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Brave 10, Vol. 5 + 6

Welcome back to another midweek manga review! Hope you’ve all been catching the Monday reviews, this week’s was a look at The Seven Deadly Sins, Vol. 3. I’m going to try and continue to Monday reviews for as long as I can, but I’ll be heading back to school soon so we’ll see how long it lasts. I’ll always make sure to have one for Wednesday, regardless of what happens to the Monday one. Anyway, this week I’ll be taking a look a Kairi Shimotsuki’s Brave 10, Vols. 5 + 6, but first some news…

And now onto this weeks review of Brave 10, Vols. 5 + 6!

Brave 10, Vol. 5Brave 10, Vol. 5 + 6
by Kairi Shimotsuki
Rating: Young Adults (16 +)

Over the past four volumes of Kairi Shimotsuki’s Brave 10 mysteries have been built up, cryptic dialogue thrown around, but little has really been explained. Well that’s about to change! With only two more volumes to go, everything is laid bare at last as Yukimura Sanada finally reveals his plans and reasons behind gathering the cadre of elite warriors known as the Brave 10. Just what are his plans for the mysterious item known as the Kushimitama and how do Saizo and the other Braves fit into the picture? All is revealed in these two volumes!

Yes, at long last the simmering mysteries finally come to a boil as Kairi finally fills us in on why Isanami and the Kushimitama matter. It’s only taken us 6 volumes of an 8 volume series, but better late than never right? Much of these two volumes spend time depicting a trip to Kyoto, which in turns leads to Sanada discovering and recruiting his final two Braves. While they seem kind of interesting, being introduced so late into the series inevitably means we’re going to find out almost nothing about them. In fairness though, the only character who’s really had any development in the series has been Saizo. While that may sound a bit harsh, the fact is that most of the other characters have been fairly one note, with even likable ones such as Sasuke or Kakei being little more than a quirk or two wrapped in a pretty boy package. The entire cast consists of stereotypes and cliches. Isanami’s a ditzy but likable young girl, Anastasia’s a voluptuous sexy blonde, Rokuro is the mysterious and brooding one, etc. This is really driven home in these two volumes as Shimostuki quickly rushes the introduction of the final two Braves, with them coming off as little more than warm bodies to fill in the final two slots in the roster. Her handling of Saizo has easily been one of the highlights of the series, with his struggle to handle his changing personality – from hardened, solitary killer to someone with friends and desires beyond simply surviving and accomplishing his job – coming full circle as treachery from a fellow Brave forces Saizo to revisit a part himself which has been fading since he met Isanami. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention how Shimotsuki’s done a pretty good job at making the androgynous foe-turned-friend Kamanosuke into a lovable psychopath, thanks in large part to how she plays around with the character’s true feelings and desires in these two volumes, adding a little more depth to the rather anemic roster.

As for the big reveal, while it’s great to finally get it and to finally know what’s going on and why it’s been going on, it’s coming so late in the game. For a good chunk of the series the mystery surrounding Isanami has been present, but it’s taken a backseat to ninja clashes and the rivalries between Sanada and his fellow warlords. Bringing it back to the forefront is nice and gives the series some much needed direction and focus, but at the same time it feels strangely awkward and at odds with everything we’ve seen so far, that the revelation actually feels like it’s distracting from the conflict between the warlords.

Page from Brave 10, Vol. 6

Nice little action scene.

Kairi Shimotsuki’s artwork continues to be gorgeous, though her page layouts and panel to panel flow often suffers from an excessive fondness for using weird angles, overlapping artwork and overly detailed and ornate character designs. There are some moments which cut through the clutter, and these moments show that Shimotsuki can put together some clear and exciting fight scenes. Her character designs continue to be incredibly beautiful with an eye for detail that’s indulged numerous times thanks to the complex costumes and flashy hair styles. Often times her characters end up looking less like the pirates or orphans they’re meant to be, and more like fashion models.

Brave 10 has been a weird read. While the mystery of Isanami and the Kushimitama has always been present, it never really felt like it was the focus of the story. More often than not it took a back seat to the ninja battles, feeling more like a McGuffin to keep bringing Sanda and his slowly gathering Braves into conflict with rival warlords rather than something of pressing importance. I know there’s another series coming out, but after firmly establishing this conflict between Sanada and rival warlords, the introduction of supernatural elements like Gods and Goddesses this late into the game just feels awkward. On the other hand, it has given the series a nice sense of momentum and the sense that the story is going somewhere, something the leisurely stroll of the first half of the series was lacking.

Brave 10, Vol. 5 + 6 are available now from Digital Manga Publishing and Emanga.com. Digital review copies provided by the publisher.

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