All right, it is time to check out the prequel manga that came out for Kenshin a while back thanks to Mangastream’s hard work as they even translated the cover! This volume is about Shishio, the fan favorite villain who did end up being one of the better Kenshin antagonists. It’s a fairly good volume. We don’t get to see the heroes almost at all, which is a little unfortunate, but it’s good to have the universe back. I’m still not done with the original series myself, but I’m in the final volumes. Keep in mind that this review will have spoilers for the volume since it’s so short and hard to avoid such things.
Well, it’s an origin story so Shishio is naturally one of the main characters. He heads into a town with his right hand man and he awaits the rest of his 10 swords. It is almost time to make his big move so now he simply needs to bide his time. He stays at an inn where the hostess is legendarily tough to buy. Either way, Shishio doesn’t care for such things, but then the lady decides to buy his strength to save her friends. Shishio will need some kind of payment for this and the lady will have to think of something.
Well, the story definitely deals with some things that you don’t see all that often (For good reason) in a manga. The main heroine is actually a prostitute although she has essentially decided to stop in that practice as she allows no one to buy her anymore. Alas, in this time, women had fewer rights so a rich person decides to buy her anyway. The lady resigns herself to this fate, but her friends mistakenly find out about the rich guy’s evil plans so he decides to destroy them all. That is why the heroine has to ask Shishio for help. Shishio is reluctant, but she helps him realize that dying alone is not a happy fate so he accepts her help on the condition that her life is now his. When Shishio is about to die, he will destroy her as well. These are satisfactory conditions for the heroine and that’s essentially the origin of Shishio.
Luckily, the manga doesn’t put too much emphasis on the prostitution part. You know that it’s happening in the city, but we never see anything even close to that, which is certainly a smart move on the manga’s part. The ending is also a lot happier than I had figured although I suppose that it is in a morbid sort of way. Shishio acknowledges that he is ultimately going to hell, but he simply isn’t fighting it. He almost doesn’t care as he still wants to be evil and he will just bring as many people as he can with him. That certainly solidifies Shishio as a villain.
At least he is a cool villain though. He’s not one of those guys who will just make you wince and groan as you read the chapter. If this had been about a lesser villain or an insane one, then it would likely not have been nearly as good. As it stands, Shishio does ultimately help against the villains so that will make the story a lot more bearable. After all, if you’re teaming up with a villain who’s as skilled as Shishio, you should have nothing to worry about.
The villain for this story gets a lot of hype at first, but then it all fades away. I think the author just forgot about it or something because the actual battle is very anticlimactic. It’s essentially over in a slash, which is sad. Based off of the imagination battle that they had earlier, I would have expected a very good fight. The Kenshin series had plenty of excellent fights so another one would have been a lot of fun. I suppose that fighting was not the main draw for this spinoff, but it still would have been a lot of fun.
The artwork is solid as can be expected. The original series had some of the best art in Jump and evidently, that has not changed in the years that have went by. It’s easy to see what’s going on and the characters all look good. The brief action scenes that we do get are very impressive and make you miss the lack of action even more. Alas, you can’t have it all right?
The volume also does a good job of getting you interested in watching the main series again. It’s an interesting story from start to finish and we even have a big group moment where all of the villains get to use their big attacks. They certainly were an impressive group and it’s good that Kenshin had so many skilled allies or this would have been a very difficult fight to win. In the final page, we get to quickly see a little of Kenshin’s fight against Shishio, but that’s more of a homage than anything else.
The villain from the final arc of the Kenshin series also gets a cameo. He tries to talk tough, but we all know that he would be crushed if he ever tried to fight Shishio. Shishio is simply too powerful for him and the other villain only lasted so long because of trickery and his many minions. Shishio doesn’t need any tricks to fight well.
So, the story is a little dark, but it’s handled well. The only negative could actually be the prostitution part of the plot as it is a little much when you actually think about it. The main characters were nearly sold away after all, but at least most of them get a happy ending or a sudden sad one so things went well. The villains were also permanently stopped so that wins the manga back its points. I’d prefer that these things really aren’t even included as there’s not much of a reason to tackle these issues in an origin story, but it certainly could have been a lot worse.
Overall, This Secret Chapter was fun. It’s certainly great to be back in the Kenshin world and I wouldn’t mind more spinoffs in the future. A sequel series would also be a lot of fun with some new villains and more power ups to help the heroes rise up the tier list. If you read the main Kenshin series, then this is a must read. If you just want to read a one shot with a villain who helps out when it furthers his interests, it’ll also work out for you. The one shot is serious and deals with serious themes, but the ending is satisfying and the art is quite good. There’s a good reason why Kenshin is known as one of the elite manga titles and this one shot lives up to that reputation. I guess we’ll see if anymore one shots come out in the future.