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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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08/14/2005 Archived Entry: "Manga review: Worst, vol 2 and 3"

Worst, Vol. 2 and 3
by Hiroshi Takahashi
Digital Manga Publishing

Review by Tom Good

Worst presents an interesting artistic puzzle for Hiroshi Takahashi. This manga features a very large cast of characters -- the "character introduction" pages at the beginning of Volume 2 show 18 different characters. But all of them are male, and almost all are close to the same age and height. So how will the reader be able to tell them apart? Takahashi gives these bad boys of Suzuran High School a striking variety of hairstyles and facial features. The tough country boy Hana Tsukishima is completely bald, with thick eyebrows and a broad, innocent smile. Other characters have mohawks, tight perms, dreadlocks, slicked-back hair, Pompadours, and many other styles. Their faces are not the faces of conventionally cute manga heroes. Instead, they often glare and grimace at the reader, an effect enhanced by Takahashi's style which uses a lot of facial close-ups. Over all, this style, perhaps born of necessity, creates a look that sets Worst apart from anything else in manga today.

When Worst, vol. 2 and 3 arrived, at first I hesitated to actually read them. I liked Volume 1 so much that I was almost afraid that the next books might not measure up to that promising beginning. But these two books did not disappoint me. The gang members of Suzuran High square off against each other to determine which faction will rule the school, and the complex internal politics of the gangs keeps the story interesting. In Volume 3, a new external threat arrives: the toughs from rival school Hohsen, who are determined to "destroy" Suzuran.

Takahashi sometimes builds up to an exciting fight and then shows only the aftermath, omitting the actual fight scene, or showing it later as a flashback. In this way, he avoids falling into a predictable formula, and keeps the reader guessing. The fights we do see are quick and explosive. These kids may not have magical fighting styles with poetically named moves, but they do have an abundance of raw aggression and power.

Worst, vol. 1 was no fluke: this series really works. The unique visual style adds to the well-executed plot, and makes this a manga well worth reading.

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