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s-CRY-ed Manga Review
s-CRY-ed takes place in an area devastated by a natural disaster called “The Great Uprising” which released a sort of radiation creating the “Alters”. Alters are people who have gained the ability to manifest powers in various forms dependent on the personality of the user. Very few people have gained these powers but many who do use them to wreck havoc onto the land, making the area a lawless no-man's-land. To combat these “native alters”, the central city creates a group called HOLY, which is a special ops force comprising entirely of alter users.
The story follows two central characters, Kazuma “The Treasoner” and Ryuhou. Kazuma is a native alter who protects the innocent, like the orphan girl, Kanami, who he takes care of, from other menacing alter users with his own alter “Shell Bullet”. It is not long after the series begins that Kazuma runs into Ryuhou, who is one of the aces of HOLY, where the two butt heads over differences in ideology. Kazuma sees HOLY as nothing more than a meddler and would only cause more problems for the people just trying to live their day to day lives while Ryuhou has a stark sense of justice and truly believes everything HOLY does will benefit everyone. It is from here on that Kazuma starts his conflict with HOLY and Ryuhou which branches through the entirety of the series.
My main criticism of the storyline comes down to how the series was paced. The first half of the series flows fairly well, if only a little quickly, but then the second half just rockets away leaving the reader confused. There is no time to absorb what is happening in the series and it ends up just going from one fight to another which at some points has you questioning why the fight is happening in the first place. Important plot points speed by in a flash and makes some turn of events feel slapped together without any thought. Character development also falters due to the pacing, making any changes in their personality feel unrealistic.
Although this is purely science fiction, the levels of absurdity seem to skyrocket with the fast pace as well. The further along the series gets, the more and more unbelievable it seems. The plot line falters from time to time and by the end the extremes the story takes can actually be a bit anger inducing and the epilogue was pure ridiculousness. These two factors of pace and absurdity left me with a dissatisfying taste in my mouth which unfortunately ruined the manga for me.
Of the characters in s-CRY-ed only three of them are memorable, Kazuma, Ryohou, and Akira Mijyou. Kazuma is incredibly stubborn to the point that he would endanger his own life to win an argument. Although that may sound like a lousy attribute at first, it is in fact what pushes him onward through the series and enables him to accomplish the seemingly impossible. He may be very rough around the edges but you will find yourself cheering Kazuma on again and again. The only negative aspect I could really say about him is that he doesn't really change all that much, if at all through the series which is, more often than not, a bad thing but in this case it is fitting.
Ryohou is very similar to Kazuma in terms of stubbornness, his way is the right way or else. He believes in absolute justice for when he was just a boy he lost his family to native alter users and since then has sworn the protect others and punish the guilty. As the plot unravels Ryohou develops as a character (probably the only character with measurable development in the series) and his uptight personality becomes more laid back while he also becomes visibly happier. His complex emotions about justice become much more pure and his confidence increases with it.
Akira Mijyou is a character who appears by chapter twelve and is first seen as an enemy but this view is quickly changed in light of several circumstances. What makes Akira a memorable character is not so much in her personality as it is her conceptual character. When she first appears it is assumed that she is a man due to her very unfeminine attire and that she holds a leadership role (which for this style of shonen science fiction is rare for a woman to hold). This is the fact that stuck out to me and kept this character in my mind even after I had finished reading the series. Although she is a woman, she never portrays any sort of female attributes at all, except only two times when it came to the love she held for one of her companions. The characterization was much more pleasant and understandable than the plot was. Kazuma and Ryohou are what kept me reading after the storyline became botched in my eyes
The kind of artwork used for this series specializes in a lot of hard lines and a heavy use of shading. It takes on an approach that gives characters faces a bit more detail than Japanese manga typically does. However, it does not shy away from crazy hair styles and clothing and in fact gives practically every character some of these. The style also reminds me of the older generation of manga in this respect, such as Devilman to give a comparison.
The style is rather fitting to the context of the series for the most part. The gritty style makes the combat feel a bit more visceral and also makes everything feel unclean which makes perfect sense for the setting. What threw me for being a bit out of place was that a few of the female characters were just far too sexual in design. With the barbie doll waste size and double D's what was supposed to be sexy became off putting to me. It just seemed like a desperate attempt to get a few more readers to me, for sex is probably the last thing on your mind as you read this. To me a general rule of thumb for incredibly sexual female characters is to either have a lot of them and be a romantic comedy series or have virtually none to be more realistic. The level that s-CRY-ed had them at doesn't fit.
Here is an example of the artwork:
This is a rare series that I can confidently say that I do not recommend reading it. Although the characters are decent, the story is not. It becomes very off putting and it is somewhat of a struggle to finish. However, if you are into science fiction and just want to see some cool fights without too much worry for plot it could be for you. It is also a fairly quick read but I would recommend not going to fast through it or you might become rather lost in what is happening.
There is also an anime version of this series which came first. Although I have not seen it all, from what I can tell, it is a much better adaption with a proper story. I would recommend giving the anime a try before this version.