“HAND ROLL! ROLL, ROLL, ROLL, ROLL POOPY!”
“Ah-ha-ha-ha! That’d disgusting. They roll their sh** up with their hands?”
“THAT’S RIGHT! WITH A THREE-STAGE PROCESS THAT’S #1 IN THE POOPY WORLD!”
IN A WORLD where every fighting manga endeavors to give kids some cheesy, long-winded speech about how they can achieve anything they want as long as they try their best, B. Ichi is wholly refreshing in its willingness to deliver unabashedly pointless dialog. At a casual glance, it would be easy to dismiss B. Ichi as “crappily drawn” and “stupid”, but it grows on you immensely once you give it a chance to sink in. There’s almost nothing about it which isn’t tongue-in-cheek.
This series’ visual style is as if an entire world were conceived based on the doorbell mugging scene in The Fifth Element. Everything is covered in techno junk and ridiculous haircuts. Toad, as he appeared in the live action Super Mario Bros. would feel right at home here. Even the most normal, typically “cool-looking” characters in this manga are drawn with a quirky flair, their eyes drooping in the corners ever so slightly…they could definitely be called cute once you “get” them, but only in an atypical non-bishounen, non-moe fashion. The backgrounds are often filled with scrupulous detail almost reminiscent of Akira, which is all too rare in manga these days.
Everything about this manga just yells “screw you!” It doesn’t care what you think, it doesn’t care about delivering a message, and yet it’s not just a played-out ultra-violent gore shocker in the Ninja Scroll sense, it has a whimsical childishness and silly sense of humor about it. Rather than being a manga made for kids, it feels like the manga you probably would have made when you were a kid…you know, when you were just getting up the nerve to curse in front of your friends, but hadn’t gotten over potty humor yet and still soaked up bad comics like a sponge…B. Ichi does a perfect job of bringing out the inner brat in you.
The plot of this series is amusing, but pretty secondary to the art and the humor. You see…these kids, they’re fighting some sort of evil scientist mastermind protected by robots and stoogey assistants. One of the protaganists designed a lot of the weaponry for this evil corporation, so his combat technique revolves mostly around telling badguys to RTFM. There is a spunky little girl in a sailor suit who crushes stuff with her bare hands, but she’s somehow not generically moe enough to trigger one’s gag reflex. Weird. There is a lackey who turns tables on the badguy, he has big ears, funny ear studs, and big nose hairs. Fool gets capped.
This series is not the slightest bit deep, but it’s damn entertaining anyway. Its quirky art is an acquired taste, but has unrivaled charm, its sense of humor is delightfully unpretentious, and its fights are bat-poop-crazy. Where do I sign up to read the rest?
Story and Art: Atsuhi Ohkubo
Publisher: Yen Press
Rating: Older Teen