Final Verdict: Recommended with reservations