Orient is the latest series by Shinobu Ohtaka, who you may also know as the creator of Magi. They definitely have a similar feel and style, but I am not going to compare the two in this review because each series deserves to be judged on its own. For me, Orient is an exciting new release that, while still has some work to do to capture me in the story department, features an engaging premise and world and phenomenal artwork that keeps me reading.
Orient tells the story of two boys, Musashi and Kojiro, who vow at an early age to create the strongest Band of Bushi and defeat the demons who rule their world. As they both grow up, reality sets in and Musashi finds himself working as a miner and Kojiro has become cynical. Something occurs though that will bring these two together again to reaffirm the promise they made five years ago.
The first volume is setting Orient up to be a typical shonen series. In my opinion, this isn’t really a negative, because I enjoy the themes and tropes that are common to the genre. That being said, the story so far is a little too typical and I’m really hoping something occurs in the volumes to come that allows it to stand out and differentiate itself from other series. I can see it getting more involved in the chapters that follow as the main characters face hardships along the way and have more adventures, but for now, with the backstories and events of Volume 1, its story is good, but not the best.
As far as characters are concerned, I really like the personalities of the two main characters, Musashi and Kojiro. Musashi is more of your jump in, think later kind of guy that will reach his goals at all costs, whereas Kojiro is more cautious and analytical. While these are traits we’ve seen in other shonen characters, their spirit is infectious and their relationship makes them unique. As more characters are revealed within the story, the dynamics and interactions in this series are sure to only grow stronger.
Where Orient and Shinobu Ohtaka really blew me away though is the artwork that's showcased in the series. The weaponry, armory, and clothing are intricately drawn. Everything you see in Orient is so incredibly detailed and these more delicate aspects of the series are further emphasized by the bold linework that is featured throughout the pages. The panels are also done in a way that allows the story and dialogue to flow naturally.
The in-between moments and scenes are exciting to see, but the true standouts of this series are the massive panels that highlight the more epic, striking moments in the manga. Both the demons, which range from cutesy looking to absolutely terrifying, and the Bushi, which wear medieval-looking Samurai armor and ride on motorcycles, are designed in a way that makes them fascinating. The story of Orient may have felt a little too familiar, but its designs allow it to stand apart from the rest.
What I’ve seen and learned of Orient’s world thus far has me intrigued as well. There’s a lot that has yet to be explored, but the issues unveiled in the first volume already make for an interesting dialogue. With demons ruling the world, you naturally have those who live in fear and abide by their rules with some even going as far as to worship them, and then you have those, like the Bushi, that rise up to challenge them.
Over time, the narrative has been morphed to make the Bushi out to be the bad guys, but this of course is far from the truth. With such grand issues to tackle, I’m looking forward to seeing the characters of Orient grow even more as they face the demons, both figurative and literal, that plague this world.
The world in Orient is complex, which makes it compelling, but its people and overall feel are unique as well. You have this very traditional world, but with a twist, and a big twist at that. To me, Orient’s world is what you’d get if you meshed together the Medieval Period and The Age of the Samurai. But there are also more modern elements represented within the manga as well, like the motorcycle. It’s in a world of its own and just when you think it couldn’t surprise you anymore, it does.
Orient wastes no time getting into the action with gripping, monumental fights that are expertly navigated and drawn. You really feel the energy these characters are expending and the emotion behind their actions as well as they push to exceed their limits in battle. Most of the time, you need an anime adaptation to really get a feel for just how grand these fights are, but Shinobu Ohtaka does a great job at handling these more suspenseful and fast-paced scenes in the manga. There is, however, an Orient anime on the way as confirmed by Kodansha, so you can look forward to seeing these characters and scenes in action sometime in the future.
As of now, Orient’s story does little to separate it from the pack, but I don’t want to be too hard on it because of this, because it most likely just needs more time to develop. With that said, I still thought it to be an entertaining read and I’m already invested in the plight of its characters and its unusual world. It’s one I’ll definitely keep reading and one I’m excited to see evolve in the volumes to come.
In other manga news, check out all of the manga that’s releasing from Kodansha in 2021, including more volumes of Orient!
Thank you to Netgalley, Kodansha, and Shinobu Ohtaka for a copy of Orient, Volume 1 in exchange for an honest review.