Red Hood was a really big deal when it first came out. People got really hyped after the first chapter but then the hype slowly started to disappear. By the time it was cancelled at 18 chapters, a lot of people were disappointed but it seemed to have already fallen off the top. Well, I’ve finally checked it out and the manga had some fun ideas but is really held back by the art. Manga’s such a visual medium where if the art is bad I think it will be extremely difficult to succeed. Effectively the manga is starting itself off at a disadvantage. It’s not a bad title by the end but I can certainly see why it was cancelled. It goes without saying that this review will have complete spoilers so if you have not read the chapters yet, you will want to do so before checking this review out.
The manga starts off by explaining that the hunters have exterminated all dragons off the face of the Earth. Now they aim to destroy all of the werewolves next. We then cut to the main character Velou who is a kid that just wants to protect his village. Unfortunately Werewolves are quite powerful, can shapeshift, and even regenerate. There’s no way Velou can win on his own so the village spends all of their money to call in a hunter to help. Her name is Grimm and while she appears to be a small child herself, she has never failed a mission before.
This intro mission lasts for almost half the series with around 7 so it’s a bit longer than you would expect. Usually in something like this you have 1 or 2 chapters for the intro and then you keep it moving. This slower pacing is different but not necessarily bad. We get to see what a big threat the wolves are to the average person and there’s a lot of lore thrown right at you this way. You get to really learn about the world and that’s never a bad thing.
You also get some Promised Neverland vibes here. Velou looks just like Emma from that series even down to the hairstyle and with Wolves lurking around every corner, the series is going for a bit of a horror theme. You can’t trust anyone and despair is right around the corner. It could also just be that the art gives this effect as the drawings never look complete and everything’s so convoluted. Regardless we even meet some of the big villains from the Red List and at the end of the intro Velou decides to become a hunter. The exam lasts the rest of the series with the exception of the final 3 chapters where we hit the climax. So as you can see, the series didn’t have a whole lot of time to do much here.
Lets break this down into sections though as I’m jumping around a lot here. For starters, I’m not a big fan of Velou being such a little kid. To me that rarely ends up working because for a series like this you need the main character to be able to fight. While Grimm could have looked better (More on that later) she can at least fight and has 100 different tools. The other fighters we see can all fight as well, Velou is the only exception. The series is going for a World Trigger vibe where Velou has to get used to being the strategist but I don’t think that works very often. It can be hard to root for a main character who can’t actively fight himself and has to hide behind his friends. Velou does have a gun but tends to miss his shots at point blank.
Velou means well and has a lot of the usual hero dialogue but there’s nothing that really draws you to the character. I don’t see a lot that would end up making him very interesting and so this doesn’t help his case in the long run. As for Grimm, she’s the real character that got a lot of attention at first. Her story is that she is cursed to be trapped in the body of a child and can only go back to her adult form for 3 hours a day. Sort of like an All Might situation there. Thing is, while she gets a ton of hype, she doesn’t look great. She lets her guard down against villains multiple times and is completely helpless against the Red List. Grimm doesn’t even get a true final fight at the end.
In this case, it would have been better for her to have just not fought yet. It would be like Kakashi meeting his match immediately in Naruto. This is more like Rukia losing in episode 1 of Bleach which was still sketchy when it happened. Grimm has a lot of confidence in herself though and loves to fight so you can probably guess that I enjoyed her character quite a bit. I just think she should have looked stronger.
I’ll give the series credit for being aware of this though. This is actually turned into a bit of a sub plot as a character realizes that Grimm isn’t looking so good. It turns out that there is some reality warping in effect so that is a very reasonable in-universe explanation as to what’s going on here. Trust me, I’ll definitely talk about the reality warping coming up since that’s a big factor here.
One character we meet during the exams later on is a guy called “Bonkers”. Bonkers is you classic strong guy with a bad attitude who doesn’t even care about entering the exams. He has a tragic backstory and has just given up. Fortunately Velou is able to talk him out of it so he can learn how to be a team player. This is so successful that Bonkers is the one giving a speech in the next chapter. I could see him being a decent character as time goes on but for now there isn’t a whole lot that is interesting about him.
There are tons of trainees introduced in the long exam arc but most of them won’t leave a big impression on you just yet. There just isn’t time to really learn about them. You have Tylty who doesn’t trust people anymore and wants to win the exam on his terms. You have an older scientist who wants to prove that his inventions will be useful in combat. Then there’s a girl who believes in being very practical so she will betray you or stay on the team depending on which option makes more sense. She’s not going to choose an option just because it’s the right thing to do. It seems like most of these characters were meant to become main characters eventually so it’s a shame that the series ended before they could return.
Then you have Debonair who is one of the more experienced hunters. She’s actually teamed up with Grimm on the field back in the day so she knows her stuff. She was cursed to always have a high body temperature so she uses that in her attacks. It’s a creative way to take control of her curse so I’ll give her credit there. She was definitely one of the more enjoyable characters here. She adds a lot of energy to the series and always just jumps into action. She doesn’t hesitate to attack anyone whether they are friend or foe.
Then we have some villains in here like Cinderella. She is one of the highest ranking villains of the Red List and I’m very interested in how she turned evil in this continuity. Of course as the series goes on we see that her faction may be the good ones. I’ll break down the two sides later on. Cinderella is a lot of fun though and would have been a solid reoccurring villain if this series had kept on going. She has a partner in Lycaon, the king of the beasts. This guy is huge and immensely powerful so even though these two villains appeared almost immediately, I wonder if they were planned to be end game type bosses.
Aside from a few minions, the only other big villain we met was the mysterious mayor. It was a pretty big twist to have this guy end up being with the villains. I’ll talk about his goals in a second but it’s a very interesting direction to place this guy in. He looks good. His last second character 180 I can ignore since it was the last chapter and that’s likely the only reason this happened. Otherwise I doubt that would have happened at all.
Before getting into that I’ll quickly talk about the 3 arcs. So the pre arc where we were introduced to the main characters is the weakest one. It’s hard to get all that engaged in reading about this village filled with expendable characters when the 3 wolves attack. It also lasts pretty long even though Grimm should have just ended all of the werewolves in an instant. Of course she was testing Velou but she also did promise to save everyone. A bunch of people really could have died every minute that she was messing around instead of helping out. The only really solid part of the arc was the ending when Cinderella showed up to style on everyone. It was also an interesting way to get Velou to join the her since he only relented since there was no longer a village to save. It was the fact that Grimm failed the mission which ended up making him join. Not the greatest reason to get in on the action.
For the exam arc, well it’s a cool concept for a test but it is just too soon. So you’ve got a bunch of random characters who have to put aside their difference to win the test. If the main character could fight that would work better but since he can’t, it just doesn’t work as well. The whole exam also makes no sense because there’s no way a bunch of random cadets could hope to beat the top 2 hunters. Even if they are holding back so they don’t murder the kids, I don’t buy for a second that the heroes were able to outsmart them every time. It ended up being a complete loss for the hunters as they couldn’t capture a single cadet. That’s going beyond lucky to just being unreasonable.
Then we enter the final 3 chapters with reality warping and such. It’s hard to get super engaged here either since it’s all happening so fast. We get a super gun that can destroy everything and an onslaught of twists. The plot twists are interesting and put the series on what would have been a very interesting path but we don’t get to explore it. Throw in the cheesy ending and that doesn’t help matters a whole lot. At least we did get some action though.
So, what is going on here? It turns out that the entire world has been destroyed many times. See, humans and werewolves have been locked in war with each other for millions of years. The issue is that the werewolves cannot be destroyed because any human can turn into one randomly, without warning or reason. So the only way to destroy the werewolves is to destroy the human population. Apparently the hunters have tried this before and destroyed all the humans but then everything got reset each time. See, there is a powerful high above being working on this…The Readers. Yes, in this series the reader is a concept.
So the characters are all locked in a twisted fate of never being able to escape. Then you have the Red Hood who is in charge of writing in the master book, events of what is to come. Whatever is written ultimately ends up happening and so he writes good and bad events to occur. Villages getting burned down? The guy wrote all of that. So destiny has complete control over everyone because their results were already written in.
This is where the Red Line comes in. Their group is made up of other powerful fighters who don’t want to be trapped by Destiny. So their goal is to take down the hunter alliance and seize control of the book. That way they can stop anyone from writing in it and people can make their own choices. Based on that intel, I would argue the Red List are the good guys right? Yes, but then you remember the first chapters and how they’re going around burning down villages and eating people. So…they lost all credibility in an instant.
This is clearly a series where both sides are going to be evil. Well, this is where the Mayor steps in as a third faction. He pretends to be a part of the Red List but has his own goals. He wants to destroy the book entirely and end reality. I should mention as part of the Red Hunter’s duties, they write in the book to appeal to the readers. Well, the Mayor believes that writing to appease a bunch of violent gods isn’t a good thing to do. Humans are not puppets and so he plans to end all of reality. To that end he created Velou, who isn’t truly real. Velou is an anti destiny, sentient bomb. Just by existing he causes the characters to break away from their script and regain free will.
If the Mayor can get Velou near the book for a long enough period of time, then the book will blow up and the Mayor will have gotten his wish. In the meantime the Mayor stole two pages of the book so he can fill them with anything to change destiny. It’s a very overpowered ability that’s for sure. The series ends with him turning good as he’s blown up and the heroes are all finally freed from destiny to do their own thing. As the series was cancelled, the readers are gone so nobody can dictate how their series will go. It’s very meta that’s for sure.
Some interesting concepts there but I think it would put the series in a hole rather quickly. Once you get this meta and are breaking the fourth wall all the time, it’s hard to tell more stories. Once the characters know that they are characters and that everything’s a manga, it just seems like it would be hard to actually tell any stories. There were some hinting about proper scripts and characters acting in line early on in the series so I think this was originally meant to play some kind of role and it wasn’t just because the series was cancelled. I’m guessing the twists wouldn’t have happened so quickly otherwise though.
Personally I think the series was cancelled in large part because the art’s just not that good. It’s very cluttered and it can be hard to tell that is happening half the time. There’s one scene where a hero kisses a villain just to annoy her but you don’t even realize that happened for a few panels because the art’s so bad. It seemed more like a hug initially. Forget about the fights, it becomes 10 times harder to follow along once that happens. It doesn’t help that each of the werewolves are huge. Even experienced artists can have a hard time with big opponents, much less a new series artist. Should have stuck to street fights even though those don’t look great here either.
The series could have been saved if the art was better. I also would have pushed back the exam and shortened the intro. Have the characters go straight into another mission first and learn about the world. Maybe the test could happen as part of arc 3 or arc 4. That would also give Velou some time to get better as it’s hard to see him being ready to be a hunter this early on. I’d also say it’s probably best to get rid of the meta aspect of the series since I don’t think it works in a serious context. That said, if it’s the main point of the series then I won’t ask to remove it since that would change the core story. Velou being an anti destiny bomb was interesting at least. If he had been a main character who could fight I also think that would have been an upgrade.
I won’t say the series is bad though. It’s certainly not something I would be very interested in reading again but it does avoid fanservice (Due in part to the art being so bad so even all of the exaggerated designs and costumes don’t register) well and there’s no real wince worthy moments here. In an anime version we’d have to see how the Werewolves are drawn. Having them as opponents would have been very dangerous for the series as a whole unless it was stylized. At 18 chapters the series is just gone in the blink of an eye so I’d say you might as well check it out. It’s a decent adventure but one that was more positive for potential than what it actually did on the screen.
The writing was good and there were some good tactical elements in here. Since the series was definitely going for the strategic kind of main character, I think it would have pulled this off well enough. The plans in the manga were good although I call major hax on the cops and robbers plan. There’s just no way that would work against the hunters so hopefully the future plans would be better. It’s an entertaining read, there are just enough issues where it’s hard to see this ever surpassing a 7 at best. There isn’t a true hook that would have ever kept this going for very long.
Overall, Red Hood could have been the next big thing if it played its cards right. A Shonen Jump action story about fairy tales and folklore could have really been something. We get quite a few references to Little Red Riding Hood of course and with Cinderella as a villain, I’m sure the series had a lot of ideas. Of course the tragic part of being cancelled is that you will never get to see those moments. It’s considerably better than some of the cancelled manga that I’ve read but that does seem a bit like a back handed complement when you think about it. We’ll see which cancelled manga is next but in the meantime I would definitely recommend checking this out. At least you can see what all the hype was about.