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Thursday, June 12, 2014

Evil Crusher Maya: Heads He Wins, Tails They Lose... Out of the Way, He's Coming Through

For the first manga review in this celebration of Masami Kurumada's 40th Anniversary I decided to go to his sole non-Jump short story. I've previously reviewed Aoi Tori no Shinwa, which was originally published in Shonen Jump in 1992 but not released in book form until 1998 via Kadokawa Shoten, as well as the two one-shots that were in Mabudachi Jingi (the titular story & Shiro Obi Taisho), but the subject of this review will be from Kurumada's post-Jump time (a.k.a. the mid-90s). Let's see what the man was doing during this mostly-quiet time for him...

Excuse the break in the middle; the halves wouldn't line up properly otherwise

During his serialization of B't X for Kadokawa Shoten's Monthly Shonen Ace, Masami Kurumada did a two-part short story for Enix's Monthly Shonen Gangan: Evil Crusher Maya. Running for two issues in early 1996, this short story carried the subtitle Emiria no Kyoukai/Emiria's Church, but whether Kurumada had any plans for more of Maya is unknown. That is somewhat sad to think, though, because out of every short story & one-shot that he ever did, Evil Crusher Maya had probably the best potential to be another great series from Masami Kurumada.

In the world, alongside humans & other animals, exist demonic creatures called "Evils". In one town a man named Emiria arrives & heals the sick as if he was a god. A giant church is erected for him & the townfolk worship him. Three months later he asks for seven girls to be delivered to his church on their thirteenth birthdays, or else he won't save the village from the wrath of the gods. After six are sent to him, the fathers start to wonder why exactly he needs them & head to the church; they haven't been seen in five days. Nana, who is to be the seventh shortly, is worried about the missing villagers & her father, who went with the other fathers. Worrying that Evils might be behind this she sends out a letter attached to a balloon, which is caught by who she was looking for: Maya, a man who comes from the "Land of Dark Night" & calls himself an "Evil Crusher".


Much like Aoi Tori no Shinwa, this short story is split up across two parts. The first part, The Warrior from the Land of Dark Night, introduces the story & characters while also showcasing the first real fight. The second part, Demon Bow of Light, details the rest of the story & fights while delving into Maya's backstory and some world building. Really, that's the big reason why I say that this had the best potential to be something great: The world this story creates. Maybe it's a personal appreciation, but I really liked the idea of the Land of Dark Night, where Evils were known to come from before being punished by the gods, and the whole concept of Maya being a human with a past involving Evils who wants to cleanse the world of them. While it's not exactly a never-before-seen idea, it's one that isn't used often & usually allows for some sort of variation & "personal touch". What Kurumada does with the concept here has promise & could work as an on-going series, which is a plus. To its credit, though, this story doesn't end with a teaser ending of an indication that it obviously is only part of a larger story, which puts it above Aoi Tori no Shinwa.

Maya himself is an interesting character as well. Visually he comes off like if Foh & Lon from B't X ever did the fusion dance from DBZ and his main choice of weapon, various feathers which each have different abilities, is definitely a call back to Kouu & Shoryu from Fuma no Kojirou. Much like these characters Maya isn't your "usual" Kurumada lead, i.e. hot-blooded & full of screaming passion, but rather he's generally calm, cool, & collected. Of course, Kurumada characters like that tend to have sad pasts to them, and Maya isn't any different in this regard; he does get a hot-blooded moment at the end, though. In the last two battles he also showcases a "trump card": The Starlight Bow, a bracelet that can expand into a usable bow, complete with an arrow purposefully meant for it. Really, the Starlight Bow is a pretty awesome weapon for Maya to have, and it actually makes him pretty identifiable among Kurumada's leads.


The rest of the major characters are pretty simple but work for their purposes. Nana is the fragile little girl who still showcases some bravery in following Maya to Emiria's church and helps give Maya a sense of humanity that he may have lost slightly through his past. Emiria himself, while not exactly similar visually, has a thematic similarity to Gemini Saga from Saint Seiya in that his goal is to reach a godlike position of power, and he easily looks down on everything lesser than him. In another similarity to Seiya, Emiria warriors, Salamander Flamer, Troll Magnus, & Wendigo Blazer (nicknamed the "Sankyoutou/Three Magnates") have a mythical creature motif to each of them and Blazer even dons armor that gives off the feel of a Cloth. Also, brownie points to Kurumada for giving the Wendigo a shout-out in a manga. In true Kurumada fashion, Emiria & the Three Magnates don't get any sort of character development, but they still manage to do their "jobs" well for the story that's told.

Coming from the mid-90s, the artwork here is a good bit more refined than it was in the previous one-shots & short stories I reviewed. At this point Masami Kurumada has his style in full-force & everything looks nicely refined & sleek. His regular-looking males have the bishonen look, while giants like Magnus look appropriately rougher & more brutal, and the females have a nice, classic look to them. One of the best parts about Maya visually, though, is that the concept of Evils allows Kurumada to draw monsters, which really showcase his drawing skills the best. Really, while people can have complaints & misgivings about his character designs, one thing you can't take away or diss about the man is his non-human design detail. His work on the Cloths, Scales, & Suplices in Saint Seiya is usually what's though about in this regard, but he simply improved as time went on. Look for designs in Silent Knight Sho & you'll see even better armors, while B't X is similarly detailed, but when it comes to monsters Kurumada has rarely done work that really shows the detail he puts into them. Maya shows his attention to detail excellently, giving each monster a truly grotesque look & you can even see a definite H.R. Giger (RIP) influence. At the same time, though, I'm sure having to create all sorts of monster designs would have been torture for Kurumada to do had this short story actually been made into a full series. Still, this is likely the best looking short work of Kurumada.


Out of all of the one-shots & short stories I have read from Masami Kurumada's catalog so far, Evil Crusher Maya definitely is the one I would love to see return one day. There's cool potential in the world that's created here, Maya himself has some nice differences from Kurumada's other leads, and it's a perfect chance for Kurumada to really showcase his detailed designs for stuff like monsters. Unfortunately, this is likely to never come to pass, as the man himself will turn 61 this year & it's obvious that he can only handle so much drawing at one time; it's amazing enough that he's coming back to Otoko Zaka. Still, considering how Saint Seiya has been lent over to other manga-ka for the past decade, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Maya given to someone young who can deliver a similarly-detailed look that was introduced in this original short story. Unfortunately, there is no English translation for this manga at the moment, but if you can get your hands & eyes on this I still say it's worth checking out. It definitely shows a neat change of pace from your usual Kurumada fare in some ways.

2 comments:

  1. I'll look for this one. Thanks!

    Erick Fischert

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    1. No problem. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this short. Just wish it had an English translation.

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