Black Torch is the first long-form manga from creator Tsuyoshi Takaki, previously known for his one-shot, Freaks. Originally published in the Japanese manga magazines, Jump SQ, Black Torch follows the adventures of a young ninja caught in the middle of a war between ninjas and demons. VIZ Media is publishing the manga in English as the graphic novel series, Black Torch.
Black Torch, Vol. 1 (Chapter 1 to 3) introduces Jiro Azuma, who is descended from a long line of ninja. He can also talk to animals, and his rough and tumble appearance belies his compassionate nature. He meets Rago, a mysterious, unique, and suspicious, stray black cat. Jiro's compassion for animals will get him into trouble, when his encounter with Rago rudely introduces him to the world of the mononoke and changes his life forever.
THE LOWDOWN: The Black Torch manga is the kind of manga seemingly made for me. It features both ninja and also supernatural creatures from Japanese myth, folklore, and fairy tales.
Black Torch Graphic Novel Volume 1 offers a lot of surprises, and although the text on the back cover spills some of it, I am determined to spoil as little as possible. I loved reading this first volume, but it is far from perfect. The narrative drags a little in the middle; in fact, I can accurately use the euphemism, “treading water,” to describe some portions of these first three chapters.
However, there are so many fantastic twists and turns, and when Tsuyoshi Takaki introduces a new character or concept, it serves to make the story richer and more attractive. The battles are nice, and some of the creatures are chilling to behold, even straight scary. I highly recommend Black Torch to fans of supernatural ninja fiction.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of ninja and of supernatural Japanese creatures will want to read by the light of the Shonen Jump title, Black Torch.