Helck Volume One is set in a fantasy world with heroes and demons.

Helck Volume One
Written by: Nanaki Nanao
Publisher: Shogakukan
English Publisher: VIZ Media
Release Date: January 10, 2023

At the beginning of Volume One, it’s established that the demon lord was defeated by the humans. However, three months later, a battle is being waged in the demon realm for the fallen demon lord’s crown.

We are introduced to Vermilio the Red, a young woman who is one the demon realm’s four elite lords. She has come to serve as the supervisor for the tournament to determine the who the new demon lord will be, since the previous supervisor has been injured and is unable to fulfill his duties. Vermilio is upset to learn from her assistant, Hon, that a human hero named Helck is participating in the tournament and has been doing quite well. Helck claims he wants to destroy all humans, but Vermilio believes that this is a trick.

Much of the volume focuses on Vermilio and her attempts to sabotage Helck in order to force him out of the tournament. Let’s just say that Vermilio’s attempts end back backfiring spectacularly, and this ends up serving for much of the comedy that appears in the series. Another source for the series’ humor is Vermilio literally burning with enough rage that she starts fires when she’s angry.

Meanwhile, an observer from the demon realm wanders out into the human world and makes some surprising discoveries. Not only does she have a hard time finding any humans, she picks up on the fact that Helck is a wanted man in the human world… and that Helck’s brother was the hero who took down the demon lord. It’s also established that unknown winged attackers have attacked and taken over a castle (Castle Urum) in the demon realm.

Helck is doing great in the tournaments, and it’s not surprising that he advances on to the finals. Over the course of the volume, his fellow finalists are also established. Kenros the Godspeed puts on an act in front of the crowd when it comes to his confidence, but behind the scenes we can see that he doesn’t feel that he can measure up to Helck. They may be competitors, but Helck and Kenros seem to have become friends. Hyura the Immortal is the only female finalist in the competition, and she seems to be rather stand-offish. Dorshe the Iron Wall comes from the part of the demon realm where the castle was attacked. When the final competition is to recapture Castle Urum, Dorshe is determined to get revenge for what the winged attackers did. Vermilio disguises herself as “Anne From Operations” to accompany the group.

From the way the story progresses in Helck Volume One, it would seem as if the story is going to wrap up within a couple of volumes (since the main characters make it to Castle Urum by the end of it). However, from doing some research, it appears that Helck runs for 12 volumes. While the humor in this volume works, I just don’t know that it’s strong enough to last for 12 volumes. And if the pacing continues at the same rate that it does in Volume One, I don’t see how Nanao was able to make this concept last that long without it becoming stale.

When it comes to the art in Helck, I was impressed to see that Nanao came up with character designs that were unique and made the characters stand out from each other. Yes, this is a fantasy story with demons so Nanao had a lot more room to play with, but the demons could have been designed to look similar to each other. Thankfully, they aren’t, and this makes it easy for the reader to keep track of who is who. The use of screentone feels a little on the heavy side, but since I’m reading a digital copy of this volume, the screentone may just stand out more here than it would on printed paper.

Overall, I found Helck Volume One to be a humorous and enjoyable read. I appreciated how it took various hero and fantasy tropes and turned them on their head to help create the humor. While I thought this worked well in this volume, I’m not sure how well this will work for the story for the long term. I hope to have the opportunity to read the next volume of Helck in order to find out if it can continue to be as strong of a fantasy comedy as it is in this volume.

The reviewer was provided a review copy by VIZ Media