Comic Books Magazine

Smuggler Review

Posted on the 28 March 2014 by Kaminomi @OrganizationASG

SmugglerTitle: Smuggler
Genre: Action, Drama, Psychological
Publisher: Kodansha (JP), One Peace Books (US)
Artist: Shohei Manabe
Serialized in: Afternoon
Translation: Glenn Anderson
Original Release Date: December 15, 2013
Official Site
Note: There is an image that may be too gory for your taste included in this review.

Smuggler by Shohei Manabe is the type of violent manga that you kind of wish would be drawn a lot better than what’s presented in here. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s a solid manga read, but issues in how it draws action scenes hurts the overall product, among other things. With two extra works included though — a special one-shot involving two of the main characters, and Violence Pokopen, a story involving three people who decide to go to a scary place but manage to run into a gang — make the overall book salvageable.

Smuggler is a story about disposing of bodies — bodies Joe, Kinuta, and Tsukada never actually see. One day though, they are tasked to deliver an assassin who killed a Yakuza boss to one of the families. They end up losing the target, and it’s all Kinuta’s fault. Now Kinuta has to stand in and take the brunt of the family’s rage, while Joe goes to find the assassin who escaped.

Yes, there’s way more this work has to offer aside from the summary above, but that’s essentially the main storyline. Aside from that, Manabe delves into a world where the Yakuza are still around, where loyalty and trust are vital no matter what, and being liked by all is not viable. Kinuta, who gave up acting and school, was convinced that there’s a higher plane for him. That involves dropping off bodies he’s not supposed to see. Then he sees a dead body. He realizes he’s in over his head.

There’s a few things to like about Smuggler. One are the characters: they take no crap from anyone. Well, except Kinuta, but even his personality is effective because of the cast around him. Joe just wants things done, and will not be bothered to dance around it — he’s just strict about everything. Tsukada’s a funny old guy who simply cowers whenever Joe has something to say, though he needs to not drop his soba in Joe’s presence. Other characters, like the main antagonists (there’s a lot of antagonists by the way) “Spine” and “Guts”, two powerful assassins who do the killing in quick and brutal fashion, makes the characters stand out compared to most manga series. Needless to say, you’ll find someone to like here.

The other thing I liked was the art for some of the torture scenes, or basically the torture of Kinuta in Chapter 4. I thought that was drawn particularly well. It’s a decent showcase that hey, there are consequences for what you do, and it can be seen in a way that sucks for him but I can deal with it. Well, for some people it might be too much. That might be a problem for those who can’t stomach too much violence, but they would know it’s not for them anyways.

As I was saying...

As I was saying…

But there’s some issues that keep Smuggler from being great. The first is actual action and fighting in the work. The good news is that they’re quick, and don’t drag on. At best, it takes 2 or 3 pages for a fight to end. The bad news is that they’re drawn poorly. I get little impact from anybody getting punched or killed, and no amount of guys spewing blood can change that. Since there’s key moments where action takes place in the story, it’s disappointing that they aren’t drawn all too well.

Another issue is some of the stories itself. Especially in regards to what happens with Spine and Guts, there’s a lot that happens and there’s very little sign that it’s supposed to happen. Also in some cases, with great and solid characters, adding any more to try and take away the spotlight from them is reckless if not done properly, and it’s not done properly here.

Thankfully though there’s two other stories included in the release. The first is a special chapter of Smuggler that’s an origin story for just about everybody. If nothing else, it showed the painful consequences of what happens when you rape someone that’s (probably) part of the Yakuza family. The other is a 3 chapter story called Violence Pokopen. It’s a story involving three people: one’s kind of a lame guy, the other is a seemingly nice woman who’s actually not very nice, and the “nice” woman’s friend. They end up going to a scary place somewhere where there’s nobody around and end up witnessing a gang kill someone. I liked it a bit, and in some ways shows a bit how fickle emotions can be, or how people can change due to certain events.

So with Smuggler and Violence Pokopen combined in the work, it’s hard to say this isn’t worth your time. I would just contend that you may want to read this without high expectations.

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