Übel Blatt, Vol. 0

By Etorouji Shiono. Released in Japan in two separate volumes by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Young Gangan. Released in North America by Yen Press.

After finishing this first omnibus, you can absolutely see why Übel Blatt was licensed, and why I think it will do very well over here. The plot is straightforward and is the sort of thing that lends itself to a long, drawn-out story. The hero is mostly likeable (more on that later) and you understand his burning need for revenge; the action, though incredibly bloody and violent, is well-drawn and not at all confusing. You find yourself drawn into the story and wanting to find out what happens next. It’s very well-written. It also has a rape so mind-bogglingly appalling in the first few pages that my jaw dropped, as well as two “semi-consensual” sex scenes that also push the limits. So there’s that.


Let’s back up a bit and talk about that plot. It may seem very familiar to fans of The Seven Deadly Sins, and that’s because it’s the exact same plot. Of course, Übel Blatt started in 2004, a good 8 years before Kodansha’s shonen series, so any inspiration most likely runs the other way. In any case, we have a typical manga fantasy world, where everyone is living in castles or huts but we also have flying zeppelins. The young man on the cover is Köinzell, who flashbacks show was once a cute young kid but now appears to be older, far more angry and bitter, and not quite human anymore. He’s on a mission to wipe out the legacy he and his companions left behind, one that has him and three other (seemingly dead) friends branded as traitors. Along the way, he meets a young girl trying to save her brother, an even younger girl just trying to get to the next country, and a seemingly endless number of evil monks.

This is a fun series. Köinzell is mostly serious, even in his lovemaking, but this isn’t really a manga that needs comedy relief. Even the token little girl who gets taken along for the ride doesn’t really get too many wacky antics here. The first half came out as a “Volume 0” in Japan, but unlike most other Volume 0s appears to have actually debuted at the same time as Vol. 1, so I will assume it’s not ‘go back and rewrite the backstory to make it fit what I have now’. There are some men and women in the background I’d like to see more of.

It’s just very hard to recommend a manga where you have to admit that it begins with one of the mook villains explicitly raping a woman, then when he tosses her aside to rant for a bit, his HORSE decides he’s going to get some as well. I understand the need to show that this is a desperate and horrible world which our heroes will need to save, but there are better ways to do it than this. What’s more, Köinzell (who is, to be fair, not the usual sexless hero, something that surprised me) is not much better, recognizing a young woman’s crush on him and having her stripped and his hand down her pants within ten seconds.

Thus my recommendation of this series is tempered by “if you can get past the rape, assault, and non-consensualness with many of the female characters”. I hate saying that. As with Japan, I suspect Übel Blatt’s main audience are young college-aged men who like fantasy series with a lot of sex and violence, and this is probably better than a few others coming along, though I’d try Berserk (which has similar issues all around) first.