Review: PeaceMaker Kurogane Volume 1

17 04 2009

PeaceMaker Kurogane Volume 1 is not actually the first volume in this series – though ADV did license and distribute this one a couple of years ago without ever doing the first series. This is a new version by Tokyopop. Confusing!

PMK Volume 1 - Copyright Tokyopop, Nanae Chrono

PMK Volume 1 - Copyright Tokyopop, Nanae Chrono

In Japan, the first set of volumes to the story by Nanae Chrono was called “Shinsengumi Imon PeaceMaker” – which Tokyopop shortened to “PeaceMaker” – Ok, fine.

But then the series switched magazines in Japan, and became known as “PeaceMaker Kurogane” – which Tokyopop kept as is. Ok, fine. But ADV actually did a version of PeaceMaker Kurogane a couple of years ago … without ever doing the first series (“Shinsengumi Imon PeaceMaker”). So there are now two versions of the second part of the series (the new, Tokyopop one is what I’m reading) but only one version of the first series, by Tokyopop.

Confusing!

So, instead of stating the fact that PMK comes after PeaceMaker 1-5 … Tokyopop just calls it PMK Volume 1 and lets readers figure it out.

This is probably not the way I would have done things, but then again, I’m obviously not paid to do these things. So, confusing even loyal PeaceMaker fans, we have PeaceMaker Kurogane Volume 1, by Tokyopop.

Since it isn’t made completely obvious – PMK is a continuation of PeaceMaker and should be read after PeaceMaker volume 5. NOT BEFORE! The entire gag of the first chapter depends on previous knowledge of the characters – without knowing how ridiculous and juvenile Tetsunosuke is, or how hard-nosed and downright cruel Hijikata is … the joke would sail right over the reader’s head.

This volume jumps straight back to the story (after a brief time-skip of 3 months – which actually seems too short…) and builds on the incidents of PeaceMaker volume 5, which Japanese history buffs (and anime fans who pay attention) will be familiar with – the Ikedaya incident.

Dealing with the aftermath of the bloodbath at Ikedaya, the series turns a little darker, a little angstier, and adds a dash of the supernatural. I enjoyed the darker feel of the volume, but it may turn off fans who were simply looking for sword-fighting bishounen. The comedy is still there, as are the awesome sword fights – but there are also severed heads, pedophiles and creepy cat-children.

The mangaka even apologizes at the end of the volume for the “unpleasant scenes” and states that she is “mindful of the growing angst.” Even though this volume does deal with a lot of pretty disturbing subjects, it also adds character to Suzu (who had been pretty flat before, simply worshiping his psycho master Yoshida but lacking any personality of his own) and makes Tetsunosuke a little more interesting and a lot less annoying (taking away some of the Naruto-ness of his character).

The darkness of PMK Volume one adds a sort of spooky, doomed atmosphere to the story – which fits right in with the story of the Shinesngumi, not exactly a happy chapter in Japanese history.

One problem I had with this volume is that I’m really getting into the story – and yes, that’s a problem. Because I know that it’s going to end, and abruptly. The series never got a satisfactory ending in Japan, ceasing publication before the story concluded. The fact that I’ll never get to read the ending is leaving me in despair!

I’m really starting to dig the creepy atmosphere, and Suzu as an evil villain, gearing up for Yamanami’s betrayal and the upcoming drama with Itou – along with the introduction (finally!) of Sakamoto Ryoma, the weirdly awesome character with inexplicable dreadlocks. But I know it doesn’t have an ending! Despair! Despair, I tell you!