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Gokurakugai Volume 1 Review


Volume 1 cover of Gokurakugai by Yuto Sano

Publisher Summary


There’s never a shortage of crime around town, and a young boy searching for his beastman friend is just another entry on a long list of missing person reports. However, Alma and Tao realize that they’re the best chance at solving the case—and destroy the vicious monsters waiting around every street corner.


Author: Yuto Sano

Translator: David Evelyn

Letterer: Kyla Aiko



I received Gokurakugai volume 1 as an Advanced Review Copy from Viz Media in exchange for an honest review.


Background

 

Yuto Sano's Gokurakugai is an ongoing manga series that currently runs in Shueisha's print magazine, Jump SQ. This is the mangaka's first serialized work.


The series got licensed for English by Viz Media on June 9th, 2023. In the online community, the one-shot of this series was met with a lot of praise. Due to the amount of buzz following the series, when Viz licensed the series, many were excited for the series getting a print release. I was interested to see how the series was and if it lived up to the hype.


Review

 

Gokurakugai harkens back to detective agency series where they take odd jobs to make a living. Think Hamatora or Getbackers. Alma, the boy, is the muscle while Ms. Tao is the brains of the group. The relationship is also like master and apprentice. While taking on odd jobs to make a living in the city, they also kill demons known as maga.



Alma and Ms. Tao having lunch and getting an odd job assigned to them


Alma (or Al for short) is your standard action manga protagonist. Similar to his predecessors like Natsu Dragneel (Fairy Tail), or Luffy (One Piece), Alma is someone who eats a lot but has a heart of gold, while also able to sniff out liars and cheats in his line of work. He's someone you have seen before in many other action manga, so it's nothing to really write home about.


Ms. Tao is calm, strong, silent type. The brains of the agency, she handles all the negotiations and decisions whether it's protecting dirty businessmen and politicians from controversy or delivering the finishing blow on maga. While she has a cold-like appearance, she cares for Alma and will take cases on pro-bono if the person seems genuine in their task.


The volume is episodic, going for a case-of-the-week approach to each chapter. The author sprinkles in some world building aspects in each chapter which helps with the case of the week format. While I didn't mind it, it could turn some readers off.


The art during the action scenes are really good! You can follow the flow of the battles while also taking time to admire some of the designs. I like how the author makes some of the panels look like the camera is zooming in for a close up for a contact hit. The author blends the chaotic art style during fights with clear, solid designs of the players in the scene.



Alma fighting a maga. The monster is rushing to attack him


What I don't like is that the series repeats definitions, mainly with magas. This occurs with the first two chapters. You could actually skip the first chapter and start with the second chapter since many of the lore introductions are repeated in chapter 2. While intro chapters for manga are usually retooled versions of their one-shots, the second chapter of Gokurakugai seems to act like a second introduction rendering the first chapter pointless.


It seems like the overarching storyline is being established at the end of the volume with a reoccurring villain tied to one of our protagonists, being introduced after setting things up to make our leads aware that something is wrong in the city. I think this should have been introduced earlier in the volume. They could have either cut chapter 1 or 2 (I'd say cut chapter 2 and add some mention of Alma's blood in it) and moved this situation up.


Final Thoughts

 

If you're a fan of manga such as Jujutsu Kaisen, or Getbackers you will enjoy Gokurakugai volume 1. The art is great and some of the side characters are quirky and fun.


However, due to the overarching storyline being introduced at the very end, I would recommend waiting for volume 2 to be released to get a better idea of where the story will go in its overarching plot. That or buy this volume during a sale.


Verdict: Pick it up on Sale


Gokurakugai volume 1 from Viz Media is available at all retailers

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