Tokyo Revengers is a Japanese manga series written by Ken Wakui, it started publication in 2017 and is still ongoing. A live-action film adaptation has been announced, and an anime adaptation as well which is set to premiere in 2021. This manga is a mixture of erased and a Yakuza game. The story involves time travel, and that automatically puts me on an alert. But luckily this manga has enough redeeming qualities that my experience wasn’t ruined at all.
On the surface, the initial premise of this manga feels a lot similar to Erased, a guy discovers that he has the ability to go back in time and then tries to save a girl from dying. But that’s where the similarity ends because this is more like a Yakuza story that focuses heavily on the gang-war aspects. The story revolves around Takemichi, a pathetic guy, who discovers that he can travel back in time. As I said above, time travel puts me on alert and there are very few things where time travel actually benefitted the story and was comprehensible as well. Steins Gate is one of them. And Avengers Endgame is the exact opposite of what I expect from a travel-travel film. (not gonna get into it here). And the time travel here is not just a gimmick. Even though it has a lot of problems, it’s easy to not care about the loopholes that are present here. A lot of the rules are not explained and what’s told, as the story progresses, only creates more problems.
What I mean by that is that our main guy jumps back and forth in time to see how much he has changed the future, after each major arc. This means that he can’t undo the things that he has already done in the past, this helps in maintaining the tension and also makes sure that none of the stuff he has done up until the current chapters feel inconsequential. There are clear stakes established, the rules are set up quite early, and there is not that familiar feeling of “oh he can just do that again”. But it comes with its own set of problems, you will find yourself questioning the inconsistency of the stuff and I hope they don’t shove in the multiple timeline theory here.
The story however doesn’t focus on the time travel aspect a lot, sure it used to create tension well enough but the main focus of the narrative lies in the Yakuzaesuqe storyline. There are gangs and the goal of the protagonist is to become the leader of the Tokyo Manji Revengers gang, and it involves everything you expect from a story about Gangs. There are betrayals, back-stabbings(sometimes literal), turf-wars, those super tense meetings where the team decides their next move to increase their area of control, and also the general yelling and fighting that comes along with it. It deals a lot with the politics of the stuff. Oh, I forgot, it’s in a high school setting…but that could have been taken out of the equation altogether and it wouldn’t have affected a single thing.
So to sum it up, if you are going for a fun time-travel story, you won’t be disappointed. If you are going into it expecting some
cool fights and double-crossing you won’t be disappointed.
The art here is the most divisive thing for me. Though I have to acknowledge that the art is fine when compared to other stuff that comes out. It’s not chaotic and the panel layout is kept simple enough to follow the action that is going on. But it lacks personality(at least in the first few volumes), it feels like the story is what carries it. And because of that most of the double pages also feel a bit underwhelming. The covers of the volume gave me certain expectations about the vibe of the art, so I guess I was a bit disappointed when it didn’t feel the same. Also, the anatomy of the characters feels weird as well. However, that’s only applicable for the first 6-7 volumes. After that, the art starts to shine. Jump to around chapter 120 just after the 1st one, the difference you will notice is night and day. The character design also changes a bit for the better.
Now about the fight scenes, there are very few mangas where the action flows well. Let’s be honest, the medium is not suited for slick fight sequences. But some find a way to sell the illusion of motion well enough, Vagabond and Berserk being one of them(ofc there are a lot more examples). This manga, despite lacking the visual fidelity of its competitors, does illustrate good fight sequences. It feels like each punch has some weight to it, and the motion is something you can keep a track of as well. So overall, the fight scenes are great. For the story, this manga is going for it would have been a bummer if they turned out to be messy.
One thing this manga also does good is the fashion sense of the characters, I don’t even know if that’s a word. But the attire the characters wear is full of personality. For instance, Bleach did the same thing. Now I don’t like Bleach that much but one thing I appreciated was the style the characters had, Ichigo felt like a real teenager. The same goes for Tokyo Revengers, all the uniforms might seem a bit generic but they work with the context. And the covers stand out because of the clothing. Some of them might feel a bit overblown but, they work. Enough for me to include this point.
There are no bad characters here, like none. I hated the MC in the beginning, well hate might be a rather strong word. But he was a weak character. But as the story went on, he grew. The change from being the most pathetic guy(still better than Kazuya from Rental GF) to the hero he becomes was just satisfying to witness. He isn’t the strongest of the cast, nor the brightest. But his selfless nature is what makes his journey endearing to watch, the other characters eventually start to admire and follow him as well. It goes with the message of the manga that physical strength is not everything, and no it’s not as subtle as Vinland Saga but that manga is just too good.
Other than that, the side characters are great as well. Each one of them is well flushed out and the conflict between them only feels grand because of the way each of them is built up. The female characters here as also well written and the romance subplot is entertaining, it could have easily gotten in the way of all the fun fights, but it’s developed well here. I want to talk about the other side characters as well, but it’s better that you read about them for yourself.
You should not sleep on this manga, the time travel might some put people off with its loopholes but it was good enough for me. Though there is an anime adaptation upcoming and the fights would be obviously better in that medium. I am excited to see that. However, you should give this one a read, just give the first volume a try and you will know if this one is for you or not.