*This Review is Spoiler Free*
Can I play off murder as nothing more than a game!?
It’s not for nothing that Btooom! has a “Parental Advisory Warning” right on the front cover. Set in Japan this Battle Royale-esque manga follows protagonist Ryouta Sakamoto as he wakes up on a seamingly deserted island with little provisions, a bag of mysterious items and no memory of how he got there. After walking a short distance, and finding out that the mysterious items are a bunch of timed hand bombs, he finally comes across another human being. Unfortunately for Sakamoto this human immediately attempts to kill him.
All this happens within the first chapter, and it quickly becomes clear to Sakamoto, and to readers, that the protagonist is stuck in some sort of death match. Though the details of the situation, the game rules and how he ended up there in the first place, doesn’t become clear till the 5th chapter, it is slowly revealed through clues and hints Sakamoto quickly picks up on that he’s being made to act out a popular online video game called Btooom! (a game our protagonist is more than a little familiar with as he’s one of the top international players). For our main character the horror and reality of it all doesn’t quite sink in until his first run in with another human, but that doesn’t compare to the horror of uncovering his memories of how he got to the island and the rules of the inescapable death match.
Despite being based on a video game this was a very well put together story with many similarities with Battle Royale but just enough uniqueness for it to distinguish itself as a separate piece. The main character, despite being an unemployed gamer and …well…a genuine a-hole before having his world ripped from him, is a very intelligent character capable of thinking up an array of strategies he cleverly employs and alters depending on the situation and his opponents. The other two main characters which aren’t introduced until later in this volume add a nice contrast to Sakamoto’s logical, but often thoughtful, personality. The other characters Sakamoto and his group end of encountering all either added to the suspense and thrill of the story as opponents (and there are some seriously psychologically messed up opponents here), or added to the progression of the plot/characters development. So while there had been plenty of action in this series so far, none of it has felt like mindless action.
This is an on-going series with 14 volumes currently available (17 volumes as of the end of May 2017), and after reading up to volume 6 I have to say it is well worth investing in. Other than a few sexually explicit scenes (I will warn you from now sexual assault, though never condoned, is something that has appeared a couple times throughout this story), I loved it. Each action scene, and even a lot of the dialogue, has included some amazing tactical maneuvers or served to really bring home the tension and fear saturated atmosphere, as well as the psychologically/emotionally damaging effects of being forced to live out a kill or be killed situation.
This quickly turned out to be one of my favorite series, and one I avidly devour whenever I can get my hands on it. 8/10 Unicorn Horns