Chapter 1 of Kagurabachi by Takeru Hokazono has received an insane amount of hype ahead of its official debut in Weekly Shonen Jump #42. The series began trending on Twitter like crazy this past week once fans saw the series’ cover debut which begs the question everyone will be discussing — did chapter 1 of Kagurabachi live up to the hype with today’s release? (Warning: spoilers ahead!)
For Hokazono’s first manga serialization, I must say that this was one hell of a debut. Nowadays in Weekly Shonen Jump, it’s almost a curse if a new manga starts off slower and focuses on world building first rather than a fast-paced plot scenario like the recently discontinued manga Aliens Area succumbed to. But Kagurabachi definitely didn’t shy away from getting right into the thick of it all with blood-ridden violence.
The main character Chihiro is kind of a breath of fresh air when we consider any recent Weekly Shonen Jump protagonist. He’s a lot darker than, say, Sakamoto from Sakamoto Days, but still maintains that sense of justice for protecting the innocent. Chihiro had a shockingly basic goal of becoming an incredible blacksmith like his father, unlike something grandiose most shonen main characters strive for. So it’s unique in that sense.
His character design isn’t necessarily the greatest but it’s far from anything generic. Overall, it fits the style of his character very well and I think it adds to his overwhelming presence when he walks into a room about to fight — which is what you’d like out of a dark, action-shonen protagonist. He’s on a quest for revenge, not a lofty goal. So it’d be odd if he didn’t look rugged with scars in the first place.
The background artwork in this first chapter was strikingly eye-popping at times and very detailed, especially around his father’s blacksmith shop, which I always love in a manga no matter what kind it is. But what caught my eye more than anything was the action towards the end. The spread panels were impactful and it didn’t at any point feel like “I’ve seen this somewhere before.” They were distinctive to Chihiro’s character and what kind of power he actually wields, not in himself, but in his father’s katana.
I am an absolute sucker for any type of story that starts off with a “you’re wondering how I got here” scenario like Kagurabachi Chapter 1 did and then begins its journey to that point in time. However, that very beginning scenario quickly came back around at the end of the chapter which was a little disappointing. I suppose that for the first chapter in Weekly Shonen Jump it needs to make an impact quickly.
More so, leaving off on “an event” taking place during a large time skip and his father dying in some way seemed to change the course of everything for Chihiro, leaving the reader enticed to learn more. While he didn’t really go from a hyperactive kid to this emotionless swordsman, the slight change before his father’s death and afterward was noticeable.
That’s what a good first chapter does, though. It makes you want to read more and stay in tune with the series and its characters, especially the main protagonist. I’d say at first glance Shiba doesn’t really do much for me as a side character, though. That being said, given his friendship with Chihiro’s father and being there to fight the Yakuza in the end definitely gives him some value of interest for the story.
The introduction of what seems to be the main antagonist of the story was a little lackluster in a way. Hokazono could’ve gone a little further with how he treated the victim in that scenario given the violence that ensued afterwards. I feel like that really could’ve made an impact but perhaps that’s not what he’s about and that was the intention. But the whole allure of sorcerers working with Yakuza is thrilling and leaves a hell of a lot more exciting, and possibly shocking, moments to happen. Finally, Chihiro saying “Enten”, which is also the name of a one-shot by Hokazono, was a nice little easter egg.
Kagurabachi Chapter 1 Final Reaction
Kagurabachi‘s debut chapter is the best I’ve read in any new generation of manga since Sakamoto Days. So if you’re a fan of the latter, I highly recommend the brutal and action-heavy Kagurabachi. It has some humor that could pertain to Sakamoto Days but it also has that haunting allure when a fight starts we’re about to see some brutal violence happen.
Kagurabachi chapter 1 rating: 8/10
Fans can read the first chapter of Kagurabachi on the official Shonen Jump app and MANGA Plus.
Takeru Hokazono Background
Hokazono’s success has quietly been building up in recent years. In 2020, the author won the 100th Tezuka Manga Award for their one-shot Enten, which was later published in Jump GIGA back in the spring of 2021 alongside their other one-shots Farewell! Cherry Boy! and then CHAIN during the summer.
Hokazono later published a new one-shot titled Madogiwa de Amu in Weekly Shonen Jump #19 in April 2022 and yet another, more popular one titled Roku no Meiyaku in Weekly Shonen Jump #35-36. Now, a year later, Hokazono’s hard work has paid off with Kagurabachi being the author’s first manga serialization!
Kagurabachi synopsis via MANGA Plus: Young Chihiro spends his days training under his famous swordsmith father. One day he hopes to become a great sword-maker himself. The goofy father and the serious son–they thought these days would last forever. But suddenly, tragedy strikes. A dark day soaked in blood. Chihiro and his blade now live only for revenge. Epic sword battle action!
Thumbnail source: Comic Natalie
KAGURABACHI © Takeru Hokazono/SHUEISHA Inc.