First off, we’re doing a FF5 stream later today, which you really should watch! here is the Story Arc twitch channel, we should be live at 4 pm PST / 7 PM EST
You, reader of The Story Arc, have probably heard of Weekly Shonen Jump, right? The manga magazine where many of the most iconic manga franchises, from Dragon Ball to Fist Of the North Star to One Piece, have originated? Well, today I’m writing about a manga from it’s much less well known (in the West) competitor, Weekly Shonen Sunday. Just like Jump, it has a long and storied history, originating famous franchises such as Getter Robo (paging fellow Story Arc writer Skeith here), Detective Conan, and many of Rumiko Takahashi’s works such as Inuyasha and Ranma. As you can tell from this lineup, Shonen Sunday is quite a bit more eclectic than Jump when it comes to the series that they run, with a much more mixed lineup. A fitting magazine for this manga that feels just as mixed.
Blazing Transfer Student is kinda hard to write about. Not because it’s a particularly big work that grapples with difficult ideas, but simply because it’s hard to classify – and isn’t that the job of a critic? Blazing Transfer Student switches genre at a whim. Is it a battle manga? Sports? Comedy? Is the focus on school or spies and secret organizations? Yes. Blazing Transfer Student is simply a Yes Manga, as in yes to all of those above. More seriously, I’d say it’s an action-comedy. There’s a lot of humor, but the basic structure of the story is focused around fights and sports matches, glued together with a loving parody of sports manga like Ashita No Joe and old Toku shows that form the basis of the comedy. The core of the manga, however, is the transfer student himself and his struggle for justice and honor.
Blazing Transfer Student follows ordinary high school student Takizawa Noboru as he is forced to transfer from school to school as his father has to constantly switch where he lives for his job. The kicker is that all of the schools that Takizawa transfers to are unusual in some way, such as a school where any dispute has to be settled through a fight or sports match. Takizawa then inevitably has to confront some kind of injustice resulting from the oddities of the school’s rules or environment. As he transfers between schools, more characters end up tagging along, forming a kind of rogue gallery of allies and rivals as he fights injustice from school to school. The manga starts to expand in scope, as Takizawa ends up getting involved in deep conspiracies within Japan’s school system, fighting against a set of archvillains manipulating Japan’s schools from the shadows. And that’s about all I can about the plot before starting to really spoil it.
Of course, the comedy of Blazing Transfer Student isn’t so shallow that parody is the only thing it brings. It’s genuinely really funny seeing these badass fighters having fights over the most minor technicalities and psyche themselves up over the most minor things. It meshes well with the art, which shifts rapidly between small comedic doodles and extremely detailed renderings of special moves and attacks just as the story bounces between hysteric melodrama and hysterical antics. The author, Kazuhiko Shimamoto, is really good at not just the art itself, but creating engaging paneling and layouts to go with it, and the end result is something that feels really chaotic but at the same time unified in its chaos. Fights have this thrilling energy to them, with even the more comedic fights having me genuinely invested just from the strength of the art alone. The breakneck pacing of the manga is usually something I’d get annoyed at in any other battle manga, but here it complements the comedy perfectly and keeps the manga from ever feeling stale. It’s not a long read at only 12 volumes, and the translation is pretty great, so there’s nothing stopping you from reading it right now. So do that!
Unless, of course, you don’t want to read, in which case there is thankfully (for you, the illiterate) the Blazing Transfer Student OVA. The OVA is short, ending off at 2 episodes, and covers only one small part of the manga, but it nails the spirit of the manga perfectly, cranking the parody up to 11 and totally nailing some of the jokes. It helps that the OVA was animated by Studio Gainax, and it really looks damn great. It has this more retro art style that’s all thick outlines and rough sketches that just looks really good in motion. If it reminds you of Kill La Kill at all with all the exaggeration and rough drawings, it really should – it’s been said that Studio Trigger specifically referenced Blazing Transfer Student when they were creating KLK, and to be honest, you really can see it in everything Trigger makes. Animation aside, the OVA also has this hammy, over the top voice acting to all of the characters and this great retro soundtrack that just hits all the right spots. While much shorter than the manga, and missing out on some of the greatest bits from later on in the manga, including its killer finale, it’s really worth a watch. It’s only a little less than an hour of your time anyway, so no reason to not do it.
Beyond that, there’s a live action drama on Netflix, which I haven’t really watched but I’ve heard it keeps the same insane spirit as the manga, but instead focuses on a larger cast of characters than just one. It sounds pretty good, but I’m just not a big drama fan so I haven’t gotten around to it, and thus don’t have anything to say. It is an oddity to come out in this day and age, as what Blazing Transfer Student (affectionately) parodies is stuff that hasn’t really been relevant for a while. Sure, anyone can tell that Takizawa is effectively a big Kamen Rider reference (He’s got both the scarf and the signature kick, so he’s basically ⅔ of the way there), but beyond that, much else of the manga seems to be inspired by another old Toku show, Kaiketsu Zubat, which has this same exaggerated focus on sports. But the original Blazing Transfer Student stands the test of time both on the strength of it’s art and writing, and watching these other things has just made me appreciate it that much more. It’s a damn solid and entertaining read, and honestly one of my favorite comedy comics, period. If you want to read something more retro, give it a try. It’s just really great.
Well, that’s the end of this review. If you want to read more of my work, I also put out a review of the cartoon Primal earlier this year, and more recently I did a postmortem of the newest Cooking Mama game. If you want to read more Story Arc, I really can’t recommend Jre’s Video Game Odyssey enough, and we also just wrote about the seeming death of E3. And of course, be sure to follow us on Twitter and join the Discord (invite is on the twitter)
Man, these end of article things are getting long, huh?