Book Review: Karate Heat Volume 1

Karate Heat Volume 1 cover

I hope that everyone has been having a good week, regardless of how it is being spent.

Things have been going pretty well here, aside from people trying to get me to do something stupid, and I can still do what I like.

Recently, I was looking around at things that I might want to try out, as I kind of got my preorder list messed up a bit, and I found a few titles from both Amazon and Project Gutenberg that I thought I would give a try.

Today, I will be reviewing one of those titles, which is called Karate Heat Volume 1 by Eiichi Kitano.

Shinya kinoshita is an ordinary boy, who is living a without a care in the world, but while out walking, he meets a famed martial arts prodigy, who, upon teaching the basics, realizes Shinya has good posture, Shinya is pulled into the world of karate with the simple goal of getting stronger, while bonding with this prodigy.

When I first noticed this series, which was while trying look for more titles to deal with the problem of post frequency from going downhill due to focusing only on preorders, I thought that it was going to be pretty dull, especially due to the official summary listed on Amazon, but, knowing that things are not always what they seem, I thought that I would try out a volume or two.

And after reading this, I have to say that I kind of liked, though not quite as much as other series.

From the moment that I opened up and started reading the first few pages, I found myself so engrossed that I did not want to stop reading for any reason.

One of the most important things about fiction, regardless of medium, genre, and target demographic, is that the audience is pulled in quickly, as that allows them to be able to have that temporary escape that they seek from fiction and it also helps to make sure that they can ignore the most minor of flaws.

If the reader cannot get sucked into a work, they are going to feel like their time has been wasted, even if the overall story has messages that are so powerful, like those found in the Clannad visual novel, because reading is supposed to be fun and getting that necessary pull too late will just make things feel tedious.

Here, in this volume, I was able to see that pull from right within the first chapter, with two grade schoolers about to enter middle school seemingly having a good time and forming a bond, without anything drastic happening in the very beginning, like many popular titles out there, though there are things that makes the protagonist, Shinya, pretty interesting.

If this had started out like every other manga out there, I would have been pretty disappointed, as this series would have had the same kind of feeling of following the herd that Love & Lies gave off in only the first three volumes, even though romance series are the series I have the least amount experience with, since I mostly encounter it in series and story where romance is not even the main point of the story, and I would have thrown this in the trash, especially considering that this series has a total of only three volumes, according to a page on Baka-Updates Manga.

Fortunately, Eiichi did not do that, and gave me reason to plow through the book.

Hopefully, things will continue looking good in the future and really show me a journey, but due to the aforementioned fact that this series is already completed at three volumes, I do not expect anything quite as amazing as the works of fiction that truly deserve their recognition.

I also liked how Shinya was complete newbie to martial arts and fighting.

While this is not exactly a new thing to crop up in manga, as there are characters like Kenichi Shirahama from Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, this seems to be a bit of fresh air, because there seem to be a ton of manga now where people are demolishing others, in spite of their terrible reputation, and/or the character’s strongest trait is their mental capabilities.

Even though those kinds of characters are good, in that they show that we can get stronger if we put in the effort or that we can succeed, in spite of being a nobody, they also tend to be the least interesting because they come off as wish fulfillment, especially when we, as the audience, almost never see them fail onscreen, which is one reason Kirito from Sword Art Online is hated and I hate Touma Kamijou from A Certain Magical Index.

Here, however, Shinya has no martial arts training and does not really have any idea of how to properly engage in fighting, which shows that he is really is a newbie.

Yes, this does not really make Shinya look that interesting, when compared to Mikoto Misaka, whose capabilities in a fight truly came out when she faced off against ITEM in the Sisters arc, or Izuku Midoriya, who seems to be the new all too common protagonist in manga, but it still does not change the fact that it is still nice to see somebody that is a complete beginner, especially when the official summary for the first volume makes a point to say that this is the beginning of a martial arts journey.

If Shinya was like every other manga protagonist found today in series with the same age demographic as One Piece, where he can out think people, in spite of a lack of experience and everything going according to plan, I would not bother getting any more volumes of this series, as there would be nothing to give off that unique vibe that all works of fiction need to have, regardless of whether the work is truly unique and original or not.

Thankfully, Eiichi realized that he needed something different, and decided to have Shinya be a complete newbie.

Hopefully, things will continue to be different over the remaining two volumes, thereby making it able to stand amongst the ranks of one of the best martial arts manga I have read, though the one I currently hold in high regard does not really focus on the martial arts journey as much as the thing that really made it stand out to me.

Another thing that liked was how the volume seemed to stress the point that things are not as they seem appear or that we believe.

While this is not really that groundbreaking for those of my generation, or anybody familiar with works in the detective, mystery, and crime fiction genres, people in our society seem to have some preconceived notions, such as behavior of a teen acting out, as opposed to a teen that has some issues going on or, in the case of works like this, people give off the air that they know their stuff, and because they do not question them, they are bound to mistakes.

In the case of this series, these preconceived notions come about because Shinya seems to have great posture, which ends up making his karate stances give off the impression that he is experienced in karate.

Even though I highly doubt that the stance is completely believable, because I can only see that Eiichi draws things in a way that would make the audience and I cannot find anything on what could make a good martial arts stance, aside from an article on Breaking Muscle by Orion Lee and seems to have a heavier focus on Muay Thai than karate or various styles overall, I still like how Eiichi shows that basing things off of stances can be very misleading, especially because fighters can use feints or just starting out.

Not only does this moment create a good moment for people learn the importance of really questioning things, so as find out the truth, but it creates some moments that made me chuckle a bit, because the characters all thought Shinya was experienced, rather than just starting to learn karate.

Of course, what made this really stand out, even if it might come off as a little clichéd, is how it also applies to the karate prodigy Takumi.

While there are ways for complete newbies to come across as knowledgeable and experienced, we also have preconceived notions of how those we look up to are really people that deserve respect, such as doctors, athletes, etc. We give them our respect because of their accomplishments and how hard we believe they had to work themselves, and the knowledge we believe they had to gain, but things are not always that way and might make the individual somebody that they are not.

In this volume, after Takumi decides to change his mind about not joining any karate clubs in high school, Shinya’s club decides to hold a small tournament to decide who gets to participate in the upcoming junior high karate tournament, and when the upperclassmen say they expect Takumi to be among those in the upcoming tournament, Shinya is surprised, which causes the upperclassmen to go into a frenzy, trying to make it sound like I should be worshipping the kid’s feet.

However, moments later, when Takumi comes in, they realize that he is an idiot.

Now, this is no surprise to the audience, as Takumi does come off as the same kind of idiot as Dragon Ball‘s Goku and many other characters from Kodansha’s and Shueisha’s many publications in the very beginning, but seeing how these guys thought that Takumi actually put any thought into things, it really brought a smile to my face, as it reminded me of the many other moments where we give people respect, even though we do not know them.

If moments like these did not crop up, I would probably been a bit disappointed, even if I would have approved of the removal of the idiotic prodigy character, because things would have felt a little too boring, and point of the posture being important enough to include in the official summary would not really make that much sense.

Fortunately, Eiichi decided to make it a point in reminding the reader that things are not always as they seem, and that makes me want to give him some applause, as I was able to get a few laughs in.

Hopefully, Eiichi can continue to provide elements like this later on in the series, but with how short is series is, and this volume has less than 200 pages in total, I am not too sure that anything like this will pop up ever again.

As nice as this stuff was in making it so that I could enjoy the volume, there were two things that really stood out to me.

First, this series seems to be quite friendly to newcomers of manga.

Over the course of my time reading manga and watching anime, I have seen many series come and go, and while there are series that people really need to check out, such as Kouji Mori’s Holyland and FMA, I have noticed that many series expect readers to be familiar with Japanese honorifics and other things that may be foreign to some people, especially when they get official translations over here, and that means that people cannot really pick on things that are there.

However, when I through this volume, Kodansha made sure that I understood things by putting down little notes on pages when things first come up.

Normally, when the publishers here release manga, they generally present the content and leave the explanations for the notes that are usually found in the back, which allows for things to be talked about at greater length, like how I can explain my reasoning here in a textual, even though there are things that cannot really be illustrated unless I move into doing video reviews, which I would be interested in doing, if it were not for the current state of YouTube and the idiocy of the entertainment industry today.

Unfortunately, this approach does not really help things out too much because by leaving the explanations out until the translation notes, the readers that are not very familiar with manga or anime would not really have a good grasp of the context in which the phrase, word, or honorific is used, thereby leading the person to need to possibly interrupt their reading and go look things up or ask others about it.

On the other hand, when a translation provides small and simple explanations right on the page, leaving the further details for translation notes, the reader can get a basic enough understanding of what they are reading in the moment, and does not create the possibility that a reader would need to look things up.

If Kodansha had just done the usual, and relied on explaining things in the translation notes at the end, I would have been a little disappointed, though the content itself would not be too hard for somebody just coming into manga to understand, due to the low usage of honorifics and such, but I would not have been able to rate this too highly as a good starting point for getting into manga as I could with many of the titles that Viz Media puts out.

Thankfully, Kodansha realized that people already familiar with the world of manga are not going to be the only ones checking things out and made sure that the reader understood things as clearly as possible.

Hopefully, Kodansha can handle translations like this more often in the future, as long as they do not make notes that are as annoying as Death Toll Scans’s notes are on the series they post online, because it does seem to be more effective than what has been the norm for so long.

The second thing that really caught my eye was how this volume ended.

While I do agree with Kathleen Towsend’s assessment on Looking Glass Reads that it feels a like abrupt, thereby possibly annoying those that are used fights ending quicker than they did in series like DBZ, it seems to do the very thing that an ending needs to do.

As I have stated multiple times, other than how a story or series begins, the other thing that is equally important is how things end.

For stand alone works, the end is supposed to leave the audience satisfied with what they got.

However, in series like this, the purpose of the end is to give readers an incentive to keep on reading, and both Eiichi Kitano, who wrote and drew the final chapter, and Kodansha’s Japanese branch, or whoever they had put compile this volume together, decided to end things just right, by making me wonder how Shinya’s match will end so much that I wanted to go out and get the next volume as soon as possible, though I would not be able to get the next volume until the end of August, according to the new releases page on Kodansha Comics‘s website.

If Kodansha had not ended things like this, I would have been a little disappointed, as my interest in finding out what would happen next would not be too high, though I have to admit that I do not have as strong of an urge to pick up future volumes now, due to how short the series is and the excitement of the last few panels wore off when glancing through things, because the excitement would have been lost.

Fortunately, this volume ended at a pretty decent place, even if it might feel a little abrupt, and it was able to at least get me interested in future installments for a short while, which make me want to give them a pat on the back for delivering something passable.

Hopefully, the final volumes will be able to end just as well as this one did, but I highly doubt that there will be too much improvement with the length of this series being so short.

Outside of those things, I cannot really think of anything else that I particularly liked, at least that could stand out as much as what I already talked about.

Because my interest was captured quickly and held right up to the end, Shinya came across as a newbie, rather than an experienced fighter or a fighter that was good at strategy, which made him seem a little unique, compared to other manga anime protagonist one finds today, the fact that things were not what they seemed was stressed quite a bit, and allowed for some moments where I could get a chuckle, the way Kodansha translated things seem like it would this series friendly for those that want to get into manga, and the end gave me an initial urge to go out and get the next installment then and there, this was a pretty decent read.

Although I liked the book, there are some issues.

However, aside from things that are too minor to talk about, such as typos, and things that I had a problem with simply because of how I read the volume, nothing really bothered me, at least on the level of just the volume itself.

As a result, I will have to say that there is nothing worth mentioning.

Considering that there was quite a bit to like, and not too much to hate, this was definitely worth reading.

I mainly recommend this to people interested martial arts in the same vein as Karate Kid and those new to manga, as they might be able to enjoy this the most and will probably not be too annoyed with what they see.

As for everyone, it might be worth giving a try, but considering that this is both the first and antepenultimate volume of the series, it might best to look for a different series to try out, unless the next two volume can make everything worth it.

If you liked this review and would like to see more, please consider donating as little as $1/month to me on Patreon or, if you would like a copy of the reviewed title, purchase the first volume of Karate Heat from iTunes (sorry no print edition was available at the time this review was written), so that I can find more worthwhile reads for you guys to check out.

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