Despite the mild sexism, I’ve always been a fan of seinen manga. Perhaps it’s because the story tends to be deeper, and the characters tend to be bolder and more in-your-face. Who doesn’t love the violent fights for justice and the constant search for manliness? What does it take to be a man amongst men? What a delicious question.
The best word to describe Sanctuary would be classic. This is one of those “man-amongst-men” seinen mangas that captures the reader with its themes on political corruption and crime syndicates. Ryoichi Ikegami provides art that has all the stylishness of early 1990s manga (which was when it was published) and the writings were provided by Sho Fumimura, the infamous writer of the manga Fist of the North Star.
The story focuses on two childhood friends, Hojo Akira and Asami Chiaki, who decide to take two different paths and reform Japanese society. One takes the path of light and becomes a political advisor, while the other goes underground and joins the Yakuza (Japanese mafia). Due to their shared past, the two possess incredible instincts and unparalleled ambition as fight for their dream of building a sanctuary in Japan.
The writing shows great sensitivity to social trends and mentalities which remain relevant today. It avoids the simple extremes that writers tend to default to – “Government bad, everyman good!”. Even antagonists are well motivated, so that even if a reader does not agree with the view they can at least understand their thinking.
Each (male) character is well thought out and complex, and each man plays a part in illustrating the bigger picture. The women are well written characters as well, but as soon as one shows up, I end up thinking “Someone’s getting laid!”. Then again, the same thing can be said for almost all seinen manga.
As I mentioned before, Ryoichi Ikegami’s art is stylish and solid. He is constantly commissioned to do more complex manga due to his dramatic drawing style, which plays heavily with ink. My only gripe with his work is that we tend to get the same head-on look for each panel, and there is little variation from there. One could argue that this is intentional as part of the story, but a little change in angle would have been nice for breaking up the artwork. Still, this is not detrimental in anyway to the work’s overall quality.
All in all, Sanctuary is a wonderful series that cannot be put down once picked up. It is a must read for anyone who loves stories with sex, violence, dirty dealings and fights for justice.
And if you don’t like any of those things, you’re really missing out.