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The Blue Wolves of Mibu Volume 1 Review

Updated: Apr 7

Publisher Summary


It’s 1863, the twilight of the shogunate, and Japan is on the cusp of monumental change. The streets of the nation’s capital are soaked in blood as political upheaval and rising tensions between masterless, wandering ronin and government samurai set the stage for one of the most turbulent times in Japan’s history. Young orphan Nio is no stranger to the harsh realities of the world, and yet he can’t help but cling to his burning passion for justice and desire to change the world for the better.


One day, he crosses paths with two men who will become central figures of the coming revolution: Hijikata Toshizo and Okita Souji, two of the founding members of a group of hated ronin known as the Miburo–who would later become known as the Shinsengumi.


Inspired by the efforts of the so-called “Blues Wolves of Mibu,” Nio decides to join the ranks to help carve a path to the world he wishes to see. But with new betrayals and reversals every day, will Nio be able to stay true to his conscience?


Story & Art by Tsuyoshi Yasuda

Translation: Stephen Paul

Lettering Phil Christie


I received The Blue Wolves of Mibu Volume 1 as an Advanced Review Copy from Kodansha USA in exchange for an honest review.


 

Background


The Blue Wolves of Mibu started it's serialization in Kodansha's Weekly Shonen Magazine on October 13th, 2021. The series is currently ongoing with a total of twelve volumes available in Japan.


During their panel at Anime Expo 2023, Kodansha USA announced The Blue Wolves of Mibu will be getting an English physical & digital publication on February 27th, 2024


On September 14th, 2023, it was announced that The Blue Wolves of Mibu will be receiving an TV Anime Adaptation produced by Studio Maho FIlm

 

Review



When you first open this volume, we're presented with a foreword that gives an in-depth explanation of the historical context of the creation of the Mibu Roshigumi. (As someone who didn't know anything about it, I thought it was very informative and helped me contextualize the events that unfold throughout this volume.) We're taken back in time to Bunkyu Era Japan (March 1861 through March 1864), in which this story begins.


Here, we meet our two characters, Okita Soji and Toshizo Hijikata, who found themselves a restaurant in Kyoto for a place to eat. Much isn't known about them, but they're immediately greeted by onlookers who've never seen them before. As they settle down, they notice someone with long white hair keeping up with the fast paced environment. As the restaurant clears out, we're introduced to Nio, who works with his sister Iroha. The four quickly open up with conversation, and this is where we start to see Soji and Hijikata open up. Soji is very charismatic and loves to hold a conversation with those around him, while Hijikata opts to keep to himself but is very calculated with the words he speaks.




As the pair leave for the night, a patron comments that Soji and Hijikata are both miburo, Ronin-masterless samurai who have a reputation for violence and outrage. As Nio and Iroha are about to go to sleep, we get to see a conversation between the two, which is similar to that between Soji and Hijikata. We get to see what their personalities are like. Iroha is someone who asks tough questions but can't find the answer to them. Nio is very considerate of those around him and looks at everything before asking the question. We end with the two siblings confirming Soji and Hijikata are normal, unlike what that patron described.



The next day comes, and we learn that there's been a series of kidnappings happening around the town. With no lead in hand, Soji and Hijikata come up with the idea to use Iroha and Nio to bait out the kidnappers. As the two walk out into the street, we see the kidnappers make their attempt, with Soji and Hijikata intervening in the assault. As the scene wraps up with Hijikata about to execute one of the kidnappers, Nio stops him mid-swing. When asked why, Nio states he's noticed how he never once pointed his katana with the intent to kill (I double checked the scene before, and even I didn't catch that detail.). It's then revealed that Nio's intuition is true and that one of the kidnappers is a parent whose daughter was kidnapped as well. To get her back, he had to carry out these kidnappings.


After the event, Soji and Hijikata, impressed with his observation skills, offered Nio the opportunity to join the Roshigumi. But Nio shakes his head no and questions, Who's idea was it to use him and Iroha as bait? Hijikata explains that it was necessary because they didn't have a lead. Nio refutes this by explaining how Iroha might not be able to walk home alone at night after going through an experience. explains to Soji and Hijikata his unfiltered thoughts on the events that transpired. Soji speaks up, admitting that it was his idea, but then exclaims that she'll get over it soon because they plan on making the world safe. This sends Nio into an emotional tangent in which we see time-discussed topics about being used and discarded while those who do wrong will never stop doing it. Being hopeless to stop it and only being able to put up with it. Soji and Hijikata moved by his words and accepted Nio into the Roshigumi, thus beginning our trio's journey throughout Kyoto to make it a better place.



What immediately makes this story stand out in this volume is the way its characters are written. In just the first chapter alone, the wave of emotions that's shown, the insight we get into each character, and the feeling of authenticity as we see them interact with each other all happen in that first chapter. And it continues throughout these next chapters as we see Soji, Hijikata, and Nio travel across Kyoto and take on different challenges. Speaking of Nio, he's probably my favorite of the trio, as his perspective of the world really made me look physically back at the different encounters in this volume, as he provided a perspective that I hadn't thought of before. Going back to the initial scene where he noticed one of the kidnappers turning his blade away from harm was something I didn't catch on my first readthrough, but then going through the volume a second time really shows the author did a wonderful job setting up these scenes to play out a certain way, and then Nio provides an insight that makes you want to go back and look, which for me at least makes these moments go from oh, that was cool to memorable. In later chapters, we see Nio go to Roshigumi's base of operations, where our cast of characters expands. But similar to Nio, these guys are full of life and make the scenes colorful with pretty solid characters, which help complement the action sequences or tense moments.


After finishing this volume, I really struggled to find something I couldn't like. It's art complements the era it's set in. All the characters have an identity that makes them stand out on the page, and witnessing Nio's ideology clash with some of the other Roshigumi leads to pretty engaging dialogue before and after a major event happens. In the last chapter, we see Nio meet someone named Tanaka Taro, who, similar to Nio, was also picked up from Kyoto. But instead of being lively and cheerful, Taro is more closed off and refuses any sort of help Nio offers. We find out that Taro is a slave, and one of the Roshigumi named Serizawa brought him in but mistreated him compared to the others that are in the mansion. After a series of events in which Nio attempts to do everything to get closer to Taro, a murder mystery event happens within Roshigumi, which sets the stage for the next big adventure for these two. which I'm looking forward to seeing as these two grow.




 

Final Thoughts

While this isn't the only manga that covers the origins of Mibu Roshigumi, its very strong character writing really sets this one apart. Each character has its own distinct actions that make it very easy to differentiate and give the story an authentic feeling as they tackle the various challenges to seek out their version of justice. Nio's moments of reflection before and after each event help ground the reality of each of these events, which would have otherwise been taken for granted. Especially right at the ends, in which Nino gets confronted with a murder mystery that seems to have something nefarious more going on behind the scenes.


Verdict: Buy it


The Blue Wolves of Mibu Volume 1 from Kodansha USA is now available at all retailers

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