It is from our subconscious habit of grouping manga into categories that we have arrived at the various genres we know of. However, to categorize something as diverse in itself as manga is a catch 22 situation, a situation that resulted in genres with weird names and descriptions, such as Slice of life etc. One such oft ignored and little read genre is the Delinquent Manga genre.
Delinquency is a huge problem in the Asian education system. We have entire generations of kids disillusioned by the prospect of rote study techniques and overtly competitive entrances exams for higher studies turning their backs on society as a whole. Forming into groups, gangs and syndicates from middle school onwards. Bōsōzoku (literal translation, ‘Violent running tribe’) evolved as an entire subculture of biker gangs in Japan. And as with all things Japanese they evolved completely differently than their western counterparts.
Keeping pace with real life, manga also evolved in the only direction possible. Manga dealing with High School Delinquents and Banchos (Leaders) became increasingly popular. Now allow me to be clear, these arent the type of manga a typical fan of the comic art form reads. The art is not always top notch, even amateurish at times. But the story is always top notch. These artists though their comics have spun grand tales of violence, crime and redemption. Drawing upon real life as an inspiration and sometimes even glorifying the idea of gang honor, and honor among the fallen.
These manga take their protagonist and make it clear that he cannot stand within the bounds of society, they show him as an outlaw outcast. Yet he is shown to be an honorable man, a person who sticks to his convictions no matter the personal cost.
A Bancho. In the truest sense of the word.
I took a shine to these comics a while back and had the good fortune of getting hands of copies of the real masterworks in the genre. But then Ive always had a liking for the crime genre. Hell two of my favorite movies off the bat are The Godfather and Goodfellas. And Im sure there are a lot of other people around like me. So this review is for all you people, who like me get caught up in semi romantic and pseudo idealistic fancies of honorable Banchos and gang loyalty, of hierarchies and generations and the tight world of crime that operates on the twin principals of respect and fear.
Allow me to present, the best of the Delinquents.
Suzuran is the school of rejects. The most violent of all the region’s schools. The school meant for outcasts of the education system. Those deemed unfit for education anywhere else are sent to Suzuran. They call it the school of Crows. But there is another side to this story. To the students themselves, Suzuran is a shrine of the strong. The only school in the region which has never been dominated by a single person. The school of Crows which stands casting a lofty shadow on all the other schools in the reigon as the strongest, despite being divided in itself. To the students of Suzuran, it is better to be a free Crow than to be a bird of paradise trapped within a gilded cage. And free they truly are.
An epic story full of deep and surprisingly rich characters that details the rise of Harumachi Bouya, a newcomer to Suzuran. The story will sweep you off your feet, be it with the emotional and brilliant storyline or be it with the hilarious comedy it is interspersed with. Hiroshi Takahashi’s first manga, Crows became a massive hit in Japan and Korea. And with good reason. There are many many dynamics in the city of Crows. Including rival schools who would love to take Suzuran down a notch, a gang of badass bikers who will stomp down anyone who dares stand up to them, and delinquents from neighboring regions vying to see who is truly strongest. As Bouya’s reputation continues to soar, the list of Suzuran’s enemies continues to grow. The roller coaster ride will take you up and not let up for even a second.
Read this comic book and I assure you, your blood will be burning from start to finish. I wont be too surprised if you feel like punching someone and go “HORRRRAAAA!” by the end of it.
Hiroshi Sensei is pretty much on top when it comes to the Delinquent genre. Crows was just the beginning for him. After Crows and the Gaidens, he wrote another brilliant series called QP. And after that he came out with Worst, another manga based in Suzuran serving as a spiritual sequel to Crows. Read them all without fail.
Also not be missed the movies Crows Zero 1 and 2, set in the Suzuran universe before the events of the comic. The movies are an epic telling of the sagas that unfold in the school of crows.