“Chess is a Game for Masters” – MAR (manga) – 5/10 Beach Balls

I’m not a fighter, I’m a bleeder. ~Dylan Moran quotes

Genre: Action/Fantasy/Adventure/Shounen

Review Status:
Complete (15 Volumes/15 Volumes)

Licensed: Yes, this manga is licensed in the US.

Art: Very typical shounen- large, spiky hair. Clean, strong, straight lines. It reminds me of a better-drawn Naruto.

Ginta Toramizu is a 14-year-old kid who doesn’t have a lot going for him: he’s near-sighted, doesn’t do well in school, sucks at sports, and to top it off–he’s short! But Ginta is a dreamer and has had the same dream 102 times, always in the same fantasy world, where he is a hero blessed with all the abilities he lacks in real life.

Then one day a supernatural figure appears at Ginta’s school and summons him to a mysterious and exciting new world! In this strange universe filled with magic and wonder, he is strong, tough, agile–and he can see without his glasses! Thus, Ginta begins a mystical quest in search of the magical items known as “ÄRMS,” one of which may have the power to send him home. Joining him on this epic journey are his companion Jack and the valuable living, talking, mustachioed iron-ball weapon known as “Babbo,” which everyone wants but, it seems, only Ginta can possess! (Source: Viz)

Review: One of my favorite anime starts off much like this one- out of nowhere, something mysterious appears, and the hapless protagonist is taken to another world, much to the bewilderment of their family and friends. However, this is where they diverge greatly. In MAR, the boy is left in the countryside with nothing- no idea of where he is, no way to really protect himself, and no way of getting home.

Of course, he gets caught up in finding ARMS, with his friend Jack, and the memories of a girl that he liked. This being a shounen action title, this takes the main premise behind most shounen titles and condenses it into 15 short volumes- he ends up fighting against the chess masters. The vast majority of the manga revolves around the fighting, and the last few volumes dispense with any pretense of being anything else- it’s repetitive level-grinding fighting, with no breaks in between.

This suffers from cookie-cutter characters and no character growth, to boot. They fail to distinguish themselves in any way! Well, except for Dorothy, a breath of fresh air in shounen. She takes on the guys and holds her own without being fanservice or dirty tricks. She’s just a good fighter. The repetitiveness of the fighting also takes the edge off of any drama or interest that anyone could have in this series. It’s one thing to have a fight where people grow and change. It’s another where fight after fight, back to back happen, that do nothing but show who’s the winner.

Overall, this was a disappointment and a waste of time.

Recommended: Borrow, don’t buy. 9+, as this is a typical shounen fighting manga. No one really dies. People do get beat up when fighting each other, so that means punches and kicks (nothing you wouldn’t see on Looney Tunes). Language is occasional but not very strong. I think the worst that occurred was an incident of the word for illegitimate child. The only thing that might be of particular concern is one incident near the end, where Dorothy’s dress is ripped and a breast exposed. This might be shown in one or two panels- she is covered for the rest.

Other titles you might enjoy:

Hunter x Hunter (manga)
Vision of Escaflowne (anime – series, not movie)
Zombie Powder (manga)
Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicle (manga)


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