The hero’s back is against a wall. He has no chance at a comeback. The enemy approaches; confident, victorious. He has the hero right where he wants him. The enemy takes his weapon and raises it above his head to deal the last blow.
“This is the end.”
The weapon hits its mark.
BUT THE HERO IS OKAY?!
“Haha! You call that a blow?”
“W-what?! How could any human being survive an ax to the face?!”
“Silly! I am a Jackal! We face death everyday! A puny blow to my face is but a scratch!”
^ Actual argument used to justify the inhumane strength the main character possesses.
And that’s the key factor one has to know when heading into this manga. Jackals is an interesting read. Not because it makes sense or because its characters are intricate or anything, but because it’s funny to see their reasoning for all of this stupid shit. By far the most entertaining thing to read is when the story tries to justify the main character narrowly escaping death. Time after time after time.
He gets blown up. He gets sliced up. He gets shot a few times. He gets stabbed more than a few times. He gets rammed by a weapon that supposedly weighs an actual ton. He’s on the brink of death more times than Krillin is dead in general. And somehow, someway, he always manages to survive. Whether it be because of the strength of his will, his bloodline, his weapon, whatever. Just know that this story really, really enjoys pulling things out of its ass. A lot.
As illogical as it is, I found Jackals to be a harmlessly stupid read. Kind of like looking up reaction images on message boards. They won’t help you or make you better in any way, but they’re good for immediate, mindless gratification. Jackals is also an incredibly quick read, as it doesn’t bog down the reader with endless amounts of narrative. Half of the entire manga is just grunts and screams from people getting dismembered or fighting one another. The narrative is sort of like a secondary trait, with sleek action scenes and mindless gore taking the fray a majority of the time. It’s almost like a manga version of the game MadWorld, which also relies heavily on gore and over-the-top murder sequences, with story as a backseat trinket.
It’s still fairly cliche in the end. Every character is basically in it for revenge. Revenge for the death of -insert family member or some form of it here-. If not that, they just really enjoy killing people. Yeah, that’ll really make me care about a character. Make them as insane and unrelatable as possible. It works for Joker, why not everyone else? The characters and their motivations are pretty standard for the genre they’re placed in. Not to mention, growth is only achieved by the gaining of power. The main character learned a new skill. He’s suddenly more confident and more understanding of the world around him. Wait a minute, that’s really stupid. How does that make sense? Just because you were blindfolded for a week or two doesn’t mean you suddenly have your head on your shoulders. In fact, I think your eyes would melt from the light of the sun.
And let me just use this space for someone very important to the plot of Jackals: the female childhood friend. Not since The Breaker have I encountered someone so bland, so useless, so much of a fucking tool for plot devices as the female childhood friend in this story. The male lead sees her as this precious, sacred person that he needs to risk his life for all the time, and for what? They never act like friends when they’re around each other. Fuck, they’re never around each other period! She’s genuinely a waste of panel space. She serves no point to the story. She never does anything but get kidnapped by other people. She’s garbage.
I noted above that the story of Jackals relies a lot on plot conveniences and out-of-this-world justification to keep our hero alive. It also likes to recycle similar battles over and over again.
Fight starts -> Neither side has the advantage -> Enemy uses a secret move -> Hero blocks it, enemy is flabbergasted -> Enemy shows another secret move, effectively putting the hero in a dangerous state -> Enemy goes in for the kill -> Something or someone saves the hero at the last second -> Enemy tries same secret move -> Enemy either gets cut in half or decapitated.
If not that, the hero is basically just destroying everyone in one shot. Pick your poison.
Other than the most obvious flaws, I have no major complaints about the story. The pacing is fairly good and it’s more interesting than not. There’s an effort in build-up that one can appreciate, even if the climax is a little underwhelming. I personally thought the ending didn’t make any sense at all, with everyone surviving a number of explosions and a collapsing building, but whatever. This story never made a lot of sense to begin with. Good, brainless fun. Heh, brainless. Because they cut people’s heads in half in this manga.
Style is a good quality to have in an action/thriller. Jackals has it. Again, I would compare it to MadWorld, as it has a gloomy, grim atmosphere to its surroundings and characters. One thing I will say is that the string bean of a main character is way too skinny to have as many pecs as he does. He looks like a fucking alien. Otherwise, the art helps set the mood of a dark, unsettling story of bloodshed, even if the story is sometimes more laughable than horrifying.
This is a story I’ve been wanting to read for quite a while. I just never got around to it because, for whatever reason, I always found action titles a lot more of a chore to read than their easy-going counterparts. Perhaps its because I don’t like when a story is grim serious all throughout, but a story that’s light-hearted all throughout doesn’t feel like… I don’t know, it’s trying too hard? Whatever the case, I ended up enjoying Jackals more than most this Summer. It was a nice change of pace, even though the core values still didn’t meet my unrealistic standards.
Personal Score: C+
Critical Score: C-