Levius is set on an alternate Earth. It is the 19th century, and the world has entered the “Era of Rebirth,” as it recovers from a devastating war. Seventeen-year-old Levius Cromwell lost his father to war, and his mother lies in a coma in a hospital because she suffered grave bodily injuries in the battle in their neighborhood, Green Bridge. Five years earlier, Levius came to live with his uncle, his late father's brother, Zack Cromwell, and his paternal grandmother.
Now, Levius is a fighter in the sport of mechanical martial arts (M.M.A.), which has galvanized the nations of the world. Cybernetically augmented fighters turn their blood into steam and their bodies into brutal and sometimes monstrous fighting and killing machines. Young Levius is one of those arena battlers, a mechanical martial artist prodigy, hell-bent on winning in order to simply survive in a sport where combatants often enter the “Final Cage,” death.
There are five levels in M.M.A., I, II, III, IV, and V, and Levius is Level II. In order to move up to Level I, Levius will have to fight the monstrous Hugo Stratus and a young woman named A.J. Langdon. To defeat them, to maybe save them and himself, Levius may have to enter the Final Cage.
THE LOWDOWN: The Levius manga is appropriate for high school age readers, although it is classified with the adult seinen manga label. Creator Haruhisa Nakata depicts some shockingly brutal fights, but Levius' mixture of dystopian science fiction, mecha, and martial arts will attract a number of manga readers who are familiar with titles like Full Metal Alchemist and Ghost in the Shell.
The art is richly detailed and the fights and behind-the-scenes segments about cybernetics will remind readers of Ghost in the Shell. In the drama scenes, Nakata's art reminds me of the work of Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira).
I found this manga to be an exciting read. However, there were times that the story seemed to become repetitive. I will not say that the story is padded, but Nakata often needs to draw out fights to the gruesome end in order to convey the story's plot and themes. The consequence is that readers may find that some of the mechanical martial arts battles will simply wear them down, as it did me a few times.
Otherwise, Levius is a unique alternate Earth, futuristic drama and action-thriller. Its stylish art and powerful graphical storytelling left me wanting more. And there is more, a follow-up, entitled Levius/est, which hopefully makes it way to American readers.
POSSIBLE AUDIENCE: Fans of anime and mecha and sci-fi manga will want the VIZ Signature edition of Levius.