Manga: The Great Yokai War: Guardians 2

 

The Great Yokai War: Guardians 2


Japanese Comic Title

妖怪大戦争 ガーディアンズ 2
[Yokai Daisenso Gadianzu 2]

Authors:

Yusuke Watanabe

Pencils:
Inks:
Colors:
Language:
Release:
Publisher
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Pages:

Sanami Suzuki
Sanami Suzuki
-
Japanese
2021
Kadokawa Comics A
160

Covers:

Sanami Suzuki

Comic

Review

By: Nicholas Driscoll

After several years of suspense, The Great Yokai War: Guardians (2021) was finally released on physical media in the West, and miraculously the manga is being released as well—from Titan Comics. The second part was released in February of 2020, while the manga was serialized in Japan back in 2021 and released as three separate volumes as well (those three volumes are what are now being released in English). I previously wrote up a review of the first volume, which I found to be a pleasant surprise—and now, here we are with volume two, which continues directly on from the events of the first, and is—if anything—even better, carrying on volume one’s penchant for fleshing out character backstories and expanding on some of the action.

Note that I will be discussing spoilers, though just for this volume.

When we left off last time, elementary schooler Kei was trying to save his younger brother Dai from being sacrificed as a means to resurrect Daimajin, a mystical living statue. The local yokai (Japanese spirit creatures) want Daimajin to come and battle an enormous Yokaiju that is threatening to destroy Japan and, by extension, incur heavy damage on the spirit realm. Kei has teamed up with a kitsune woman and an Amanojaku (a horned yokai who constantly speaks in lies) and is hurriedly tracking down Dai.

We kick things off in the second volume with Dai continuing to work with the yokai and befriending a furry companion in the form of a sunekosuri (one of those little furry guys that played a large role in the 2005 The Great Yokai War). Kei and co stumble on the living bones of a water dragon, which is triggered to attack because Kei accidentally touches the wrong area of its bones, nearly killing Amanojaku who inadvertently claims he did it. However, Kei saves Amanojaku, and it turns out the water dragon was an old friend of Kei’s ancestor Tsuna, so the team ride the flying bone beast in search of Kei. Various adventures are had, including a violent altercation between Kei’s group and a team of nasty horned yokai who sic their pet tsuchigumo (a giant spider) on the water dragon. We also see a confrontation between a set of tengu and Gyobu, a sort of leader of the tanuki (mystical raccoon dogs that have magical nards)—Gyobu basically wants to destroy everything and awaken a mysterious figure sealed beneath Tokyo. We also get a flashback into the fox-lady’s past, and a set-up for explaining something of the history of Daimajin. Unfortunately, despite our heroes’ best efforts, they can’t stop Dai from awakening Daimajin, and the second volume ends with the great statue rising from its rest, ready to do battle with the Yokaiju.

My favorite part of Sanami Suzuki’s adaptation continues to be the extra flourishes to the storytelling that were sometimes only hinted at in the movie. One of the more substantial additions in volume two was a more built-up version of the fox-lady’s backstory, which includes some neat scenes both of Kei-ancestor Tsuna’s warrior prowess and his musical side—but also his kindness and self-sacrifice. This extended sequence makes the fox more understandable as well, plus adds weight to the introduction of the sword that Kei ends up using. The flashback featuring the origin of Daimajin, in a sequence closely mimicking the old films, is also a welcome treat—with a corrupt local leader, desperate natives, and a vengeful Daimajin coming to life.

On the other hand, the water dragon has a much briefer entanglement with the tsuchigumo in the manga version—here, Kei attacks and slices the giant spider in half, in a somewhat uninspired bit of art. Still, the previous—and surprisingly bloody—set of panels in which Kei is beaten to a bloody pulp by a group of yokai is surprisingly violent and adds a sense of danger not present in the movie.

Suzuki’s art continues to please for the most part, with a particularly impressive splash panel introducing the land of the yokai as our heroes do a fly-over. Suzuki’s depictions of the water dragon are also very charming and filled with life, as she imbues the bone-beast with surprising humor and expression. Daimajin also looks great, introduced in moody and dark chiaroscuro that seems inspired by the old films. I am not always crazy about the occasional close-up shot and sometimes got confused with the word-balloon placement, but Suzuki handles most of the action beats with oomph and dynamism, so there is little to complain about.

If you liked The Great Yokai War: Guardians, the manga continues to be well-worth picking up, with a delightful alternative take on the story that has deeper emotional resonance than the film on a narrative level and a continued high level of visual storytelling. While not up to the levels of the best original manga tales, especially as a movie adaptation (which are often truncated to an extreme), this book has admirable narrative depth for the material, and it clicks with me as a lover of supernatural action manga. Plus, man it feels good to see Daimajin back in action—and on the manga page! What a dream come true.