Bakegyamon Volume Five was released by VIZ Media’s VIZKids imprint.

Bakegyamon Volume Five
Written by: Mitsuhisa Tamura
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: December 1, 2009

The main character of Bakegyamon is an energetic young man named Sanshiro who lives on a small island with his grandparents. He longs for adventure and wants to be an explorer like his father. However, his grandparents are not supportive of his dreams and goals. One day, after receiving a lecture from his grandparents, Sanshiro hears a mysterious voice asking if he wants an adventure. Suddenly, seals appear all over the room, and the voice instructs Sanshiro to peel one. After peeling one of the seals, he receives a “starter kit” for a game called Bakegyamon. A man named Fue also appears, and says that he is Sanshiro’s guide to the game. Fue takes Sanshiro to Backwards Japan, which is a place that is a backwards version of Japan. Sanshiro learns from Fue that whoever wins at Bakegyamon will be granted a single wish.

Over the course of the game, Sanshiro meets some of the other players, including: Mikiharo Kawaguchi (a boy who gets ahead in the game by tricking other players), Sayaka Oki (a girl who is friends with a monster who was taken away to be a card in Bakegyamon), Shu Satomura (a boy who believes he must always come in first and be perfect when doing it), and Toshio Sageusa (a boy Sanshiro nicknames “London” due to the Union Jack bandana that he wears on his head).

As Sanshiro progresses through the game, he comes to care about the creatures in the cards that the players use when they battle in Bakegyamon. When Sanshiro is in a battle, he’s always conscious about how he uses his creatures, and he tries to find ways to win his battles without harming his opponent’s creature.

There are several hidden truths about the game of Bakegyamon, and several of them are revealed in Volume Four of the series. Volume Five is the final volume of Bakegyamon, and all of the loose ends are tied up rather neatly. If you’ve read the preceding volumes of the series, then you will probably be satisfied with how it ends.

When it comes to the concept for the series, it felt like the creator of Bakegyamon took ideas from such series as Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon and tried to put some new twists into those concepts. Unfortunately, the series continued to feel derivative until you reached Volume Four. By this point, the changes and information introduced in that volume felt as if it was “too little, too late.” It also left me with the impression that Tamura was realizing he was getting near the end of the story and needed to throw all of that exposition out there before concluding the series. This makes the final two volumes feel a bit rushed, and this probably could have been avoided if some of this exposition had been made a little earlier on.

Unfortunately, there also isn’t much in the art style of Bakegyamon to make it stand out from other “fighting” manga series. Personally, I felt that the character design for Sanshiro seems a little too similar to Ash Ketchum from Pokemon, except for the fact that Sanshiro wears his cap backwards. The similarity in their design is reinforced by Sanshiro’s energetic personality being similar to Ash’s. There was another character in the series whose face had a strong resemblance to Shikamaru Nara from Naruto. And since Bakegyamon is a shonen action/fighting series, it has plenty of the “busy” manga panels that are associated with this genre.

If you’re a reader who enjoys shonen “fighting” manga titles like Pokemon Adventures and Yu-Gi-Oh!, you might find some enjoyment in reading the Bakegyamon manga series.

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