Title: Hakaijyu (ハカイジュウ)
Serialized in: Shonen Champion Comics, 2010-present
Art and story by: Honda Shingo (本田真吾)
Genre: B-grade sports splatter horror.
What it’s about:
Any given sports manga could be improved if monsters killed off the starting lineup within the first few pages. Imagine, endless volumes of tired clichés and pre-fabricated character arcs liquidated before the first practice. You would only be left with the good stuff—Cock-sure teenagers now pissing themselves in abject terror as they flee from an unknown, unstoppable, malignant force. Hakaijyu delivers a care package from 80’s monster movies topped with a bow fabricated out of bloody jock straps.
Takashiro Akira is your typical high school underdog waiting for his day. He wishes he was a baller, but lacks the chops to make it off the bench and into the game. He’s been living in the shadow of his best friend, Eiji, the team’s golden boy, for the entirety of his basketball career. And to put further strain on their friendship, they both have the hots for the same girl, Miku, whose bipartisan attitude towards them ensures that the iron love triangle forged as children will never be broken. Thankfully, this melodrama is thrown from the cradle to the grave when a Richter six earthquake awakens horrific beasts, who then rise from the bowels of the earth to murderize anyone within tentacles-reach.
The hero, the bully, the honor student, the nerd. This small group of students that escaped the initial attack must now set aside their schoolyard personas and work together towards mutual survival. Teamwork is their sole advantage over the creatures hunting them. For the various species of monsters are competing for the same food source, and resources are dwindling quickly…
Why it’s awesome:
There are two types of brutality in horror films. The kind that reminds you of your humanity, and the kind that makes you sick to be human. I don’t need to watch someone have their eyeball blowtorched or have their fingernails removed for sport. I will, however, pay good money to see some asshole get headbanger face ripped, or drawn and quartered by zombies. Hakaijyu is a gourmet meat lover’s pizza heaped with steaming entrails, still-twitching limbs, and all-purpose gore. It takes us from the sterile prisons patrolled by Eli Roth and back to the creature factories staffed by Rob Bottinz and Stan Winston.
Every character has one redeeming quality, and that is the guarantee that at some point they will die in the most spectacular fashion.
Hakaijyu wastes no time in setting up the desperation of the situation. An early scene drags us along a pulse-pounding chase through an apartment complex from what we think is a pack of toothy pseudopods. They’re slobbering down stairs, crashing through ceilings, and hoisting themselves over balconies. How many of these things can there be? It is only after the cast escapes to the ground floor that they realize that the bundles of slavering jaws all belong to the same bloated monstrosity, who now encircles the building like a titan centipede. Their lives have been saved, but all hope is lost. For across the city, countless variations of the same lumbering silhouettes tower over the skyline like uncontrollable trellises looking to choke out the sun. Humanity is doomed, and it’s only a matter of time before the teens join their classmates in the belly of the beast.
This type of story could only be possible in Shonen Champion. From Eko Eko Azarak to Kyofu Shinbun, the magazine is infamous for its darker, though not necessarily maturer edge. Consider the market leader, Shonen Jump, whose mission is to brainwash children into productive worker drones through their message of friendship and perseverance. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again—Don’t work smarter, just work harder! Hakaijyu presents a philosophy that’s closer to home for teenagers: Entrance Exam Hell looms over everything like an eternal eclipse, friends are more valuable as decoys, and once the academic floodgates open, it’s a never-ending struggle to stay ahead least you be dragged down into oblivion.
Is this a life lesson or a course in Monster Films 101?
Of course, any hints of social subversion are likely accidental. Honda Shingo’s previous work, Ping Pong Dash, was a fight manga where combatants pulverized each other with jerry curl assisted serves and explosive volleys powered by Georgia MAX can coffee. His handling of the subject manner has all the finesse of a child ramming Matchbox cars into each other at top speed. Hakaijyu revels in its puerile stupidity, like a kid in his uncle’s VHS stash grinning from ear to ear as he watches Jason turn people in human accordions.
Why it won't come out in America:
The Creature Feature is an untapped creative resource in manga waiting to be thawed from the ice. If Parasyte is Tremors, an undisputed masterpiece of the genre, then Hakaijyu is the direct to video sequels. Not bad by any means, and definitely serviceable by the standards of most fans, but also not good enough to turn heads or draw a new audience to the fold. Too niche for the mainstream and not underground enough for the hardcore crowd, Hakaijyu will remain marooned on monster island, waiting for its chance to sneak away on a tourist ship and stow away to the mainland.