By Timothy Georgi
Meet Ryoko Mitsurugi. Ryoko is the most popular student at Daimon High School and a highly skilled martial arts expert. She likes samurai movies and is an active member of the school Kendo Club. She's extremely self-conscious about her height and is determined to be something more than just "cute". But her good looks and her height give her instant popularity. Sounds pretty normal, right?
Think again. Welcome to Daimon High, a school where martial arts are standard curriculum and student and teacher disputes are settled in the tournament ring using a school sanctioned dispute resolution system called a K-fight, where the two opposing parties battle it out and the winner... well, the winner receives the praise of the student body and funding rewards for the club or activity of their choosing. All this is the backdrop for the story of Ryoko and her journey to maintain her status as the top fighter in the school!
For this @anime! TripleTake, I'll be taking at look at three of the pieces to the Real Bout story currently available from Tokyopop, the first volume of the manga, the first DVD and the original soundtrack. There are quite a few differences and a bunch of similarities between the manga version and the anime. We'll try to point out some of those as we go along. But now, let's begin!
1.0 Real Bout Manga, Volume 1
Somewhere in Ikebukuro... Ryoko and her best friend Hitomi are being followed. Ryoko stops to confront the group in pursuit As they quickly approach, Ryoko pulls out her bokuto (wooden sword) and proceeds to take down the entire crew. In the midst of all the commotion, Ryoko receives some help from a mysterious stranger. After some serious butt-kicking, she turned back to Hitomi to continue on to school... only to be surrounded by a group called The Vipers. More martial arts action and butt kicking later, Ryoko and the stranger end up victorious. Just a typical day...
Girls give her box lunches by the ton. Guys worship the ground she walks on. Opponents... well, they're in it for her title of Champion! And they all point to Ryoko. Ryoko Mitsurugi is the most popular student at Daimon High School. She's an accomplished martial arts expert and a tough one to beat at that.
Daimon High has been plagued with all sorts of uncontrolled brawls and streetfights that have gotten out of hand. Daimon's principal, Mr. Todo, receives some help on a solution and the K-Fight system is created. Under the new system, all school disputes, be it personal grudge matches, club arguments or teacher/student conflicts, are to be settled in the battle arena! Ryoko somehow finds herself caught in the middle of most of the battles and must do battle with all sorts of opponents to maintain her position as the top fighter in the school!
But many twists and turns are in store as her list of rivals grows. Her main rival is upperclassman Azumi Kiribayashi, a master swordfighter who uses her sword as much as she uses a quick comment to poke at her opponents. Outside the ring, Ryoko and Azumi have another battle waging, the rights to Tatsuya, Ryoko's sparing partner and mentor. Combine those together and you have the makings for an explosive contest!
Then, enter the mysterious Shizuma Kusanagi and his friend Daisaku. Shizuma is a transfer student from Kansai and gets involved in the K-Fights at his first opportunity. Daisaku plays the part of Shizuma's manager and is partially responsible for helping Mr. Todo roll-out the K-Fight concept. When the K-Fights have been established as the end-all, be-all of dispute resolution, Shizuma's ready to take on Ryoko, Azumi, even the teaching staff to prove that he's the strongest man in the world! Can he do what seems to be the impossible and defeat Ryoko in the ring? Only time will tell.
Real Bout is the first manga I've had the chance to see in Tokyopop's new traditional Japanese format, read right to left. The typical U.S. manga reader may find it a little difficult to get used to the "backwards" flow of the right-to-left formatting, but once you have the flow down, it makes the reading much more enjoyable and more true to the original. Using the original Japanese format, there's no longer the need to flip artwork to accommodate the usual English right-to-left reading pattern. That's a big plus for Tokyopop and for manga readers that want a true feeling for the original work.
One small difference between the Tokyopop edition and the original Japanese edition of the manga is that the Japanese contained a small amount of color pages at the beginning of each segment whereas in the English edition, those pages are in black and white. The converted pages tend to be a bit dark in some portions due to the transfer from the color originals to when they're printed in black and white, though that's a minor issue when you see the great job that has been done with the rest of the issue.
Overall the first volume is presented very well with good crisp artwork and a fun story to go with it. There's a lot more action that is coming in the subsequent volumes. With the battles getting bigger and more exciting as the series progresses, action fans will be more then pleased with Real Bout. Be sure to check out Volume 2 which is available now and Volume 3 scheduled for release in August.