Monsters… monsters are interesting creatures. Most of the time monsters are portrayed as some sort of twisted beast straight out of gothic fiction. The most iconic monsters are generally are a reflection of some sort of human nature. For instance, werewolves represent how people can have completely different sides to them and unrestrained rage or how vampires can represent disease and greed. Today's manga, Kurozakuro, focuses more on the former example than the later and how one would have to live if they were a werewolf, but wished to do no harm to his loved ones.

Kurozakuro follows Sakurai Mikito, a high school boy who is regularly bullied due to his wimpy stature and personality. One night, a strange orb that had rolled into Mikito's bag earlier rolls into his mouth while he is sleeping and he begins to dream of a strange world where a black tree and a pointy toothed boy, Kurozakuro, resides. Kurozakuro offers Mikito one wish in exchange for his cooperation to make the black tree go into full bloom. With some encouragement from Kurozakuro, Mikito ultimately wishes for more strength so he can deal with his bully problem. The next day, Mikito beats the crap out of his bullies when they try to engage him, but ends up horrifying his childhood friend by his excessive use of force. Soon enough, Mikito finds his body is going through dramatic changes and to add to that ogre hunters begin hunting Mikito as they suspect he's turning into an ogre. So, Mikito must repress his new instincts, while also avoiding the ogre hunters if he wants to maintain his current life style.

The Main Character

Mikito is such a compelling character because we get to see what he desires most and to what lengths he would go to get what he wants. What makes it so easy to get invested in Mikito is that he has an understandable reason for his actions. For example, he doesn't fight back against his bullies at the beginning of the series because he doesn't want to hurt them since he know how it feels to be hurt. Also, we get to see how terrified of himself Mikito is as he begins to lose control of his own emotions. It's just so visceral and human to see Mikito struggle with his own instincts and how much of a toll it takes on him, ultimately culminating when he tries to commit suicide so he won't end up hurting his friends and family. Mikito is such a compelling character because his struggles and desires feel so real.

The Main Theme

Simply put, the main theme explored Kurozakuo is incredibly interesting because it focuses on what a person will do to fulfill their desires, but later on, the manga loses focus on this theme. Even though Mikito is becoming an ogre, he still wants to be human despite the many changes to his body, which include increased hunger and irritability. Mikito must resist eating human meat or losing his temper because he will mature as an ogre if he does. This incredibly fascinating because it creates a dissonance between what Mikito is and who he wants to be. Ultimately, Mikito is able to resist his ogre instincts, but Mikito's ogre maturation continues because he is following his heart's desire. It's interesting to think about because it asks the reader if following a selfish desire makes a person a monster. Unfortunately, this theme doesn't get full explored as the later half of the manga focuses on a different and less interesting theme.

The Side Characters

On one hand, the characters surrounding Mikito's struggle with his ogre impulses are very well executed because they are directly affected by Mikito's transformation, while most of the ogre hunters introduced in the series are bland fantasy stereotypes. What makes Mikito's friends and family so good is that they create an interesting dynamic with Mikito by reminding of why he wants to stay human. Mikito's friends and family are truly concerned about Mikito's well being and this love and support motivates Mikito to stay alive and return their love. Though Mikito's friends and family aren't too deep, it's great to see them try to help Mikito despite not knowing his full situation.

Unlike the characters in the first half of the story, the characters introduced in the second half of the story are hollow and boring. They don't really offer anything new to the series except to be canon fodder or to be a generic fantasy stereotype. It was really infuriating to see these characters in this story because they added to the complete tonal shift of the series. Like in the first half of the manga, all the characters were moderately realistic, but all this was thrown out when new ogre hunters started to be introduced. When the dominatrix and okama like ogre hunters were introduced I was ok with it because these stereotypes were close enough to the tone of the first half, but when the magic lolis and hot blooded transforming ogre hunters where introduce, I literally slammed my head against my desk. None of the new characters in this half of the manga served any purpose in the manga except to move the plot along.

The Second Half of the Story

Slight spoilers for the manga, but after the first arc of the manga where Mikito faces the challenges of being an ogre in human society, Mikito leaves his home town to find a way revert back into a human being. This development is ok as it shows the reader a bit more of the world and what the ogre hunter organization is like, but the way this development was handled was so shoddy that I wondered if I was reading the same manga at one point. Essentially, Kurozakuro becomes a generic shounen battle manga with little to no reference to the first arc of the series. All of the events in this second arc feel really trite because it introduces a bunch of new characters in rapid succession to move the plot along to the next battle. There is virtually no build up to each fight and the fights themselves are quite boring since they are poorly paced. Also, the information on the ogre hunter organization is extremely cliché and predictable since there is almost no focus on the organization, its goals and how it was formed till the later half of this arc. Even Mikito's character takes a hit as he adopts the role of a shounen protagonist by pulling victories out his ass. The entire second half of the story is simply crap with nothing interesting to say or show.

Kurozakuro is the manga an extremely strong first half and then blows all it built up to become a generic shounen battle in the second half. The first half of the manga does a great job about exploring of becoming a monster for what you desire because it shows every side to what Mikito wants. Also, Mikito himself is an incredibly compelling character because you get to see what he's willing to do to accomplish his goals. Unfortunately, all subtly and theming were lost in the second half of the mange when it decided to start introducing pointless characters and ignoring all that was built up in the first half of the manga. Ultimately, Kurozakuro showed me an interesting character centric story at the beginning, but then became a pointless battle manga that does its first half no justice.

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You can purchase Kurozakuro here. You can also read it here.

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