Black Torch didn’t last very long which is definitely a shame. The series had a really solid premise and good action scenes. I thought it got good real fast personally and it’s the kind of premise that could have kept on going for a long while. Ah well, it’s still a really fun read either way and you’ll definitely appreciate the epic action that’s here. At least it uses character bios in the final volume to tell you how things would have played out if it had kept on going.
So the story starts by introducing us to Jiro who is living a normal life. Well, mostly normal. See, he can actually talk to animals and one day he finds a cat that is injured. Jiro helps this cat out whose name is Rago but then he’s attacked by a Mononoke, a kind of monster of incredible power. Unfortunately Jiro is destroyed but Rago revives him by fusing his essence into Jiro. Jiro is now a power wielder and so a mysterious group known as the Bureau shows up and forces him to join. He must now help them stop the rest of the Mononoke or they will destroy him personally. Not much of a choice if we’re being honest here but them’s the breaks. Can Jiro get these guys to trust him?
So at its core this isn’t anything new and different. It’s a fairly classic premise with a demon inside the main character and now he is one of the strongest in the verse. We’ve got the demons attacking and a group of heroic fighters who do battle with them. So what made this one stand out to me? Well, it’s the fact that the series really doesn’t waste any time in getting to the good stuff.
For example, by volume 2 we’re already seeing some pretty serious battles with the villains. High speed action scenes and the characters are powerful. This is the kind of series that seems like it was going to give everyone a high power level right out of the jump. The art is also really good and looks a lot more advanced than what you would expect from a new manga. All of the battle scenes are very detailed and the series uses ink really well to emphasize the power of each attack. I can’t stress enough just how solid this looked right from the jump. The level of detail here is excellent and I already liked the character designs. You’ll be blasting through the series really quickly as a result since each volume goes by so quickly.
Black Torch was really firing on all cylinders and another good reason for this is the main character Jiro. Jiro’s an excellent lead who feels a lot like Ichigo to me. He minds his own business but if he sees someone in trouble then he helps out. Jiro was ready to fight with literal monsters to save a cat that he just met and throughout the series he is always ready to jump into the fray. He never really holds anything against Rago or the other characters for keeping secrets and doesn’t let the villains sway him with words either.
Jiro is very self confident and knows that he’s on the right side. No mind games work on him so the guy comes across as a veteran. He’s easily the highlight character here. Then you have the main heroine Ichika who is solid. She’s more of a classic tsundere type who insults Jiro and is always acting rather aggressive. She starts to mellow out later on though and I thought that she was a solid ally. I think she would have only continued to get better as the series wore on. As soon as she finally accepted Jiro as an ally then it was all up hill.
Reiji is the third member of the big 3 and he even has a whole plot to himself involving his brother. Reiji is skilled but I would say he was quickly surpassed by Jiro so it’s hard to really call them rivals. Allies probably works better even if Reiji thinks that he stands a chance. I would say he’s just strong enough where he doesn’t fall into the issue of really holding Jiro back like Renji from Bleach. So I ended up liking him.
Ryosuke’s the leader and he’s a crafty old guy. You always feel like he may be hiding something or probably lots of things. I wouldn’t trust him if I was Jiro but at the end of the day he seems like a good guy. Either way the series ends before anything too tricky happened there but otherwise I feel like he may have ended up becoming a bit of a villain by the end. Not totally sure though, it all depends on if the Bureau itself would have been antagonists at some point. I don’t tend to trust big groups like this, it feels like there is always a mole in there or they just want to destroy Jiro because he has a monster in him.
Hana helps the group as a support member but she can’t really fight which means that she was never going to be too relevant in this series. You absolutely have to have abilities in order to get through to the end. Otherwise you stay as a supporting character. Hana is nice enough but there’s just not much to say about her as a result.
There are two fighters who appear later on in Takeru and Banri who are upper members of the Bureau but the series ends before they can do too much. I did like how powerful they were even if Jiro surpassed them quickly. It’s always good for the heroes to have some upper echelon members who won’t be immediately surpassed in the power creep. They at least give Jiro something to think about if he wants to run off. Granted, it’s always the Bureau starting trouble if you ask me.
Now one character I really didn’t like was the grandpa Toshimasa. This guy is just awful. So Jiro is doing the right thing in saving lives and fighting monsters but his grandpa is not understanding at all and just starts beating the living daylights out of Jiro. Keep in mind that Jiro won’t fight back since he’s not trying to beat up his own grandfather. This continues on for quite a bit and sure we get that Toshimasa has some history with the Bureau (Which he is keeping secret) and doesn’t want Jiro to be in danger but beating him up and landing severe blows isn’t helping. He comes close to murdering Jiro a few times as well. It was annoying and I never like when a hero takes it this far while trying to say that they’re just protecting the guy. Nah, it doesn’t add up.
Meanwhile Rago is a solid character. He has a good bond going with Jiro even if he ultimately tends to fight it out alone. When the going gets tough, Rago is always ready to throw Jiro away to save him instead of fighting as a team. I don’t dock points from a character for doing that but it shows that they didn’t have perfect trust among each other for a while. Rago is sort of like the Nine Tailed Fox but a little nicer from the jump. After all he wanted to protect humans from a long while ago.
One part of the series that I didn’t think made sense was Rago’s reaction in the past though. So the main villain here is Amagi and he wants Mononoke to rule above the humans. Naturally one part of his plan is to murder all of the humans so that they’re not in the way. Okay, I follow up to this point and he wants Rago on the team. Right now Rago is protecting some humans so what does Amagi do? He murders them….yeah he just shows up and destroys them all as well as their families.
Lets not say what happens next for now but in theory shouldn’t that destroy Amagi’s plans? He wants Rago because Rago is the most powerful demon on the planet and right now nobody can beat him. So if Amagi shows up and starts messing around then Rago will probably end him and there goes the plan. So it made no sense for Amagi to approach this the way that he did. The most frustrating part is that it worked. Rago is so sad about all of this that he allows himself to be sealed up in a rock for all eternity while Amagi goes back to murdering everybody.
You’re going to roll your eyes at that because it was so convenient. It is the only possible way for Amagi to have survived in the past and it makes no sense. You’d think that Rago would have finished the guy off first instead of going to sleep. The guy just disrespected Rago to his face and should have paid the price for it. Definitely not a good look for Rago. I like him in the present but in the past that made absolutely no sense.
Meanwhile, Amagi’s plan also doesn’t line up anyway. So his power is that whenever he murders a mononoke, he gets stronger. So right now he knows that he can’t beat the humans and has decided to destroy all of the mononoke in the meantime so he can be strong enough to do so. Except…his goal was to protect the mononoke from the humans. So somewhere along the way he compromised on his goals and so instead he’ll just destroy everybody. At the very least most of the Mononoke would be dead by the end so instead it seems like his true goal was just to be the strongest of them all.
I guess it shows how insane he is, but I’d rather he had just made that his goal from the start. He even comes close to challenging the demon of the forest which would indirectly have been a big help to the humans but ultimately backs off. Amagi is crazy powerful so this strategy did help him rise to being near the top of the verse but regardless, it isn’t going to be doing much for the mononoke. It’s just putting them in another bad situation. At least he does have a cool design though.
I did like Ibuki though. She’s another super powerful demon and is a lot more reasonable than the others. She owns the forest and just lets the humans know not to go in there. If they do then she murders them but otherwise she is content with this space. It’s a solid arrangement considering how powerful she is and it’s quite reasonable. I was glad that Ibuki didn’t back down when Amagi showed up and in general she got a good amount of hype. Now here’s someone that you want on your side.
Another villain I liked was Kouga. Initially he is with Amagi and just follows orders but gradually he realizes just how insane this all is and makes a move. After all, a lot of the Mononoke are on board with destroying humanity and making a better spot for themselves, but they aren’t about to destroy their own comrades for this goal. So once Amagi starts to show his true colors, Kouga really comes in handy. He ultimately isn’t strong enough to stop Amagi or anything like that but he still comes in clutch.
Then we have the most interesting villain in Shinji. He’s the older brother of Reiji who turned evil and fled the scene a while back. The series hints that he may actually be possessed by a Mononoke but at the same time implies that it may just be him in control. Either way he’s extremely powerful and it feels like he would have been one of the end game bosses for a future arc. I thought there was a lot of potential with him here, you get some Itachi vibes. I somehow don’t think there was a heroic reason for doing this so his only chance at still being a good guy is if he is mind controlled. Maybe he tried to stop a demon from hurting the family but it defeated him and then possessed him. He’d probably be traumatized by that point.
There’s another villain named Roren but I wouldn’t say he’s that good. He liked Ichika a lot and while he isn’t gullible enough to fall for her tricks, he makes his goals rather clear. He’s more interested in her than in the big plans at large which says a lot about his lack of dependability. He doesn’t have the drive that the other characters have the whole time and isn’t as powerful either. This guy is not someone I’d depend on even if he fully turned good.
That about wraps it up for the characters. Now with the series ending so quickly, one of the questions would probably be, why? If I had to guess why this may not have hit it off with some folks, I would say that they may have just been bored of the demon hunting sub genre at the time. There are always a ton of those after all and with this one not trying anything different, it may have just felt like the same old thing they’ve seen a ton of times.
If that is the case then it’s definitely a shame because the execution is on point. The only worrisome thing I could see would be how Jiro really likes animals and that’s a part of his character. That could have easily been used against him in a future arc which would get real bad real fast since I don’t want any animal hostages or sacrifices thrown into the mix. If we trust the series not to have gone down that route though then I think it would have been just fine. There are a lot of ways you could go with the plot and it’s not like Jiro had finished powering up. The sky was the limit here.
Why the series worked for me really come down to the action and main character. This feels more like an old school manga like Bleach. Yeah Bleach is old enough where I can call it old school at this point. Black Torch had a very retro vibe to it and the world building was on point. This would have really been something special if it was given the chance. It can be a little violent and the series doesn’t hold back there but I wouldn’t say it ever got too dark either. I think it would have all balanced out. Another volume or two would have really thrown it over the top as the next big great. There goes all the potential. We still needed to learn more about the brother, the organization, world building with the mononoke, etc. There were a whole lot of seeds planted here but the series did an admirable job of at least finishing off the big plots right away.
Overall, Black Torch hit the ground running and never looked back. It had a very interesting setup and cast right from the jump so it’s a shame that this didn’t become a hit. Of course not everything can become super big and that’s just the way that it goes sometimes. I’d still recommend checking this out if you ever see it. It strikes me as a fairly rare title so that may not happen too quickly but don’t miss the opportunity when it arrives. It’s not every day that you find a hidden gem like this one.