Build King is a very interesting manga because of how out there it is. You aren’t likely to find a title quite like this one even if you search very hard. The concept is just way too unique and to its credit, the series goes all the way with it. It does have a very…verrrry rocky beginning though so I can see why it was cancelled. By the time things get going, it just feels like it must have been too late in the polls. A shame though since the series was just hitting its groove.
Well, we’re introduced to this world which is a place where people aside to be builders and carpenters. The world is filled with house monsters and the strongest ones of legend are known as the Build Kings. They are so mighty that nothing can stop them and they even pose a threat to the planet. The two main characters are Tonkachi and Renga. They live on a remote island inhabited by monsters and build houses to protect the innocent creatures. Your skills at building houses are directly proportionate to your rank and ability. Renga is a skilled builder and has done well on the island but his big brother Tonkachi seems to have no skill for it.
Every building Tonkachi builds shatters in an instant. But he does have abnormally high levels of strength and has a hammer which zaps his life force in exchange for boosting this power even further. Tonkachi says that if he can’t build houses then he will build peace by stopping the monsters himself. This has worked out well enough for the heroes but they are ready to leave the island and really test their mettle. Fortunately a guy named Nana shows up on a runaway house one day and that’s their ticket out of here. If the two characters can pass the building equivalent of the Hunter’s Exam, they will finally be pros and can do what they want. It will allow them to locate their mysterious master: Shovel, who told them to come find him once they had gotten stronger.
Right away you can tell Shovel is a very old school kind of master. He reminds me of Piccolo with how he just ditched these kids on an island of monsters and told them to figure it out. Considering that he never came back, the guy really did leave them to their own devices. He doesn’t appear again until the very last chapter or two of the series but admittedly it is a very epic way to end things off. Of course since the series was cancelled they had to rush it but otherwise I’m betting he wouldn’t have appeared for a very long time. He has style though that’s for sure.
So of course I mentioned how the series has a bit of a rough beginning right? Well, it all comes down to the fact that it’s trying to be more of a crazy comedic adventure at first. Think early Toriko or classic Dragon Ball. Thing is, I wouldn’t say I was a fan of either of those. Toriko didn’t get really good until the fight scenes occurred. I just think comedy isn’t this author’s strong suit. There is a whole lot of crude humor and crude humor type jokes. It’s not funny and won’t even get a smile out of you.
The artwork is great for fights. This guy has years of experience so that makes sense. The final chapters of this series? They look amazing. It’s like he never left and all the characters have quality designs. The issue is for comedy the author loves his exaggerated faces but it can get old quick. Comedy just wasn’t working for this series and that’s likely why it was canned so soon. I can tell you right now what I would have done differently is build this up as an action series from the jump. Put more emphasis on Tonkachi and his vitality hammer. Explain the different vitalities and building energies.
It seems to me like the author wanted to develop a really unique power level system here and I say go for it. It was well thought out and there’s a lot you can do with that. The building fights are as unique as they get. I feel like it would be a big burden on the author to have to draw this weekly but it would look great. Ironically I would say the human battles are the highlight but the buildings are the selling point so you have to keep them. Just make that one switch to being action oriented and this could have worked.
Lets go back to the story though with Nana and that runaway house. Nana’s one of those characters who is technically tough but I can’t take him seriously. How could you with that as an entrance right? I’ll give him this though, he does have the funniest scene in the series when he gives his introduction twice since the main characters were spacing out. Now that’s a humor style that worked really well. If the author had more gags like that I think it would have worked out really well.
The series is at a bit of a disadvantage with these two main characters too. The issue is that none of them are all that good. Renga is the skilled one who starts out at a higher floor than Tonkachi but quickly hits his limit. He’s supposed to be the good builder but is effectively out of luck early on in the series. Without the ability to fight physically you kind of expected that he wouldn’t be doing so well by the end though. It’s not a surprise but that’s likely of little comfort to him.
As for Tonkachi, well he’s not a very smart character. He reminds me of a Tarzan type character. He can hit things with his hammer but that’s the extent of it. He’s not very smart and will compromise on his ideals for a gag like when he sells out 2 by 4. This character just didn’t click with me and isn’t my kind of lead. Not to take away from his skills of course. His hammer is the real deal and I like how the effects depend based on which side he hits you with. It’s a unique weapon and he has good abilities but as a character I just didn’t care for him.
So the heroes end up landing on a little island that is rife with bandits and vampires. It’s an interesting little island and the heroes finally get a little exposure to the great outdoors. The first adventure lasts through the first 10 chapters so almost half the series is here. The heroes have to fix an upside down house and ultimately Tonkachi can do this by smashing it a bunch of times. It’s certainly not an action arc and we’re still in the adventure phase. You can probably tell that the author is a big fan of the environment because a lot of this adventure is just seeing the impressive greenery and landscapes. The buildings look really solid as well.
I can’t stress enough how good the art is. This is the work of a veteran, but that doesn’t help the story. The main heroine Cork has the worst debut appearance I’ve ever seen for the main girl. Her first appearance is her hanging upside down and forgetting that she wasn’t wearing pants. What kind of intro is that? It’s just artificial fanservice here and Cork never gets to do anything in the series. It’s not a stretch to say that there is no point to her character. She doesn’t do anything after this island either so I shouldn’t even call her the main heroine I suppose.
From there we start the tournament where a bunch of new characters appear. So many in fact that you are unlikely to remember most of them. It’s impressive to be sure and if the series had lasted then this is a great way to expand the case. Since it didn’t though, you just can’t retain all of that info. Taurus is the strong guy but Tonkachi immediately humiliates him in strength so you won’t be taking him seriously after that. If you’re that much weaker than the main character right off the bat then that’s it. (He tries his best punch on Tonkachi and the lead doesn’t even feel anything)
Shizuka gets some hype at least. He’s trying to be the really stoic rival character who doesn’t let anything faze him. He is tough so I’ll give him that and I like how he’s focused on clearing the exam even when characters are messing up the planet all around him. The guy has dedication so I have to give him that. The test proctor Smith is also not too bad. I mean he gets drunk easy and isn’t a good role model but he is memorable.
Then we get a whole bunch of villains that attack the tournament and more heroes jump in so it gets crazy. While you might not remember most of the characters, I do like how largescale this all gets. We enter Toriko type territory right away. Not in terms of feats but just with how much action there is. Again, if the action had come sooner that could have helped a lot. The tournament/exam is easily the best arc here and keeps on going to the end. The various events were fun enough but things really got going once the villains started attacking. That’s when your attention will really be on every page.
The leader of the villains is a guy named Bill. The name might not stand out but as a character he is the real deal. His quantum vigor ability seems really broken with how he’s in multiple realities. It’s hard to see how the heroes would beat him but that’s likely not something that would have occurred for a very long time anyway. As it is, we only get to see him for a chapter or two but he leaves a good impression. He reminds me a bit of Midora.
As for the buildings, I feel like the series does cheat a bit here. The first buildings we see look like normal buildings so it makes for fun and creepy visuals when they start walking around. Later on the more powerful ones just straight up look like robots. It’s cool of course but feels like it’s going against the point of seeing buildings fighting each other. As mentioned we also get a lot of human fights which is basically just Toriko 2.0. When those are the best fights around, it makes you wonder if the series should have just ditched the buildings if they weren’t going to be used a whole lot anyway. Just play itself up as a Shonen action series with exams like Hunter X Hunter and this could have gone far.
Having a slow beginning is just putting yourself at a disadvantage when you need good ratings right off the bat. By the time the setup is completed, it’s just too late. I’ve often thought it might be worth it for an author to release 8-10 chapters online first or more for free on a different site that take place before the official chapter 1. That way you can skip some of the exposition and world building and jump right into the action. It would be risky but then big time fans can always look them up and it might allow you to hit the ground running. It’s possible the magazine wouldn’t allow this but it would be interesting if it worked.
I would say one thing Build King does have going for it is that it’s an easy read. Even with the slow beginning, the art is good enough where you can read through the series quickly. I don’t think it would have been quite as much fun weekly, but at least this way you are blasting through the weaker chapters very quickly to the point where they are gone in an instant. That’s definitely the way to go about things.
My final complement to the series is that despite all of its weaknesses, it’s clear that there was a ton of potential with the whole buildings setup. The world itself was interesting to find out about. How would giant, sentient buildings change the world as we know it? Just answering that question alone could take 10+ volumes as we see the world. You start to get those answers as the series goes on and it’s all very surreal. Imagine living inside of a house that could eat you at any moment? It’s going for a Pokemon vibe with the relationship between humans and their buildings but with the evil ones running around I’m sure there would be tragedies in the future. The mysteries of the Build Kings doesn’t get to be explored and so you leave with as many questions as answers.
Overall, Build King had a very slow start. The first half just doesn’t grab you. There isn’t a lot going on and the character cast is really weak. Fortunately the exam really starts to help the series find its footing. The battles are great and nonstop once they start happening. The extra chapters for the volume release may not remove the cliffhangers but it means more chapters of action and world building which is always good. Plus it covers some more of the crazy battles which was the best part of the series. This second half of hype is enough to give the series an extra star and ultimately I give it a positive rating. It’d be nice to see the series revived at some point now that it has a focus but I suppose it was all just a little too late.